La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway ~ New Mexico

La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway ~ New Mexico 

Driving through the grasslands of eastern New Mexico on an old historic scenic byway is a far better travel experience than simply taking the high speed freeway through this region.  The driving experience on Interstate Highway 25 in this end of the state is boring at best and the exit ramps are quite a distance apart.  Travelers might get where they are going quicker on the freeway, but there will fewer opportunities for sensory enrichment along the way.  

On I-25, there is no freedom to pull off on the side of the road to take in a scenic view and the only places to take a break are at the gas stations or fast food joints by the exit ramps.  Time may fly by quickly on the interstate highway, but so do the opportunities to explore the open country and discover something new.  Deciding to avoid the beaten path that the sheep mindlessly follow is the way to go, especially when traveling through the picturesque grasslands of eastern New Mexico.  By opting for the scenic byway instead of the high speed freeway, a sense of freedom returns, because a traveler can stop anyplace along the way to take in the panoramic views and socialize with real people in the small historic towns along the way.

The La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway once was a heavily traveled summer vacation corridor during the Route 66 travel era.  Just like with Route 66, this old New Mexico travel route was bypassed by a modern freeway.  Just like what happened to the Route 66 towns that were bypassed, many people’s livelihoods and businesses along La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway suffered a major economic downturn.  Some never recovered their losses and the businesses were abandoned when the volume of traffic slowed down to a handful of cars per day. 

In recent years there has been a change in how people prefer to travel while on vacation and the high speed interstate freeway system is quickly becoming something to avoid.  Americans are actually seeking out the old historic two lane roads for many reasons, but this is really nothing new to those who visit from abroad.  During the last two decades, foreign tourists have made up the bulk of travelers on the old scenic byways and Route 66 for good reason.  They want to experience the nostalgic history of the classic American travel era when the Route 66 scene was king and the best way to achieve this is to choose to take one’s own sweet time on the scenic byways.  

Foreign visitors that rent cars and motorbikes actually prefer the freedom of the road less traveled and the value that is presented along the way.  Economically speaking, the foreign visitors have been a saving grace for many business owners along old roads like La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway and now that mainstream America is catching on to this trend, things can only get better.  Speaking from experience, there is nothing better than seeing 25 hungry Swedish bikers pull into local restaurant along a forgotten scenic byway to make the business owner smile on a slow day! 

Officially, La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway runs from Ute Lake near the town of Logan all the way north to Abbott, New Mexico.  In reality, La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway actually starts at Route 66 in Tucumcari and ends at Interstate Highway 25 in Springer, New Mexico.  In essence, a traveler has to start in Tucumcari to get to Logan, so the Route 66 starting point gets the nod of approval.  Likewise, the community of Abbot at the northern most end of the scenic byway is pretty much located out in the middle of nowhere, so the town of Springer gets the nod because this historic town is located on The Old Santa Fe Trail next to I-25.

For those who have always wanted to see wild Pronghorn Antelope, taking a cruise on La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway is the best choice!  This scenic byway runs through the Kiowa National Grasslands and some vast open range ranch territory where the Great Plains meet the front range mountains near the Continental Divide.  Grassy high elevation plains are where wildlife watchers are most likely to see Pronghorn Antelope and La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway certainly fits the bill of fare.  

There are literally so many Pronghorn along this road that it is easy to forget that seeing just one of these wild animals actually is a rare occurrence. Many people spend a lifetime trying to photograph one of these elusive majestic beasts, yet along this scenic byway capturing a good image of a wild Pronghorn is easy to do.  All that can be said is be sure to keep a good camera with a telephoto lens ready, because Pronghorn Antelope will not usually pose for a picture for too much time!  Pronghorn are skittish animals that depend upon fast running speed for survival, so when they are spooked, they will disappear quicker than greased lightning!

Historic towns along La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway include Logan, Mosquero, Solano, Roy and Mills.  When passing through, it is easy to notice a rebirth of tourism in these small towns.  There are several new businesses and there is fresh paint on the old historic buildings.  It seems like all of the small town businesses along this scenic byway now cater to the newfound crowd of folks that prefer the road less traveled.  The signs at restaurants, bars and old fashioned mercantile general stores welcome bikers, car clubs and RV land yacht enthusiasts.  These travel groups relish the thought of taking a long drive on a scenic byway that offers opportunities take part in nostalgic cultural exchange from a bygone era.  Besides, members of these travel groups know that the food and atmosphere in the local old fashioned restaurants along the road less traveled will be much more to their liking as well.

Old west history buffs and antique hunters do take an interest in traveling La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway too.  Driving great distances through the grasslands can be mesmerizing, so at some point it becomes necessary to take a break before being lulled into a slumber.  For this reason, poking around for bargains in the local antique and curios shops along the way is part of the game.  When taking the time to do a little shopping in the small towns along La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway, one just might find a memento of the journey that can be cherished for a lifetime.

Ending the La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway journey in Springer instead of Abbott does make sense for those who plan to continue north to the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, historic Raton, Sugarite Canyon State Park and Capulin Volcano National Monument.  Springer is where tourists can get back on The Old Santa Fe Trail, so needless to say, plenty of old west history was made in this little city.  The Old Colfax County Courthouse in Springer is now a museum and visitors can get some valuable history lessons about the local region at this landmark destination.  There are also some nice shade trees in the park surrounding the museum that sure are inviting for taking a little siesta after the long drive.

Driving the La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway sure is a better choice than pounding out the extra miles on the high speed interstate freeway with no gratification!  Taking the road less traveled does help to support local businesses that genuinely appreciate it when a customer walks through the door.  There is a lot of community pride along the road less traveled and this feeling is shared by all that pass through.  La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway is the perfect choice for travelers that want to feel good about hitting the road to the wide open spaces of eastern New Mexico!                                               

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Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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