Silver City is an old mining town in extreme southwestern New Mexico. In recent years, it’s found new life as a haven for artists — and the city abounds with galleries and public works of art.
After driving over the mountains and around the hundreds of curves between I-25 and Silver City, I was thrilled to have an excuse to get out of the car for a while. Silver City’s nice downtown district provides just that — a walkable stretch of businesses, peppered with artists’ studios and galleries.
The Gila Theater is no longer showing movies, but it still looks great. According to Cinematreasures.org, it was built in 1950, and operated as recently as 2003. As of 2007, it was for sale, but I don’t know if anything came of that effort.
The El Sol Theater closed around the same time, and as of 2014, is for sale. Even though it needs some TLC, it’s one of the most distinctive and beautiful buildings on Bullard Street (Silver City’s Main Street).
Silver City’s iconic Buffalo Bar has a nice neon sign, but the business itself is facing an uncertain future. As of April, 2014, the bar had shut down. The owner had sold its liquor license, and was hoping to obtain another one, and re-open, later in the year.
Sadly, the JC Penney store is no longer located in downtown, but the tile entryway survives!
You can’t escape the artist-colony vibe, no matter where you go in Silver City. Down every street, it seems like there’s a studio…
… or some artwork decorating the walls.
Okay, I get it. Art!
The sketchy-looking Silver Skate building is on the far side of town. If you’re here, you’ve gone too far — turn around and head back into town.
Leaving Silver City, I took New Mexico Highway 90 south towards Lordsburg and Interstate 10. What you see here is what you get for most of the drive. You’ll leave the mountains of Silver City behind, then make a bee-line downhill through the desert. There’s no excuse to stop anywhere along this road, unless you decide to pull onto the shoulder, and run out into traffic to snap a photo like this one.
Before you leave the area, consider driving up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. If you thought Silver City was remote, then brace yourself: you’ll need to drive even deeper into the Black Mountains — on a one-lane road — to reach these impressive cliff dwellings, in a beautiful setting. I visited this area in 2006, and you can read about that visit here.
You also may want to venture onto the Catwalk Trail, northwest of Silver City. As you can see, it involves some knee-weakening moments on narrow steel catwalks, over a narrow canyon. I also visited this spot in 2006.
The Bottom Line
Silver City is a good overnight stop, for anyone who wants to explore the Gila Wilderness, hike the Catwalk Trail, or drive up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. It’s also fun to check out the local artists’ scene.
Silver City is located along US Highway 180, north of Interstate 10 and west of Interstate 25, nestled deep in the Black Mountain range of New Mexico. I accessed Silver City via New Mexico 152 – a very curvy route across the mountains from I-25.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive over Emory Pass into Silver City…
… and the drive out of Silver City on NM 90: