17 Best Things to Do in Raton, NM

Raton, NM
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Raton is a quiet and quaint city in northeastern New Mexico, less than ten miles from the Colorado state border.

Since 1897, the city has served as the seat of Colfax County.

The city has borne witness to the historic 19th-century Santa Fe Trail, railway development, and coal mining in the area.

It was a watering stop on the Santa Fe Trail, known initially as Willow Springs, which helped pioneers and adventurers reach the Old West.

In 1878, the area received the name Raton, meaning “small rat” in Spanish.

Raton offers outdoor recreation, lively arts and culture, and breathtaking scenery as a gateway city to the southwest.

Here are some of the best things to do in Raton, New Mexico, to help you start your adventure:

Camp at Sugarite Canyon State Park

Lake maloya at Sugarite Canyon State Park
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Explore the beautiful outdoors when you camp at Sugarite Canyon State Park.

This 3,600-acre state park has two campgrounds and 40 campsites, including two full hookup sites.

Whether hiking or biking, you can explore 13 miles of trails and see the area’s diverse habitats and abundant flora and fauna.

Deers at Sugarite Canyon State Park
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Fish in the lakes or paddle on the waters.

Go bird watching and see how many you can spot out of the over 200 bird species that call the park home.

During fall, you’ll see a beautiful display of fall foliage.

A bird at Sugarite Canyon State Park
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Also within the park are some remaining features of the old Sugarite coal camp.

You can take a tour to learn more about the area’s coal mining past.

Sugarite Canyon State Park sits along Highway 526.

Scenic view overlooking Sugarite Canyon State Park
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Unwind at Colfax Ale Cellar

Head to Colfax Ale Cellar to unwind after a day of sightseeing.

This brewery bar is inside a century-old historic building with about 7,000 square feet of cellar space.

Enjoy a fresh pint of their craft beer on tap while you soak up the friendly atmosphere.

If you’d rather have wine, sample a flight of their New Mexico wines.

They also have a food menu offering bar bites, sandwiches, wraps, and burritos.

Afterward, pick a board game and play with friends.

You can find Colfax Ale Cellar on South 2nd St.

You can get a look at the local art scene when you visit the Old Pass Gallery.

Throughout the year, this fine arts gallery and museum showcase the works of more than 200 artists from the city and the region.

Housed in a beautiful century-old building, the gallery also serves as a venue for community events such as youth art shows and art sales.

Don’t forget to stop by their gift shop, where you can get souvenirs or an art piece to display back home.

The Raton Arts & Humanities Council owns and runs the Old Pass Gallery on South 1st St.

Discover Local Flavors at Raton’s Dining Spots

After a long day of sightseeing around the city, head to Raton’s dining spots to refuel and check out the local dining scene.

Restaurants, cafes, and other food shops offer opportunities to sample local flavors and the region’s cuisine.

Feast on hearty barbecues, steak, and Mexican dishes.

Of course, don’t miss the green chile, which New Mexico is famous for, used in various dishes in many of these dining spots.

Don’t forget to leave room for dessert and try some of the city's sweet treats.

Hike at Climax Canyon Park

Entrance to the Climax Canyon Park
Jeffrey Beall, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Marvel at the spectacular view of the mountains by hiking at Climax Canyon Park.

Situated at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the 300-acre park area was once the Climax Mine, now abandoned.

The park features a three-mile nature trail offering stunning views of the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field, fascinating geologic features, and diverse trees.

You can hike along the west loop to an overlook that takes you 400 feet above the trailhead.

Otherwise, climb through the east loop, which will take you 300 feet above.

Moreover, this park supposedly contains scientific evidence of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs.

Experts have recorded evidence of the devastating asteroid impact in the rocks at the park.

You can find Climax Canyon Park at Apache Avenue's west end.

See a Show at the Shuler Theater

Catch a live performance or a show at the historic Shuler Theater.

This local theater is a state landmark and the performing arts center of northeastern New Mexico.

It hosts various stage productions, classic movie screenings, and musical performances.

Named after Dr. James Jackson Shuler, the theater traces its roots to a municipal auditorium built during his term.

Dr. Shuler was mayor of Raton from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

You can find Shuler Theater along North 2nd St. downtown.

Have Fun at the Gate City Music Festival

Don't miss the Gate City Music Festival if you’re in Raton during Labor Day weekend.

This annual festival features a fun weekend of entertainment for everyone.

Outdoor festivities include live music performances from some of the best talents, street fairs, and other creative art events.

Check out the food stalls to discover and sample local food.

The festival is a beautiful way to enjoy music and experience the community’s vibrant atmosphere.

Breathe in the mountain air and sing and dance the weekend away.

The Gate City Music Festival occurs at the grounds on First St.

Shop at the Buffalo Chip

While strolling around downtown, stop by the Buffalo Chip for some shopping.

This gift shop has a wide selection of items you can buy as a souvenir, to gift someone, or to enjoy back home.

Browse their collection of Southwestern art, locally handcrafted products, home decor, and novelty items.

