Lincoln National Forest

A view of limestone draperies on a wall inside Sitting Bull Cave
Inside Sitting Bull Cave

Lincoln National Forest is 1.1 million acres of some of the most varied and beautiful countryside on Earth. Located in south central New Mexico, Lincoln National Forest is home to the Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area and the Sitting Bull Falls Cave (photo to the left). This is also the birth place (and burial place) of the world-famous Smokey Bear. Sunspot, with the solar and stellar observatories, is in the Forest in the Sacramento Mountains, east of Alamogordo.

Elevations range from 4,000' to 11,500' and pass through 5 different vegetation zones, spanning ecosystems from the cacti of the hot Chihuahuan desert to the sub-alpine spruces, firs and other conifers. In the upper elevations, summer temperatures can run into the low 80's during the day and be in the 40's at night. In the winter the lows can be sub-zero with highs up to 50°. In the lower elevations, temperatures will run 10° to 15° warmer than the high elevations. Snow starts to come down in late October and can stay into May. Because of spring winds, the fire season usually starts in March and runs into July when monsoon season starts. The rainy season usually runs through September and then dies down.

The Sacramento, Capitan and Guadalupe Mountains are all within the forest. The Forest includes a big chunk of the White Mountains, too. The Capitan Mountains Wilderness and White Mountain Wilderness are both within the Lincoln National Forest. The southern boundary of the Forest is against Carlsbad Caverns Wilderness in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This southern part of the Forest has several caves, including one developed area around the Sitting Bull Falls Cave (Carlsbad Caverns Wilderness has many caves, all undeveloped). All the caves known so far on the Lincoln National Forest require either a permit for entry or a guide, or both. The southern portion of Lincoln National Forest is pretty rugged, dry and essentially undeveloped, perhaps one step from being outright wilderness...

There are 2 ski areas on the Forest: Snow Canyon outside of Cloudcroft and Ski Apache in the White Mountains near Ruidoso.

A view in Lincoln National Forest
Photos of Lincoln National Forest courtesy of the US Forest Service