Once an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail, Raton (pronounced ra-TONE) is near the Raton Pass into Colorado. Today's visitors can experience the same sense of wonder that the pioneers must have felt as they observed the majestic ascent of the mountains. This small city has pleasant Victorian architecture and a museum depicting life in the 1800s.
You can roughly follow the course of the Santa Fe Trail if you drive southwest on Highway 64 to Cimarron, once one of the roughest of the Wild West's many towns. You might consider having lunch at the St. James Hotel, built in the 1870s by Henri Lambert, the White House chef for former U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Frederic Remington and Zane Grey were among its guests, and many believe the hotel is haunted. The hotel's original bar, today the dining room, still has 26 bullet holes in its pressed-tin ceiling. (The hotel staff can direct you to several trail-era sites in the area that you can tour on foot.) The town visitors center has a friendly staff that can provide a walking tour that includes the old jail, historic homes and a restored mill. Cimarron is a good starting point to get to the Valle Vidal wilderness, part of the Carson National Forest.
Just south of Old Cimarron is Villa Philmonte, the Mediterranean-style mansion of the late Waite Phillips, Tulsa oil magnate. It's now the headquarters of Philmont Scout Ranch, which hosts Boy Scout troops on two-week outdoor experiences from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The mansion can be toured during the summer. Raton is 175 mi/280 km northeast of Albuquerque.
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