Skipping out of work in time to catch some live music in the Buckhorn Saloon should be priority No. 1 when planning a trip to Silver City, New Mexico. After that, let your curiosity—and your taste buds—guide you.
Head straight for the historic mining village of Pinos Altos, seven miles north of Silver City on NM Highway 15, where the Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House (32 Main St.) is the mountain folks’ social hub. From a barstool in this Old West joint, you can imagine life as a gold prospector and taste what ranch hands and outlaws alike might once have enjoyed beside a crackling campfire. The two-dimensional ladies gazing at you through their posts on the wall wear red clothing—and not much of it—while the bison mounted over the bar holds court with the regulars. From the froth on your IPA to the cream in your green chile stew, everything about the Buckhorn’s sensual offerings prepares you for the weekend ahead.
Turn in at Bear Mountain Lodge (2251 Cottage San Road), a gallery and bed-and-breakfast in one. Sitting on 178 acres and bordering the Gila National Forest, this funky getaway is a 10-minute drive from town. Artwork adorns the lodge’s 11 guest rooms and comfortable common areas, its bountiful library and laidback dining room (open for breakfast and dinner), and even its 3.7 miles of private trails connecting the wild to the colorful front porch. In the morning, you may stick around the property or opt to explore elsewhere, perhaps starting the day with a sunrise summit hike.
Of the endless hiking options in the Gila’s 3.3 million acres, a trek to the top of Gomez Peak proves most rewarding. Using the well-marked Little Walnut Trail System, you can safely find your way to the top before breakfast. Take advantage of the 360-degree views to get your bearings; you’ll be able to see the mountainous wilderness to the north and Silver City to the south.
Mountain bikers can ride directly from the lodge to the Little Walnut Trails on an almost-entirely single-track route that includes the Continental Divide Trail. Contact the Silver City Ranger District (575.388.8201) with questions.
After the morning’s nature fix, head downtown and plan to spend the rest of the day exploring Silver City’s colorful streets and shops.
Eat brunch at Revel (304 N. Bullard St.), a restaurant that encourages its patrons to play with their food and that sources ingredients from local farmers whenever possible. Its seasonally rotated menu may include Big Ditch Scrambled Eggs boasting bacon, mushrooms, scallions, cream cheese, and home fries or the Truck-Stop Biscuit topped with spinach, poached eggs, cheddar fondue, and pickled red onion—dishes dreamed up by owners and chefs Brian Patterson and Jesse Westenberger. Revel’s cocktail menu includes a.m.-appropriate libations, such as the strawberry alarm clock—a drink Revel co-owner and manager Kelsey Patterson personally swears by on lazy Saturdays.
By 11 a.m., the town wakes up. Shops open and artists welcome visitors to their galleries for shopping and conversation.
If it’s a Saturday, wander the farmers’ market held from 8:30 a.m. to noon in Silver City Main Street Plaza (between Seventh and Eighth Streets off Bullard Street). On any other day, begin a gallery tour at the growing arts district of Yankie and Texas Streets.
Stop in at the refined Seedboat Center for the Arts (214 W. Yankie St.), the funky Blue Dome Gallery (307 N. Texas St.), and the fascinating Wild West Weaving (211 N. Texas St., Suite D). If you have a minute, chat with Bill and Pat of Moonstruck Art (110 W. Yankie St.), a one-stop-shop for earthy pottery, hip handmade jewelry, and wearable fiber arts.
There’s much more to Silver City’s art scene, so give yourself flexibility to spend as much or as little time in each storefront as you’d like before moving on to a nearby gallery or a farther-flung studio listed in one of the Red Dot Art Guides available at the Visitor Center (201 N. Hudson St.).
Break for lunch when your stomach starts rumbling again and check out The Hub at Bullard and Sixth streets, where a variety of restaurants share a groomed courtyard. Order up a Thai noodle bowl or a Vietnamese pork crêpe from Tapas Tree Grill (601 N. Bullard St., Suite E), which celebrates its two-year anniversary in September. Owners Kevin Hubbs and David Chapman added more plates with guacamole for the summer and are already inventing their new dish for Main Street’s upcoming Taste of Downtown event. When you stop in, make sure to say hi. “We love meeting visitors,” Chapman says. “I enjoy talking to people from other places and love showing off Silver City.”
Continuing your art walk, check out Leyba & Ingalls Arts (315 Bullard St.), which shows larger-than-life paintings by Diana Ingalls Leyba, provocative clay pieces by Zoe Wolfe, and intricate wood-cut prints by Phillip Parotti, among other Southwest-inspired works by Silver City artists. Also pop into Power and Light Press (108 E. College Ave.), an old-school print shop specializing in snarky greeting cards.
Dinner at 1zero6 (106 N. Texas St.) is a must. Chef Jake Politte changes the menu weekly and draws inspiration from his travels, serving “Pacific Rim, Southeast Asian, Oaxacan, Italian, Traditional, and Fusion” fare. Only the strong-willed can resist 1zero6’s appetizers, but even so, its entrées with globally sourced ingredients disappear before you can say, “black squid ink spaghetti.” Read up on the weekend’s choices, then call ahead to reserve your seats and your food, as every dish in this six-table restaurant is made to order three days a week.
After sunset, hop to The Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery (200 N. Bullard St.), which hosts a band every Friday and Saturday night, or its recently opened brewing facility and taproom. Be ready to groove with the music while tipping back a locally crafted beer or cocktail.
After another restful night at the base of Bear Mountain but before drifting west, eat at the lodge in the company of the owners’ cattle, horses, and sculptures.
Jennifer C. Olson, editor of the Silver City Independent, is a hobby farmer and bicyclist who eats local and drinks up every foodie experience she can from her home base in Pinos Altos, New Mexico.
Clay Festival, July 22-30 During the Silver City Clay Festival, artists from Mexico and all over the U.S. flock to town, offering lectures and workshops or selling their goods to in-the-know buyers. Many events are free, and some—including an al fresco farm-to-table banquet—celebrate clay’s ties to agriculture and native cooking. Local galleries exhibit clay artists, and Bear Mountain Lodge has a Bede Clark exhibit hanging through Labor Day. ClayFestival.com
Copper County Cruizers Run to Copper Country Car Show, Aug. 19
The annual Run to Copper Country Car Show has attracted car clubs and hot rod owners from near and far to Silver City’s Gough Park each August for more than 25 years. The show’s claim to fame is its handmade trophies—creatively designed and assembled by Copper Country Cruizers members. CopperCountryCruizers.com
Taste of Downtown, Sept. 2 Main Street eateries serve up scrumptious samples to ticket-holding foodies. It’s a strategic way to decide where to grab a bite next time you’re in town and the best way to discover the Silver City historic district’s friendly vibe. SilverCityMainStreet.com
Gila River Festival, Sept. 21-24
In celebration and support of the free-flowing Gila, this festival showcases the river’s recreational, educational, and historical values. This year’s Gathering the Gila theme explores the intersection of native foods, plants, and medicines with the history of the Gila and its watershed through, among other things, a native food brunch, an acorn-processing workshop, and a foraging field trip. GilaRiverFestival.org