Otero County, New Mexico audio tour: Sunspot Solar Observatory Walking Tour

Sunspot Solar Observatory Walking Tour

Walking Tour

60 mins

About the Tour

If you think that Earth is the most important planet in our solar system, then think again. The Sun is the real star of the show! Without the hot ball of glowing gases at the heart of our solar system, Earth would not exist.

For over 50 years, Sunspot Solar Observatory has been staring at the Sun to understand its impact on Earth. On this walking tour, you’ll discover how the Sun influences the Earth and, more importantly, what causes it to change from quiet and calm to a violently active ball of plasma. Located in the scenic Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico, Sunspot Solar Observatory is home to gorgeous vistas, historical landmarks, and one of the largest active solar telescopes in the world.

On your way to the starting point, keep an eye out for the blue highway signs with the names of planets as you drive through the town of Cloudcroft and along NM Route 6563. These signs are our scale model of the solar system, with the distance from downtown Cloudcroft to the Sunspot Visitors Center corresponding to the distance between the Sun and the dwarf planet Pluto. Look out for the other planets along the route too, all placed to show their distance from the Sun. Driving at 35 mph on NM Route 6563, to scale, you are moving approximately ten times faster than the speed of light!

With a renewed appreciation of just how big space is, join us for a half-mile loop around Sunspot’s grounds, where you’ll also learn about the history of the observatory, including the various historic telescopes on site, the community of Sunspot, and our upcoming projects as we move forward into the future.

Tour Narrator: Anthony Yanez is an NBC Los Angeles Meteorologist with over 25 years of broadcast news experience. He is also a published author and a two-time Emmy recipient for his work on El Nino: Currents of Change and coverage of the Old Fire in Calabasas.

Tour Producer


Heidi Sanchez

After living in Las Cruces, New Mexico for over 20 years, I uprooted my family and moved to Sunspot, NM to accept a position at the solar observatory, in June 2018. Shortly after our arrival, my family and I realized what a hidden gem we encountered and quickly fell in love with Sunspot. One of my roles at the observatory is to provide tours to the general public and visiting school groups. With the volume of visitors, we receive daily, I realized there is a whole population of people missing out on the information being shared during the tours. I set out to create an audio tour detailing Sunspot’s rich history and the science that was and still is being conducted here at the observatory. In doing so, visitors now have the freedom to explore the observatory at their own pace. Individuals can start and stop whenever and wherever they like, for as long as they like. By offering an audio tour, not only can we reach a greater audience, but more importantly, enhance our guest’s experience. My true hope is listeners gain a better understanding of how this place came into existence and why Sunspot needs to be preserved.

How VoiceMap Works

Focus on your surroundings, not the screen

VoiceMap’s audio tour app uses GPS to play audio automatically, at the right time and place. Just install it, then download your tour and go to the starting point to begin your walk, drive, cycle, train trip or even boat ride.

Follow a route with turn-by-turn-directions

Tours follow a route from a fixed starting point. This is how we provide turn-by-turn directions. It also helps publishers tell a story greater than the sum of its parts. But you can use Resume to pick up a tour from the closest location whenever you like.

Listen as many times as you like

You can listen to your tours as often as you like using both the VoiceMap app and the VoiceMap website. Your access to tours doesn’t expire.

Take virtual tours anywhere

Just select Virtual mode in the VoiceMap app to listen to tours at home – or anywhere else. You’ll see the option after you download the tour. You can also listen to the whole tour at voicemap.me.

Buy for less on voicemap.me and sync

Once you’ve purchased a tour, it’s added to your VoiceMap library. If you sign into the app using the same method you used on the website, you’ll have access to your full library of tours in both places.

Use VoiceMap offline

The VoiceMap app works entirely offline if there’s no data connection, so you don’t have to pay roaming fees. Just download the tour over WiFi before you get started.

Major Landmarks

  • Dunn Solar Telescope

  • Scenic Overlook

  • Sunspot Visitor Center

Directions to Starting Point

The tour will begin just outside the Visitor Center to the left at the Sun dome.

Show Directions
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Places to stop along the way

White Sands National Park, New Mexico Museum of Space, Village of Cloudcroft, Mexican Canyon Railroad Trestle, Bluff Springs

Best time of day

Whether you are looking to escape the heat of the summer, catch the leaves changing colors in the fall, hear the snow crunch during the winter months, or feel the energy of the forest waking up from its slumber in the spring, just about any time is a great time to visit.
What you should know: During summer months, the Visitor Center and grounds are open to the public daily, 9am to 5pm, Winter months, please call ahead or visit our website for off season hours.
The Dunn Solar Telescope does not necessarily adhere to a strict schedule, but typically will be in operation weekday mornings through mid-afternoon. Please call the Visitor Center prior to your trip to confirm whether or not the telescope will be open for your visit. 575-434-7190.


When driving to Sunspot, your GPS may suggest Karr Canyon Road - DO NOT DO THIS. Karr Canyon road is an unmaintained, and sometime impassable dirt road.

Watch for rocks and (in winter) black ice on Sunspot Highway. Also, allow an extra 30 minutes or so to stop at scenic overlooks along the way.
Vending machines and public restrooms available at the Visitor Center.
The walking path is paved but has a moderate incline and the altitude (9,200 feet) can cause some people to feel short of breath. Please take your time.


Outstanding tour. Informative in the actual setting. Highly recommended

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , about 1 year ago

What a Professional and Educational voice map of Sunspot Solar Observatory. Well Done!!!

Posted by Dean , over 1 year ago

This is an excellent way to learn about the observatory. I can tour at my own pace and not miss a thing!

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , over 1 year ago

Very informative! Great way to learn about the site features

Posted by Holly , over 1 year ago
Preview mode limited to first 3 locations.
Sunspot Solar Observatory Walking Tour