Cloudcroft "Ride to the Clouds" Loop


Mexican trestle - Eric Russell Photo

Old Railroad Trestle Near Cloudcroft

The Cloudcroft "Ride to the Clouds" Loop is a spectacular ride in the Sacramento Mountains in the Lincoln National Forest east of Alamogordo. The ride starts in Tularosa (4,520') and rides south almost to Alamogordo with the junction with US82, then climbs east to Cloudcroft (pop. 600, elev. 8,650') for the night. The following day the route continues east from Cloudcroft on NM244 through the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation on US70 to Mescalero (pop. 1,300, elev. 6,600'), then downhill to Tularosa.

The steady climb (~4,135', 6%) from the junction of US82 and US54 climbs east from the Tularosa Basin into Ponderosa forests through canyons lined with sedimentary rocky cliffs. The convienence store at the 2-mile mark is the last chance before serious climbing begins. The only highway tunnel in Southern New Mexico is at the 7.3 mile mark on the climb up to Cloudcroft. A parking area just west (downhill) of the tunnel affords a spectacular view of Fresnal Canyon which has some prehistorical sites, White Sands, and the Tularosa Basin. High Rolls at about 8 miles (half way!) has a gas station/store. At 15.5 miles, just before Cloudcroft, is another pull-off area where you can stop and look at the spectacular railroad trestle spanning the Mexican Canyon. There are hiking and mountain biking trails in this area, see the Rails-to-Trails links below. Just as you enter Cloudcroft at 16 miles, there is a nice picnic ground and bathrooms uphill to the right.

The route continues straight through (east) Cloudcroft downhill to the well-marked turn on NM244 to Mescalareo. After the left turn on NM244 there is a moderate climb through Ponderosa forests. There are a couple of USFS campgounds along the way. Then there is a nice long downhill following a drainage where the canyon starts widening out. Then there is an unmarked left turn at "Elk Canyon" and a uphill climb again through open forests. After topping out there is a nice downhill all the way to US70. Turn left going west on US70 using the nice shoulders. Descend through Mescalaro with White Sands off in the distance. By now the terrain is wide open and you have views in all directions. Enter Tularosa and ride through town to the starting location.

Cloudcroft Loop

Loop Map

Getting There: Begin and end in Tularosa, about 12 miles north of Alamogordo. There are a couple of motels, a Subway, and a Tastee-Freeze in Tularosa. Since this is a loop it can be started or ended at any location on the loop.

Distance: 77 Miles (2-days), ~6000' elevation gain (mostly in Day 1).

Day 1: Climb from Tularosa to Cloudcroft , 26 miles, about 5,000' of climbing. Options?
Day 2: Cloudcroft to Tularosa via Mescalaro, 51 miles, largely downhill (maybe ~1,000' of climbing). Follow NM244 east from Cloudcroft to US70 west to Tularosa.

Roadway: Mainly two lane roads with light traffic on weekends. The steep 16 miles of NM82 from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft is 2-lane highway with several passing lanes. There are stretches with guard rails close to the edge making it rather claustrophobic but on weekend mornings traffic should be fairly light. The pavement is in decent shape. The 10 miles from Tularosa to NM82 is divided 4-lanes with shoulders, pretty flat, moderate fast traffic, and a fair number of semi's. There is a tunnel at about the 6-mile mark that is not too long, maybe 100 yards but no lights. US70 is 4-laned with nice shoulders all the way to Tularosa.

Options: Once in Cloudcroft, there are beautiful rides in the Sacramento Mountains.

Notes: There are lots to see and do in Alamogordo and Cloudcroft. Read Bicycling America's National Parks: Arizona and New Mexico by Sarah Bennett Alley for detailed descriptions of ride options around Cloudcroft and Alamogordo.

Cloudcroft Loop Cuesheet

Cloudcroft Loop // 77 miles, ~6,000 Feet total elevation gain
Mileage Waypoint Description


Intersection of US54 & US70. Tularosa(4,520') - Start and End of loop.


Traffic Light Turn left (east) toward La Luz, some climbing.


Stop sign / Dead End Turn right (south).


Traffic Light US82 Turn left (east) and begin climbing. Gas Station and convienence store is the last for a while.


High Rolls Small grocery store. More Climbing. The tunnel is at about mile 18, you'll see it.


Trestle Overlook Continue uphill.


Jct with NM130 Continue straight into town. Option: Turn right to go to Sunspot Observatory.


Cloudcroft Grocery store on south side, The Lodge is right and uphill, a USFS office is right. There are several gas stations and resturants on the main street.


Jct NM82 & NM244 Turn left (north) on NM244 and start climbing through Ponderosa forests. There are a couple of USFS campgrounds along here.Downhill to turn.


Turn The road turns 90° left, there are no other options. Climb through open forests. There is the top of a rise not too far.


Jct with US70 Turn left (west) on US70. 4-lanes with shoulder. Mostly downhill all the way to Tularosa now!


Mescalero Continue straight on US70.


Bent Continue straight on US70.


Intersection of NM54 & US70. Tularosa - Start and end of loop.

Elevation Profiles

Cloudcroft Loop

Note the 4,200' climb from Tularosa to Cloudcroft.

Cloudcroft Loop Profile

Sunspot Option Elevation Profile

Note that the overall elevation change is only about 700', however, for an out-and-back the route is done twice, for about a total of 3,100' elevation climbing. The route is Cloudcroft to Sunspot on NM6563. The return ride seems to go faster.