A relaxing drive down the Oñate Trail is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.
In 1598, when Don Juan de Oñate moved his caravan north from Mexico into what would later become the Territory of New Mexico, he established a route that was to become El Camino Real, the Royal Road. It was the first and, for a while, the longest European road in North America. It is believed that Oñate camped just west of what is now the plaza in Old Mesilla, and today you can follow part of this historic trail.
Starting in Mesilla and traveling south down Highway 28, it is a relaxing drive through Pecan Groves, villages and fields of chile and cotton with some interesting stops along the way.
Six miles to the south is the world’s largest family- owned pecan farm. Stahmann Farms has 180,000 trees and produces between 8 and 10 million pounds of pecans annually. They also sell a wide variety of pecan goodies from flavored pecans to pecan candies and pies. All are produced right here in their candy plant.
Continuing south, you pass through the village of San Miguel, with its charming rock church, and La Mesa, home of the well-known Chope’s Restaurant and Bar, which has some of the best Mexican food in the valley.
Just past Gadsden High School is the Nutcracker Suite at Petit Farms. This 200-acre farm has pecan trees dating back to 1928 and is a family run business.
At New Mexico’s oldest winery, La Vina Winery, the ancient tradition of winemaking continues along the Don Juan de Oñate trail. The winery provides state-of-the-art winemaking facilities and a tasting room as well as grounds and a patio suitable for weddings, picnics or any special event. La Viña hosts a Harvest Festival and Grape Stomp each year in October and a Blues & Jazz Festival in April, as well as an old fashioned country picnic and open house on July 4th.