Grant County New Mexico is one of the most diverse landscapes in the southwest US, with half a dozen climatic regions to be found and an incredible variety of vegetation, weather and temperatures to be found — sometimes over the space of just a few miles!
What’s our elevation? Well, that depends…
Elevations in Grant County range from 4,000 above sea level in the high desert at the southern end of the county to mountains touching 10,000 feet in the north.
Silver City, Bayard, Hurley and the central part of the county are just under 6,000 feet above sea level. Pinos Altos and other nearby communities to the north and east are at 6,000 to 7,000 feet.
What about the weather? Well, that depends…
Grant County has an almost ideal year-round climate, with plenty of sun and few very hot or very cold days.
According to the National Weather Service, our county is far removed from parts of the country prone to hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.
And although we’re part of the sunny southwest, there is just enough of a Fall and Winter to assure us four gentle seasons, with blazing fall foliage and — at least occasionally — a little snow to frame our spectacular views. But don’t plan on lots of snow lots of the time: There’s no ski resort in the County (although ones are reasonably close both in New Mexico and Arizona) and real heavy snows are not that common. Usually, roads in towns are clear by 10 a.m.!
What about rain? Well, you know…
The bulk of Grant County and most of the towns in the county fall into a high, arid region that resembles both parts of Arizona’s Chihuahuan Desert and New Mexico’s famously beautiful Ponderosa-clad mountains. The folks at the USDA say we’re in plant hardiness zone 7b, or maybe 8a, or maybe something else entirely. Gardeners here all have their own opinions — each of which is right, since our weather is so variable over such short distances.
Annual rainfall totals in the County range from 16 (or less) in the most arid portions of the County to 20 (and sometimes a little more) in the high country. But whatever the total, we don’t get a lot, and it tends to fall from July through January. Springs can be very dry and sometimes windy.
Snow: Each winter brings one or two snow storms to the County, although it is unusual for snow to persist on the roads in the southern and central part of the county for more than a day, and snow accumulation of any amount in the south is not common. Area schools occasionally have snow-day cancellations, although these seem to be far too few in number for the students’ liking.
The northern tier of the county and places elsewhere in the county above 7,000 feet can have snow on the ground for several days or more. The Burro Mountains, while quite close to Silver City, often have snow cover for several days at a time, as do the mountains east and north of Silver City.
Snow pack in the highest elevations of the county is an important source of river and groundwater, and is highly prized and welcome. Cross-country skiing, sledding and tubing are possible in these locations at times, but these activities are not reliably available throughout winter.
A few remote roads high in the County’s mountains may be closed by bad weather for days or weeks at a time.
Cold Weather: Because of our low-humidity environment, temperature swings from day to night can be pronounced: The dry air heats up rapidly, but cools rapidly, as well. December and January nights can sometimes see temperatures in the teens or high single-digits, but the following afternoon can see temperatures in the 40s, 50s or higher.
Hot Weather: The same low-humidity environment that causes temperature swings in the winter provides a real benefit in the summer: Although sunny days in summer can occasionally reach 100 degrees, especially in the south of the County, nighttime temperatures can be cooler by 30 degrees or more. After the arrival of summer monsoon rains, cooling can take place rapidly any time after a rain.
While blisteringly hot weather is very rare, the County is almost always dry: Plan to take plenty of water whenever you travel, and most visitors find a lip ointment and/or sunscreen to be handy additions.
Never leave children or pets in cars, RVs or enclosed spaces. Summer temperatures in vehicles and enclosed spaces can reach 130 degrees or more very quickly.