Traveling west from Interstate 25 on New Mexico 152 you cross a long section of relatively flat terrain.  Three miles or so before Hillsboro the road begins to snake and twist and drops into the Percha Creek stream valley, where the picturesque community of Hillsboro awaits.  The tall cottonwood trees are a hallmark of this community and are the first signs that things are indeed different here.  It is, after all, an inhabited “ghost town”.

Hillsboro, as a commercial center, started as a mining town in 1877 when gold was discovered.  (More than 100,000 troy ounces of gold were eventually taken form the area.)  There are indications that Hispanic ranchers/farmers may have been in the area earlier, and Indian tribes lived in the vicinity and used the surrounding areas regularly.

From 1884 to 1936, Hillsboro was the county seat of Sierra County.  The court house ruins are all that remain of that function.

The Hillsboro Community Center (HCC) (pictured above)  is the site of many community events, including a vigorous concert series with regional, national, and international acts appearing monthly.  The music venue tends to the Western, Bluegrass, and Folk genres but is
sometimes supplemented by Jazz, Classical, and International fare.  Many other events are hosted at the HCC, including town meetings, meetings of the various organizations in town, Christmas in the Foothills, and an annual bicycle race.  The HCC originally served as a high school and later a grade school.

Most of Hillsboro is in a flood plain, and periodically there are floods. 
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, for instance, had to be rebuilt following the 1972 floods.  Although the area has been in severe drought for several years, when a heavy rain does come the streets become swiftly flowing (but shallow) streams.

Although the town does not have
a grocery store, bank, dry goods store, or gas station, there are indications that gas may have been available once along the side streets.  There are antique cars here and there symbolizing the populace’s love of things of the past, and in some of the local washes there are examples of distributed automotive art - sometimes referred to as illegal dumping.

Although few in number, the people of Hillsboro and the immediate area come from diverse backgrounds.  Politically the town’s people reflect the national schism.  Work backgrounds run the gamut from business and law to ranching, the arts, applied science, and academics of all types.  Some continue to pursue their day jobs and others are retired.  Of the retired folk, most are actively pursuing their dreams.  Artists, fine art photographers, musicians, and
crafts people are found in significant numbers.

If you drive into town after 9 p.m.

you will find the town lit by a few street lights and not much else.  That means that you can look to the sky and see why the Milky Way is called the Milky Way, that there are more stars than a city person can imagine, and that the moon does, in fact, cast strong shadows.

The decorative tastes of the townspeople tend to run to simple elegance rather than glitz, and there
are many examples of this orientation on public display about town.

Javelina (Collared Peccary), Mule Deer, and Striped Skunks are found about town, as are (rarely) Black Bear and Mountain Lion.  Mammals flourish in the more general area, including four species of skunks, Bobcats, Ringtails, vagrant Coatis, Coyotes, Gray Fox, Elk, and (rumored) Wolf.

Birdlife abounds in town, including many southwestern specialities.  One home in town has a yard-list (the number of species seen in, or immediately above, the yard) of 119 bird species.  Although there is no formal town-list, informed observers estimate it at about 150.  These are significant numbers for such a small area.

The geology of the area is a complex mixture of igneous and sedimentary rock.  This,
of course, is why prospectors scour the washes and ridges every weekend, placing claim markers wherever they find rock.  It is also the reason that some of the rock beds are rich in fossils - like the crinoid head found near the town of Kingston, which is just up the road.

There are several biomes in the area, and the plant life can be both exotic in appearance and very colorful.  A drive in from the freeway during the spring, especially at dusk, can be breathtaking as the setting sun shines through the Apache Plume (and into your eyes).  This area is at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert - one of
the four deserts of North America.

One of the wonders of Hillsboro and nearby Kingston is that although the past is cherished, the residents have a clear vision of the future.  Kingston, for instance, is a center for cost-effective building practices which are environmentally responsible.  (See information on the Kingston page.)  In Hillsboro, solar panels are becoming a regular feature of the rooftops and   rain harvesting is carried to an art form here. 

Many homes in Hillsboro have greenhouses and gardens, and there is a community garden.  A number of the residents raise chickens for eggs.  The bounty is willingly shared during the harvest seasons.

The weather is four seasons long, with winter being the shortest.  Following the coldest winter nights the days warm up to a rather nice winter’s day.  The hottest time tends to be June and July prior to the monsoon rains.  The rains are fickle:  during calendar years 2011 and 2012 the total annual rainfall was about six or seven inches, although the average is around twelve or thirteen inches.

It is a mixture of the past and the future which is the heart of Hillsboro.  It is a place where hours can be spent in quiet contemplation of the seasons, where days can be spent walking the hills (perhaps finding  a large marker at the site of a horse’s grave), and a lifetime can be spent in pursuing knowledge and wisdom and in celebrating the human spirit.

The “Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona Gazetteer and Business Directory 1884-1885” described Hillsboro as (p. 321):


Driving directions


Exit Interstate 25 onto State Highway 152.  Travel 17 miles west. (See our East of Hillsboro to Emory Pass Auto Tour.)


From Hatch travel west on NM-26 for 19 miles.  At Nutt, turn right (north) onto NM-27 and travel 30 miles (See our NM-27 Auto Tour).

From Deming travel north on US-180, turn east onto NM-26 after 1.5 miles.  Travel for 28 miles, at Nutt turn north (left) on NM-27 and travel 30 miles.


From Silver City travel east on US-180 for 8 miles.  Turn left onto NM-152 and travel 49 miles.  (See our East of Hillsboro to Emory Pass Auto Tour).


THE HILLSBORO COMMUNITY CENTER.  Built in 1922 it served as the High School until 1937 and as an elementary school until 1971.

COURT HOUSE AND JAIL RUINS.  Built in the 1892, demolished after the County Seat was moved to Hot Springs (currently called Truth or Consequences).  Elenora Street.

The Burke-Porter House from about 1886. 


GENERAL STORE CAFE.  10697 Highway 152.   Built in 1879 and continually occupied since that time.  In the past the building has been a bank, a post office, a general store, and a drug store.  It retains the ambiance of the 1880’s and serves excellent US and Mexican food.  Open Friday to Tuesday 8 - 3:00.  Wi-Fi Hotspot.


US POST OFFICE.  Built in the early 1890‘s.


The former location of the Barbershop Cafe, formerly the S-BAR-X.  It has been a dance hall, bar, and cafe and consignment shop.


The Old Bank


HATCHER HOTEL/HOSPITAL built in early 1890’s was used as a hospital until 1923 and then as a hotel and cafe.

Sue’s Antiques.  This building has been a pool hall, a dance hall, and a general store.  It now houses an extensive collection of memorabilia from the early days of the area.


Black Range Museum and Gift Shop of the Hillsboro Historical Society.  Among other things this building was Tom Ying’s restaurant in the winter of 1918.  Hillsboro History (3/18/2011) has a nice blog about Tom Ying’s Meal Tickets.  One of Sadie Orchard’s enterprises, the Ocean Grove Hotel, was next door. 

Antique trucks and cars are found about town.

Parking on Main Street can be a problem at times.

And in the winter the traffic is terrible

around town