Mogollon, NM – Ghost Town Hidden in the Hills

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Several years ago, I first heard of New Mexico’s enchanted ghost town of Mogollon. It was more of hearing about it through the grapevine. Next opportunity at the computer, I Googled this town and quickly concluded that I MUST make a visit soon. It’s located about 76 miles northwest from Silver City, NM in the Gila National Forest. Getting there means you’re dedicating a good portion of the day. Here’s the route from Eagar, AZ I took:

2015-06-29 09_01_45-Eagar, AZ to Las Cruces, NM - Google Maps

A little history from Wiki:

Mogollon, also called the Mogollon Historic District, is a former mining town located in the Mogollon Mountains in Catron County, New Mexico, in the United States. Located east of Glenwood and Alma, it was founded in the 1880s at the bottom of Silver Creek Canyon to support the gold and silver mines in the surrounding mountains. A mine called “Little Fannie” became the most important source of employment for the town’s populus. During the 1890s Mogollon had a transient population of between 3,000 to 6,000 miners and, because of its isolation, had a reputation as one of the wildest mining towns in the West.

I tried on two occasions to see this town and both times the area was closed off. First time was in the Accord and second in the TL. A pretty wet monsoon season in 2013 turned the one and only road to and from the town into a huge arroyo. Many buildings were destroyed. This closed the town for nearly a year.

Now, here we are in 2015 and Mogollon was on the way back from my recent trip to the White Mountains of Arizona. I thought I’d give this town another try. To my surprise, it was open!

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I felt like a kid in a candy store. Most folks probably wouldn’t understand the thrill I was experiencing…heart pounding, and whispering to myself, “Oh my God!…Oh my God…IT’S OPEN!!!”

So here we go…

Getting to this town involves traveling Hwy 180 and taking a turn onto “Bursum Road.” Before we get there, here’s a few little picturesque stops I made:

Luna Lake near Alpine, AZ.

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Taking Hwy 180 into New Mexico.

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Scenic view off the 180.

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Along the way, I stumbled upon this old bridge. You can just catch a glimpse of it off the highway hidden in the brush.

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After fighting my way through bushes, thorns and lots of buzzy insects, I was able to get up close.

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I’ll spare your eyes. This sign reads, “This bridge constructed in 1926 is an example of steel through-truss bridge. It has been left in place by the New Mexico Highway Dept. as a historical engineering site.”

I love old bridges!

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I was able to climb up a nearby bank to get a better photo.

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Next stop, Mogollon!

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Compared to when I rolled through in the TL.

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Taking the Bursum Road up the mountain.

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Signs had been placed warning motorists that, “road is open to high clearance vehicles only.IMG_4732 (1)

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My thoughts: “I’m on the stock suspension…it’s not lowered so I should be fine…” So I soldiered on! Soon the road turned into one lane and hugged the side of the mountain with steep drop offs to the left. Not quite the thrill of Mt. Evans (CO), but it still required both hands on the wheel and careful attention to avoid colliding with possible oncoming traffic around the corners.

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Kept on climbing!

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Some nice hairpin turns.

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When I was nearing the town, the pavement suddenly ended and this was the major part where the road washed out. So, this is why those caution signs were there! This doesn’t look that rough in the photos, but trust me, it was pretty nasty.  I had to slow to a crawl to avoid Mazda-belly-bruising.

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Another sign warning of the rough road (I still kept on going).

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The flooding was so ferocious that it left the old rail road tracks dangling as nearly all the ground beneath washed away.

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After some careful driving, I finally made it!

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Photo of the 6 with an old 87-90 Mazda B2200. My dad had one very similar to this. This looked like one of very few folks who still live here.

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The road wasn’t too bad from here. I encountered only a few dips that came close to lightly brushing the front nose of the 6.

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Old convenience store and gift shop.

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Purple Onion Cafe.

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Little photoshoot by the old general store.

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After the that, the road became pretty bad and virtually impassable for my little Mazda. I parked on the shoulder and continued on foot.

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This shows the extent of how much had been washed away and that the current road is basically a graded arroyo now. You can see where the road used to be (Look on the right side)!

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Old-school well that looked to be still in use.

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Bet you can buy this place cheap!

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One of my favorites…if you have to leave in the hurry, just take the house along!

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After a few hours of looking around, I headed back down the mountain. Lots of erosion on this stretch of road I didn’t see coming up. (!)

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The views were breathtaking.

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That concludes the ride up the mountain. I made it back in one piece. Thanks for coming along!

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5 thoughts on “Mogollon, NM – Ghost Town Hidden in the Hills

  1. Nate says:

    Great write up and amazing scenery!

  2. tysonhugie says:

    Wow, what a neat little place, tucked up in there in seclusion! I love it. Was there actually anything to see inside the Purple Onion? Some of the buildings look well kept while others are falling apart. I admire your sense of adventure in taking a Mazda 6 where “only high clearance” vehicles were advised. Nicely done! I need to add Mogollon to my list.

    • pawela says:

      Thanks, Tyson. This was a really fun place to see. Photos don’t do it justice! The Purple Onion was unfortunately closed for a few hours when I was there (perhaps owner ran home really quick?) but it did look really cool and eclectic on the inside. We’ll see how far I go with this 6 before blowing out the original shocks on these off-road adventures. lol You’d definitely love this town if you’re ever in the area. Catwalk is still closed unfortunately. Otherwise, I’d say we should make this area a candidate for another Tyson-Jason drive. 🙂

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