- 14 miles (22 km)
- 30 minutes
- There are no fees for driving the byway.
Stretching 14 miles through the Lincoln National Forest, Sunspot Scenic Byway roams the front rim of the resplendent Sacramento Mountains, thrilling travelers with various scenic opportunities and astounding views of the Tularosa Basin and the ceaselessly shifting sand dunes of White Sands National Monument.
The byway meanders through woods full of ponderosa pine, aspen, and oak. From two interpretative vistas travelers admire the mountain-ringed valley of the Tularosa Basin and one of the world's great natural curiosities, the ever-gleaming White Sands. Picnickers and campers revel in the peaceful and secluded woods of the Lincoln National Forest. Hikers and horseback riders stroll along a variety of trails, such as Rim Trail, a National Recreation Trail paralleling the byway for 13 miles.
Fisherman pursuing rainbow and brown trout repose by the Rio Penasco, a lazy rambling stream. Winter sports one can enjoy range from downhill skiing to snowshoeing. Designated snowplay areas attract families for hours of winter fun. Wildlife watchers enjoy Lincoln's abundant animal life; black bears, elk, and mule deer roam the forest while eagles, hawks, and spotted owl patrol the skies.
Offering a seemingly endless array of outdoor adventures and arresting panoramas, Sunspot Scenic Byway delights visitors again and again, making this short expanse of highway a relaxing yet exciting trip anytime of the year.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
Lincoln National Forest (NM)
This Forest is known as the birthplace of the world-famous Smokey Bear, the living symbol of the campaign to prevent forest fires. The original bear is buried in Capitan, New Mexico.
At the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert lies a mountain ringed valley, the Tularosa Basin. Rising from the heart of this basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico.
Here, great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and have created the world's largest gypsum dune field. The brilliant white dunes are ever changing: growing, cresting, then slumping, but always advancing. Slowly but relentlessly the sand, driven by strong southwest winds, covers everything in its path. Within the extremely harsh environment of the dune field, even plants and animals adapted to desert conditions struggle to survive. Only a few species of plants grow rapidly enough to survive burial by moving dunes, but several types of small animals have evolved a white coloration that camouflages them in the gypsum sand.
White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this gypsum dune field, along with the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this constantly changing environment.
Take US Hwy 80 to US Hwy 54. Take the junction with US Hwy 70.