New Mexico's Southwest Region, home to the first designated wilderness in the country, offers boundless opportunities to enjoy the state's natural landscape and exhilarating history. The Gila Wilderness, established in 1924, influenced notable individuals such as Also Leopold - the conservationist whose efforts helped secure the Gila Forest wilderness area as a protected space - and courageous Apache chief Geronimo. Visitors journey in a land of cacti, junipers, pine, aspens, black bears, mountain lions, elk, and wild turkeys while hiking, camping, birding or rafting in the Gila Mountains.
New Mexico's second largest city lies in the Southwest Region. Las Cruces (Spanish for "the crosses"), so named because it was the site of several cross-topped graves of an 1830s caravan of travelers ambushed by Apache Indians, still harbors the ghosts of many historic figures and events. Las Cruces Sheriff Pat Garrett captured infamous outlaw Billy the Kid and held him in Mesilla's jailhouse. You can still see the site of this jail when you visit Las Cruses and the Mesilla Plaza for some of the region's finest shopping and dining.