Great winter trips in the West

Get into the wild in New Mexico

Not much of a bird-watcher? The spectacle of thousands of birds taking flight in New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache might just change your mind

Close-up map of Bosque del Apache

Matinee

Take a leisurely afternoon drive on the 12-mile Wildlife Drive loop that rings the refuge. The road is divided into the northern Farm Loop and southern Marsh Loop; pull off at the Marsh Loop Trailhead for a quick 2-mile hike.

The Farm Loop is surrounded by fields where the sandhill cranes and snow geese come to feed: Stop at the Phil Norton Blind for the most reliable bird sightings.

Sunset finale

As you’re leaving the refuge’s gates on Old Highway 1, head north and look for a pullout on your left, next to a narrow pond (it’s the Wetland Management Unit 3 pullout). In the evening, about half an hour before sunset, sandhill cranes swoop down in groups of twos and threes, taking a few stutter steps before folding themselves onto the water. The intricate ballet is one of the best free shows around.

GETTING THERE

The Bosque del Apache is an hour and a half south of Albuquerque International airport. From I-25, take the San Antonio exit (#139) east on U.S. 380 to Old Highway 1, then drive 9 miles to the Bosque visitor center.

GET THE LAY OF THE LAND

The Bosque refuge is 8 miles south of San Antonio and 16 miles south of Socorro. Check into the Fite Ranch Bed and Breakfast (from $100; two-night minimum; Fite Ranch Road; fiteranchbed andbreakfast.com). A secluded B&B atop a mesa, it’s 9 miles east of San Antonio off U.S. 380 and a 20-minute drive from the refuge. To access the refuge, pay at the entrance ($5; 575/835-1828). The visitor center has maps and hot coffee.  

EAT IN SAN ANTONIO

This tiny town has a spicy rivalry between U.S. 380 neighbors Owl Cafe ($; closed Sun; 575/835-9946) and the Buckhorn ($; closed Sun; 575/835-4423) for who has the best green-chile cheeseburger. Decide for yourself.

EXPLORE SOCORRO

Stop at Manzanares Street Coffeehouse ($; 110 Manzanares St.; 575/838-0809) for lattes and cinnamon rolls, then browse the art at Curious Crow Studio (closed Sun–Mon; 113 Abeyta St. W.; figalleries.com).

On Saturdays, locals head to Socorro Springs Restaurant and Brewery ($; 1012 California St.; 575/838-0650) for pizza and growlers of beer or the Stage Door Grill ($$; 115 Abeyta St. W.; 575/835-2403) for juicy fish tacos.

More: Warm winter escapes

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