Day Trips: Little-known ghost town comes with locals, plenty of scenery

Compiled by Mike Jimenez

Ghost towns can be found across New Mexico and the Southwest, but the one located at White Oaks is probably the best-kept secret around these parts. This ghost town comes complete with a few locals, and plenty of scenery.

Where is it?
White Oaks is located about nine miles outside of Carrizozo. The distance from Clovis or Portales to Carrizozo is approximately 180 miles, and the trip will take about three hours of driving time. The shortest distance is on U.S. 70, traveling west to Roswell, and then toward Ruidoso. Just past Hondo will be a right turn onto U.S. 380, which passes through the historic village of Lincoln. Just down the road is Capitan, home of Smokey Bear. Carrizozo is about a half hour past Capitan. As you enter Carrizozo, you will cross an overpass and come to an intersection with U.S 54. Turn right toward Corona and the road to White Oaks is on the right.

What is it?
White Oaks is named after the white oak trees that grew around a local spring in the foothills of the Pato Mountains. Gold was being found here as early as the time of the Spanish explorers, but in 1870, three prospectors found what would be almost pure gold. This started a boom for the town of White Oaks, and it grew in population to 2,500 at its heyday. Billy the Kid is said to have ridden into town one day to take shots at the sheriff in retribution for the previous day’s pursuit. The town of White Oaks has many of its original buildings still standing such as the Little Casino Saloon, the Brown store, and the Hoyle house. There are various artists in residence, and they can be contacted through the town’s website, which has examples of the artists’ work and a short biography of each.

For further information, contact the White Oaks Arts Council, Inc. at their website: