Raton, New Mexico has the misfortune of being named after vermin (ratón is Spanish for mouse). Despite the name, it’s a nice little town, which once served as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. It may also provide a nice stretch-your-legs stop, or an overnight stay, as you drive Interstate 25 between Denver and Albuquerque.
To get a lay of the land, your best bet is to drive up to the Goat Hill Overlook, where signage in giant letters spells out RATON, overlooking the city below.
It was late in the day when I arrived in Raton — but still too early to stop for the night. I decided to push on to Trinidad, Colorado for the night, but do some exploring here first.
Raton’s Goat Hill Overlook immediately caught my eye, and became my destination, even though I didn’t know how to get there — or even if I could get there.
Huge letters spell out RATON from the top of Goat Hill — similar to the Hollywood sign, without all the glamour. I checked my GPS for a squiggly road that headed in the general direction, and I found one. The dirt road was rough, but easily passable, and it took me to a parking area directly behind the big letters.
From the top of Goat Hill, you can look directly down on downtown Raton…
… and enjoy a nice view of the surrounding landscape. Raton is at the edge of the mountains. Everything south of here is pretty flat and empty.
There is also a giant star atop the hill…
… but the real star of the show is the giant RATON sign, heavily fortified to protect against vandals.
Let’s backtrack down the hill. On your way up, you’ll notice only one sign to reassure you that you’re on the right path.
To find this dirt road from the middle of town, head north on the I-25 business loop (2nd Street)…
… and turn left when you see all the neon for the Melody Lane Motel. This old mom-n-pop motel still has pretty good reviews online, and I considered staying here, but it was still a bit too early to quit for the day.
The road you’re looking for is not Melody Lane — I’m not even sure there is a Melody Lane in Raton. Instead, turn on the much less pleasant sounding Moulton Avenue, which is just south of the motel. Take it almost to the end, then turn left on Hill Street. The rest should be obvious.
Downtown Raton probably deserves a little more exploring than I had time for. Quite a few interesting storefronts and old signs are lined up along Second Street.
The El Raton Theater is still showing movies. It opened in 1930, and was purchased by three local families in 2008.
Raton’s funky motels had me hopping out of the car multiple times to take pictures. The Mesa Vista Motel appeared to be closed…
… as did the Crystal Motel (although possibly just seasonally closed).
More great neon was nearby at the Village Inn Motel…
… the Robin Hood Motel…
… the El Capp Motel…
… and the Colt Motel, which has both horses and revolvers on its sign, just to cover all the bases.
The Bottom Line
Raton provides a good overnight stop, or at the very least, a break from the long drive up Interstate 25. Seeking out Goat Hill and the Raton sign is a fun side-trip. And if you love old neon signs, you’ll find plenty here.
Raton is located on Interstate 25, just south of the Colorado/New Mexico state line. It’s 227 miles northeast of Albuquerque, and 216 miles south of Denver. Taos is about 100 miles away, via US 64, which exits I-25 south of town.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Springer to Raton:…
… and Raton to Trinidad, Colorado: