Hillsboro to Nutt

NM-27 runs from Hillsboro to Nutt (or vice versa) and is part of the Federal Highway Administration’s designated Lake Valley Back Country Byway.  There are two road videos of the NM-27 route hosted by this site, they are:

These videos are part of our video series entitled -
The Roads of the Black Range.

The Black Range Museum of the Hillsboro Historical Society is located
at the NM-27/NM-152 Intersection, just east of Sue’s Antiques.


Our tour starts in Hillsboro, at the intersection of NM Highway 152 and NM Highway 27 (MP-30).  We use the state MP (mile post) markers as reference points.  They are placed every mile along the route and start at “0” at the intersection of Highways 26 and 27 at Nutt.


IMG_8157Sue’s Antiques is on the left as you turn on to Highway 27.  A bit farther up the hill is the Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Department on the left and the intersection with Eleanora Street (the start of the Hillsboro Walking Tour) on the right.


Hillsboro Cemetery on the right.  When you can read the sign, as below, you know that you have arrived.


Lava beds to the front (basalt from the Pliocene).  Lava flows to the low spots.  Since its deposit, the area around has eroded away.



McClede Mountain is to the front right.  Geological deposits consist of Sugarlump Tuff, Kneeling Nun Tuff, and Mimbres Peak Rhyolite.


Trujillo Creek.



Sibley Mountain is ahead and slightly to the left.  It is named after Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley who led the Confederate invasion of New Mexico during the Civil War.  He lost a significant battle at Glorietta Pass.  Some sources state that the mountain is named after George H. Sibley -- making an error in his first name.



Pennsylvanian Limestone on the left, across the creek.  This type of limestone grades in thickness (on the east side of the Black Range) from about 650 feet near Kingston to 50 feet or so southeast of Cookes Peak.  These beds contain fossils of calcareous algae, foraminifers, brachiopods, conodonts, bryozoans, crinoids, gastropods, pelecypods, corals, echinoids, cephalopods, and trilobites and in general are rich in samples.

Oak Spring Creek


Tierra Blanca Creek


Tierra Blanca Road (Forest Road 522) provides access to the lower hills of the Black Range to the west.  The video at the link follows Tierra Blanca Road from NM-27 to the trailhead of Forest Service Trail 134, 12.1 miles from the highway.  There are several stream crossings, in some years these crossings may be very difficult.  The two maps below show this route.



Monument Peak (near Lake Valley) is visible straight ahead.  (Rubio Peak Formation)


Jaralosa Creek

Berrenda Peak is visible straight ahead and slightly to the right.  The outcrops at the base of the peak are Rubio Peak Formation sediments, topped by Sugarlump Tuff (Eocene), and finally Kneeling Nun Tuff.


Forest Trail 888 provides access to Berrenda Canyon and the lower reaches of the Black Range.


Berrenda Creek



This area is rich in Devonian Percha Shale and the Lake Valley Formation (Mississippian [Osagean])  The Lake Valley Formation is rich in invertebrate fossils including crinoids, trilobites, natolodes, corals, and brachiopods.  The Fusselman and Montoya strata on the right contain jasper nodules.


The ranch to the east of the road was a stop for stage coaches traveling from Lake Valley to Hillsboro and Kingston.  (Harlosa Springs Station)


The ridge immediately east of the road is a good fossil site (photo right).  


There are many stands of Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) from about MP 18 to MP 13.  Wikipedia’s description of its native range is incorrect and because Wikipedia is often copied many believe that the Ocotillo is indigenous to the Sonoran Desert.  It is, however, also found in the Chihuahuan Desert.  In the photograph to the right the Ocotillos have leafed out, which occurs very shortly after a rain.  The leaves do not remain vital for very long.  Flowering Ocotillos can be quite dramatic and this section of road can be full of glorious color on some occasions.  DesertUSA states that Ocotillos grow at sites below 5,000 feet in elevation.  This area is at the upper extreme of the Ocotillo ecotone.  The number of Ocotillo subspecies, if any, is in dispute.



Access to Lake Valley (first called Sierra City, then Daly City [in honor of George Daly who was killed in a battle with Nana in 1881], then Lake City when the town burned and was rebuilt closer to the mills in 1882).  See our Tales of Lake Valley and Lake Valley Photo Gallery pages.

Silver was discovered in the Lake Valley area in 1876.  George W. Lufkin and a partner owned a claim in the area which they sold to the Sierra Grande Mining Company for $100,000.   In 1878 a part-time blacksmith named John Leavitt leased a claim from the mining company and two days later discovered a chamber covered in silver. Called the "Bridal Chamber"  it produced 2.5 million troy ounces (78 metric tons) of silver over a span of 12 years, or almost half of the total production from Lake Valley (5.8 million ounces or 180 metric tons through 1931).

The Bridal Chamber was such a rich deposit that a spur from the railroad was extended into it and ore was deposited directly into the ore cars.  Lufkin, who sold the original claim, died penniless and is buried in the Lake Valley cemetery.

Below the description of this route there are several historical pictures from Lake Valley.

lake valley geology

Mining is a boom and bust industry and as the silver market dropped, Lake Valley began its slow journey to becoming a ghost town.  Today, there are several buildings still standing, including a church, several homes, and a schoolhouse built by the CCC in the 1930’s.  The museum contains several artifacts from Lake Valley’s mining period. An on-site BLM caretaker maintains all of the buildings, so during daylight hours you’re free to take a self-guided tour.

The geology of the Lake Valley area, a full size map  is viewable at the link above.  USGS Professional Paper 1644, Geologic Investigations in the Lake Valley Area, Sierra County, New Mexico, published 2002 is also hosted on that site and can be accessed by following the link.  It is an excellent source of information about the geology of this area.


The Chihuahuan Grasslands south of Lake Valley are a great spot to see Pronghorn Antelope and a variety of other creatures.  As you leave Lake Valley, you’ll pass between the peaks of the Round and Nutt Mountains, a great place to stop for one last photo before you call it a day.


The byway ends at the Nutt Intersection, about 13 miles south of Lake Valley.  Nutt is currently a bar & eatery at the intersection of New Mexico Highways 26 and 27.  Formerly it was the point at which the spur left the main trunk of the railroad and headed north to Lake Valley.

Lake Valley 1880

Lake Valley in about 1880.

Lake Valley Mining Area 1908

Immediately above and below
Lake Valley Mining District in 1908
Photographs by C. H. Gordon

Lake Valley 1908a


The trip from the Cemetery to Nutt is only thirty miles but it
offers a lifetime of exploration.

© Robert Barnes 2018-2024