• Sarah

Visit Las Cruces Like a Local

Living in Austin, TX has such appeal and so many perks, but none really compare to the undeniable draw of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Mind blowing skies and mountain views aside, Las Cruces exudes the vibe of a chill beach town with great food, a booming brewery scene, excellent coffee, and an insane amount of growth happening as I type. I so loved living here during grad school. I am back for the weekend, and I have one full day on my own to revisit some of my favorite local spots!


Situated in the Mesilla Valley (just south of Hatch, home of the ethereal green chile), Las Cruces hosts the (seasonally) mighty Rio Grande as it flows southward into Texas, through Big Bend National Park and beyond. To the east of town lie the majestic Organ Mountains - I lived here for 3 years and not ONCE did the view of these beauties get old. To the west, lots of old, beautiful, and worn down mountains paint the seemingly endless horizon. Cruces is a breath of fresh air, where light, space, and kind people simply soothe your soul.


Organ Mountains rim the eastern horizon of Las Cruces.

- MILAGRO COFFEE Y ESPRESSO -

My Cruces visits normally begin with a trip to Milagro Coffee, located near New Mexico State University (NMSU) campus. This spot is timeless and forever warm and welcoming. Come here to have freshly roasted coffee, breakfast burritos, and a daily rotation of freshly baked muffins and pastries (almond croissants!!). Free WiFi, lots of seating options, and ample sunshine in the front of the cafe all make this a place you can enjoy for hours.


There she blows - Milagro Coffee! To the right you'll see a drive-through window, and down the staircase in front you'll find lots of outdoor patio seating.


Milagro is a happening place in the morning! Burritos and pastries are scarce, if not sold out, by lunchtime. The rest of their menu is served all day.

Seating up front is sunny and comfortable.

Interested in coffee roasting? Just peek through the window on the way back to the quiet nook, and you'll see where the magic happens. You're liable to find the owner fixing up a fresh batch to roast.


As you stand dressing up your cup of coffee, you can get a behind-the-scenes view of Milagro's coffee roasting operation.

There is extra space in the back of the shop where smaller tables, quieter atmosphere, and dimmer lights provide an excellent study spot. I spent many a morning tucked back in this nook writing my thesis.


Here lies the back room of Milagro Coffee! This cozy room is perfect for some quiet time with a book or your studies. Each table has a lamp and outlets for charging.

One of the many great coffee shops in town, Milagro has a special place in my heart. Fresh, pre-made breakfast burritos are a big hit, with options like chorizo, chicken, bacon, sausage, and potato. Each burrito comes standard with eggs and green chile and a side of salsa. Grab a 'rito and some coffee and head out for a hike!


My go-to coffee bevy, a cappuccino.

I chose a sausage burrito today!

- COAS BOOKS -


After I finish breakfast, I can't help but head to my favorite store in town - Coas Books. Seriously, this is the best used bookstore you will ever find. Room upon room of books (500,000 in inventory according to Coas' facebook page) from the local literary scene to nature writing, astronomy, photography, comics, and records - Coas has it all. Their downtown/Main Street location is the bigger of the two Coas’ in town (and my favorite). For the hikers, geologists, and outdoor enthusiasts, Coas downtown even has a separate room devoted to maps! Topographic, geologic, and land use maps of southwestern New Mexico and beyond. What an amazing room. What a place. What a world!


Coas is housed in an historical building on Main Street and has the feel of an old place with lots of stories to tell. The books within will serve that purpose, but the atmosphere and old book smell of Coas are as lovely as the endless selection of books.


This is only one of the MANY rows like this in Coas Books. Make sure you fully explore; there are rooms you may not know exist until you stumble upon them. This place houses over 500,000 books!

You can find the most wonderfully random books at Coas - this book, carrying my namesake, caught my attention. Doesn't little Sarah look happy!

As a geologist, I can fully appreciate this historic and probably insanely difficult approach to studying rocks.

- FARMERS MARKET -


If you're here on a Saturday, one of the best ways to spend some time is strolling down Main Street through the wonderful Las Cruces Farmers Market, open every Saturday 8:30 am to 1 pm. Spanning 7 blocks of historic Main St., the farmers market brings in local artists, food trucks, musicians, bakers, coffee roasters, plant nurseries, and animals shelters (puppy adoptions each Saturday!). You can find local paintings, photographs, jewelry, pottery, metal work, plants, food (think green chile), and more as you walk up and down and back up again.


I've had great experiences with holidays at the Farmers Market - Earth Day has some incredible vendors, educators, giveaways, and performances all which make up a pretty solid Saturday morning. Check the market's facebook page for upcoming events!



MILA'S PHOTOS HERE!


- MESILLA -

After I get my bookstore fix, I go for a run in Old Mesilla, my stomping grounds during graduate school. Mesilla has a rich history involving Apache, Spanish, and Mexican cultures and was incorporated into US Territory in 1854 . Nearly every building in Mesilla is built with adobe, and a charming village square is home to several restaurants, historic bars, and excellent local music venues. Mesilla offers a sense of the quiet, small town life while only being 2 or 3 miles from NMSU campus.


This is the turnaround for my run, 2 miles from Mesilla's center. Below the bridge, the Rio Grande River as it quietly winds through its wide riverbed. Note the little mountain on the horizon - that's Picacho Peak, my next stop!

PICACHO PEAK HIKE


I wrap up a full day with a hike up Picacho Peak. This beautiful volcano is roughly 35 million year old, and it offers one of the most accessible and rewarding hikes in Las Cruces. I decided to take the trail that leads you straight to the top of Picacho Peak, where the view of Las Cruces and the Organ Mountains is the best you can find.


From the parking area, you can see the wide, well maintained path heading up the mountainside. The hike begins right next to the Picacho Peak Trails sign. Start down the trail until you come to a fork in the dry creek bed - take the green arrow and keep moving in the direction of the peak! I'll let the photos and captions do the talking from now on:


Picacho Peak is part of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The trail leading to the top is straightforward and very rewarding! You can see the trail heading uphill right behind this sign; you begin the hike at the sign.

Stay to the left when you see this first green arrow. Then follow the path as it leads you in the direction of Picacho Peak.

As you walk along a saddle of what looks like purplish, greenish clay, you will have this view of the trail ahead of you. The climb up starts soon!

This uphill is a fun one - you'll feel it in your lungs and legs, but it's over quickly and the views are awesome!

Just beyond this hunk of rhyolite, the trail will transition into switchbacks. This is somewhere close to the half-way point up to the top!

Once you're finished with switchbacks, youre nearly there! This final push is so beautiful - as the Organs peek out from behind the ridge, you'll realize the view at the top will be well worth it.

THE TOP! From here you have a 360 degree view of Las Cruces and the surrounding area. On a very clear day you can see well beyond Deming, which is 60 miles west of Cruces.

Summit selfie! The metal post behind me (which must've had some sign on it at one point) marks the official top of Picacho Peak.

THE TAKEAWAY


What I hope is obvious from this post is the magic of Las Cruces. I will be back soon - new breweries and distilleries like Dry Point Distillers, Picacho Peak Brewery, Icebox Brewing, and Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery have popped up recently and they all need my attention! This town is alive and thriving, and I can't wait to watch its continued growth.

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