New Mexico State Highway #6563 - New Mexico Scenic Drives

New Mexico State Highway 6563, commonly called the Sunspot Highway, is located in the Cloudcroft Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest in southcentral New Mexico, and is in close proximity to several population centers and cultural backgrounds. The 15-mile-long scenic byway is accessible by a network of state and federal highways. Since the early 1950's, the Highway has provided the Forest visitor an outstanding degree of scenic values, recreation opportunities, historical interpretation, cultural features and scientific occurrences.

In 1984 the Sunspot Highway became a two-lane highway. The State of New Mexico has an easement for the highway thorough Forest and private land. The State is also responsible for the operation and maintenance of the highway.

The Sunspot Highway originates two miles south of Cloudcroft, NM, at the junction of State Highway 24 and State Highway 6563, and terminates at the Sacramento Peak Solar Observatory. The highway transverses the front rim of the Majestic Sacramento Mountains with elevations ranging from 8,360 feet at its lowest point to a height of 9,500 feet. It provides the traveler with a variety of scenic opportunities. As the highway winds its way through a mixed conifer forest of Douglas fir, White fir, Southwestern white pine, Ponderosa pine and aspen, two interpretive scenic vistas and numerous overlooks provide the traveler with panoramic views of the Tularosa Basin. In the distance, the ceaselessly shifting sand dunes at White Sands National Monument can be seen, and on a clear day, one can see the newly constructed space port for the landing of the space shuttle.

Occasionally, the highway parallels sections of an old railroad grade from the 1900's and reminds the traveler of a logging era long past. In the immediate area of the highway, the remains of wooden trestles and towns can be seen.

In the fall, canyons and hillsides west and east of the road are painted in brilliant yellows, reds, and oranges. The area is also abundant with wildlife, and the visitor may obtain a glimpse of a mule deer, black bear, elk or possibly an eagle or spotted owl.

With its beauty, history and Canadian-like climate, the Sacramento Mountains provide a variety of visual and recreational opportunities for the traveler. Recreational activities include camping, hiking and snowplay areas. At the end of the road, the visitor will find the Sunspot Observatory, a Solar Observatory open to the public.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 3 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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