Check out their selection of snacks, dips, and jellies for a taste of New Mexican flavor.

You can find Buffalo Chip on South 2nd St.

Learn about the City’s History and Culture at the Raton Museum

Exterior of the Raton Museum
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Established in 1939, The Raton Museum tells the story of the city’s rich history and showcases its diverse cultural heritage.

View the artifacts on exhibit and learn about the early travelers, traders, and pioneers that settled in the area.

Through their gallery, you can discover the region’s mining history, railroad development, and ranches.

Also on display are artworks of New Mexico artists.

You can tour the museum at your own pace or schedule a guided tour for your group.

The Raton Museum is inside a century-old South 2nd St. building at the heart of the historic district.

Go on a Hunting Trip at NRA Whittington Center

Visit the NRA Whittington Center for some big-game hunting trips.

Established in 1973, the center is a premier outdoor recreation, shooting, and hunting destination.

With 33,000 acres of beautiful hills and plains, you can go on guided tours to hunt bull elks, antelopes, mule deer, and spring turkeys.

Of course, the facility features world-class shooting ranges.

You can practice your aim at a range before your hunt.

The center also offers cabins and camping opportunities, including RV sites.

It is also home to several landmarks and the original wagon ruts of the Santa Fe Trail.

You can find the NRA Whittington Center along US 64 West.

Join the International Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally

Witness the spectacular sight of hot air balloons floating in the summer sky during the International Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally.

This annual event kickstarts the area’s Fourth of July celebration.

Watch the beautiful balloons take flight early in the morning.

You can get breakfast pancakes and sausages at the festival and enjoy the games, music, and entertainment.

The International Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally occurs at La Mesa Airfield on Highway 555.

Experience the Ultimate Adventure at Vermejo

Explore many spectacular outdoor activities when you stay and play at Vermejo.

This expansive reserve features more than 550,000 acres of stunning landscape and diverse wildlife.

Hop on your horse and ride along the quiet trails or explore the nearby canyons.

Go fishing at one of the 19 lakes or along their miles of streams.

You can also try many shooting activities, from archery to clay shooting.

Ride your bike and tour the ranch at your own pace.

Soak in the natural beauty of this New Mexico jewel.

This unique destination also offers guided tours and hikes throughout the year.

You can find Vermejo along West Highway 555.

Take a Tour of the Raton Downtown Historic District

Exterior of El Raton Theater at Raton Downtown Historic District
Jeffrey Beall from Colorado, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a walking tour of the Raton Downtown Historic District and see the city’s architectural heritage.

Explore the five blocks surrounding Rio Grande, Clark, and the 1st and 3rd Streets.

See historic structures dating back to the mid-1880s and the early 1900s, such as the El Raton Theater and the Wells Fargo building.

Many Victorian-style buildings and structures still have their original facade along the historic First Street.

These buildings house antique and gift shops, galleries, and cafes today.

In 1977, the National Register of Historic Places added the Raton Downtown Historic District to its record.

Play a Round of Golf at Raton Country Club

Take a break and book a tee time at Raton Country Club for a relaxing golf game.

Since 1919, the club’s golf course has welcomed golfers from everywhere.

The course is a beautiful Par 71, a 9-hole course at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Enjoy your game as you bask in the lovely surrounding scenery.

Admire the stunning views of New Mexico mesas and a chance to glimpse wildlife around the fairways.

After a round, head to the bar for a drink while admiring the gorgeous view.

You can find Raton Country Club at Country Club Road.

Stroll around Roundhouse Memorial Park

The Roundhouse Memorial Park is a center of activity in the city.

It is home to recreational venues such as the Regional Aquatic Center.

The open space also features play areas for sand volleyball and disc golf.

Take a relaxing stroll along the park’s two-mile paved walking paths.

Enjoy the sweeping views of nearby mountains and the peaceful atmosphere.

You can find Roundhouse Memorial Park across the tracks from 1st St.

Enjoy the Run to Raton Motorcycle Rally

If you like big bikes, cars, and music, don’t miss the Run to Raton motorcycle rally.

As one of the city’s signature annual events, it packs a lot of entertainment for everyone.

See hundreds of cool bikes go around the city.

Rock on as bands and artists fill the atmosphere with live music.

Likewise, sample local food and enjoy craft beer.

The Run to Raton motorcycle rally takes place at the beautiful Raton Pass and the downtown district.

See the City from Goat Hill

Daytime view of Goat Hill
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Climb to the top of Goat Hill for a panoramic view of the city.

Also known as the Santa Fe Trail Overlook, it covers a ten-mile part of the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail.

You can see the grand skyline of peaks and mesas from the overlook.

The city’s unique spin on the Hollywood sign sits atop the hill.

You can find the road up to Goat Hill at the end of Moulton Avenue.

Final Thoughts

Raton is a city with rich history, vibrant arts and culture, and exciting recreational opportunities.

The city’s climate makes exploring more enjoyable with mild summers and mild winters.

Plan your trip today and discover the best things to do in Raton, New Mexico!