Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico

Continuing on, the road runs through the narrow valley of the Red River. The mountains to either side are volcanic and a composite of ash and granite intrusions. The area was the scene of feverish prospecting at the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s. Miners found gold, silver, copper and lead deposited by the many volcanic eruptions in the Tertiary era. It was hard-rock mining and soon abandoned because of difficulties extracting the minerals from the rock. Only the molybdenum mine is still operated sporadically. The Red River is bordered by several camp and picnic grounds.

Red River, New Mexico

Red River, New Mexico

The Town of Red River offers a chance to stretch your legs and shopping skills. This family-oriented town with an Old West feel has saloons, daily staged gunfights, a 20-year-old melodrama at the Red River Inn, a fine mining museum, and all the souvenir shops you ever wanted.

The Red River Ski Area in the center of town operates it main ski lift during the summer and fall months. The 10,250 top gives the sightseer a view of the entire valley and the hiker access to several easy to challenging trails dotted with old mining camps.

Continuing east on Highway 38, the road tops 9,820-foot Bobcat Pass and then twists its way down into the Moreno Valley. The pass offers some of the best scenery on the trip, including a vista of the north face of Wheeler Peak. Several turnouts give photographers a chance to record their passage for friends back home.

Baldy Mountain, New Mexico

Baldy Mountain, New Mexico

On the eastern rim of the Moreno Valley, Mt. Baldy dominates the horizon. Gold was discovered on its slopes in 1866 and the gold rush was on. Elizabethtown, to the west of the highway, built up quickly to accommodate the rush of miners, and was dubbed “E-Town” by the locals.

Elizabethtown has long since become a ghost town; however, at one time it was the county seat of Colfax County and the largest settlement in Northern New Mexico.

Early settlers and miners were “squatters” because everything that could be seen for miles was part of the Maxwell Land Grant, the largest ever recognized by the United States government.

Elizabethtown, New Mexico Museum

Elizabethtown, New Mexico Museum

Elizabethtown quickly became the epitome of the Wild West, complete with range wars, lynchings, claim jumping and land scams and was ripe for such characters as Black Jack Ketchum and Clay Allison.

Later, when a European company purchased Maxwell’s Land Grant, they tried to sell parcels of “St. Louis of the Southwest” to easterners, picturing a Mississippi-style paddleboat on the tiny Cimarron River. Today, there are just a few original buildings remaining, but a small museum tells the story of its rich history.

Return to Eagle Nest by continuing on Highway 38.

Enjoy your trip!!!


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March, 2017.

Eagle Nest Lake, New Mexico

Also See:

The Birth of Angel Fire

Eagle Nest Lake – Angler’s Paradise

Elizabethtown – Gone But Not Forgotten

La Cueva and Mora Less Traveled & Worth the Trip

Taos Pueblo – 1,000 Years of History

Enchanted Circle Slideshow:


All images available for photo prints & commercial downloads HERE.