Billy the Kid byway scenic exploration

Courtesy photo

Compiled By Paula M. Cronic: Freedom Newspapers

For anyone seeking out a historical adventure and a day of exploring the area that old Wild, Wild West outlaws called their own, The Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway is a perfect experience. Starting in Ruidoso Downs, the byway travels through Fort Stanton and Capitan, into the Lincoln National Forest, and continues down into the Hondo Valley before finishing up back in Ruidoso Downs.

The byway has been recognized by the National Scenic Byways Program which recognizes byways and roads throughout America for their beauty, history, culture and because of the fact that they provide recreational and outdoor travel for anyone looking to tour the open roads of the country. This particular byway offers many historical attractions along the way, as well as a collection of topography attractions and artistic venues.

Where to start?
Start at the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway Information Center in Ruidoso Downs. They have a lot of information about many of the attractions that can be found along the trail as well as plenty of information about Lincoln County and the area that surrounds it.

What can be found along the way?
In Ruidoso, the Hubbard Museum of the American West offers a wide variety of historical artifacts and Old West information. Inside, the museum holds many antique heirlooms and a vast collection of western art.

Continuing to Fort Stanton, take advantage of the many camping sites that surround the area and that allow for horseback riding, hunting and fishing. As many as 12 caves are located in Fort Stanton with one of the caves, Fort Stanton Cave, being the third longest cave in New Mexico This was also the home, at one time, to many westerners and outlaws including Billy the Kid and Kit Carson.

Take a cruise on over to the Smokey Bear Museum and Park in Capitan. This place was once the home of Smokey the Bear, who is known as the nation’s icon for prevention of forest fires.

Next up on the trail is the town of Lincoln where the courthouse and jail, that once held outlaw Billy the Kid, have been preserved to still look as they did in the 1800s.

And finally, the Hondo Valley is the last stop on the trip. The valley was the inspiration of many landscaping paintings that were created by artists Peter Hurd and his wife Henriette Wythe.

From Portales take U.S. 70 west to Roswell, merging onto U.S. 285 south exit A, into the business district of Roswell. Make a right onto West Second Street and follow it straight through to Ruidoso Downs. From Ruidoso Downs take U.S. 70 through Ruidoso to N.M. 48. Follow N.M. 48 to Capitan, then turn east on U.S. 380 to Hondo and then back to Ruidoso Downs on U.S. 70.

Hours of Operation
The visitors center is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week and admission to the center is free. The trip on average takes about two hours depending on how many stops are made and there are no fees along the byway. For more information you can call 378-531 or visit