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Where’s the Real Billy the Kid’s Grave?

Where’s the Real Billy The Kid’s Grave?

Billy the Kid’s grave is reportedly in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, but not everyone agrees with that. 

The Kid’s resting place has been anything but peaceful. Instead, it’s a place where history, outlaw reverence, and conspiracies converge.

Given the damage done by time, floods, eroded memories, folklore, and modern-day outlaws, there’s plenty to feed theories about whether he was ever there.

How can you take part in the legend? Is Billy the Kid’s grave worth a trip, whether or not he’s there?

Let’s find out!

Where Is Billy the Kid’s Grave? 

Billy the Kid’s grave is officially recorded as located in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. And, yes, you can visit it!

Just head to the Old Fort Sumner Cemetery off Billy the Kid Drive.

About Billy the Kid

Born Henry McCarty in New York City in 1859, Billy the Kid started his criminal career with small thefts and a subsequent prison escape. By 1877, he was a ranch hand going by the name William H. Bonny (aka Billy the Kid) and proficient in handling many different firearms. 

While other Wild West outlaws made their names in robberies, The Kid mostly rustled (stole) cattle. He may have faded into obscurity had he not been so quick to draw his gun. Billy was involved in at least nine murders, some occurring during a second, more daring prison escape. Eventually, the sheriff pursuing him killed him.

Though Billy the Kid was only 21 when he died, there have been over 50 movies made about his action-packed later years. Some believe he didn’t die that day, and at least one man claiming to be The Kid has come forward, though his story was quickly disproven. 

Additionally, there’s been much speculation over the years related to his actual gravesite. There was no proper gravestone at first. Then floods disturbed the markers The Kid finally received plus the bones.

Throw in some thefts of those markers, and it’s easy to see why even the most hardened skeptic would be confused by the stories of Billy the Kid’s grave.

Cowboy riding a horse in New Mexico.
Visit the gravesite of the famous outlaw Billy the Kid in New Mexico.

Who Killed Billy the Kid?

After Billy the Kid’s prison escape, law enforcement officers determined to find and hang the outlaw. The Kid was hiding out in Fort Sumner when Sheriff Pat Garrett stopped to ask a local rancher about him.

Billy the Kid happened to approach the same rancher’s house. When he entered the house, it was dark. But Sheriff Pat Garrett recognized The Kid’s voice as he called out. Garrett shot him, killing him instantly. 

Several people who lived in the area confirmed the body’s identity, making it likely that Billy the Kid’s grave is in the right place or close enough. 

Pro Tip: Want to imagine yourself as an outlaw on the run like Billy the Kid? Check out these Must-See Ghost Towns in New Mexico.

Was Billy the Kid Ever in Tombstone?

Well, yes and no. There were at least two Wild West outlaws who went by that name. One of them was the aforementioned 21-year-old cattle grifter who made two prison escapes. He was never in Tombstone.

However, an Arizona man named William Floyd Claiborne also used the moniker. A bartender in Tombstone, Frank Leslie, shot and killed Claiborne.

Billy the kid sign.
Take on the Wild West while visiting Billy the Kid’s grave.

Best Hikes Near Billy the Kid’s Grave

Discovery Trail at Sumner Lake State Park

The Discovery Trail is a quick 0.7 miles along the Pecos River, and it’s fairly easy terrain. Along the way, you can read signs with information about the local area and wildlife. The park itself has two miles of trails.

Fox Run Trail

Fox Run Trail is a 2.7-mile out-and-back trail around part of Sumner Lake. The NM Natural Resources Department describes the path as “primitive.” On the other hand, it’s noted as a great place to see wildflowers, so be sure to take this hike if you’re there in the spring. One reviewer reported seeing a snake.

This is the Southwest and snakes are abundant, so keep your eyes open.

Best Camping Near Billy the Kid’s Grave

Sumner Lake State Park

The camping facilities at Sumner Lake State Park are open year-round and have a $10/night fee. They offer sites ranging from developed (water and electricity) to primitive, and they offer waterfront and boat-in camping.

Dogs are welcome. 

Valley View Mobile Home & RV Park

Located just two blocks from the Billy the Kid Museum, this facility offers value ($20/night) and easy access from I-84.

Visitors report clean facilities and strong WiFi but state that nearby highways and train tracks can be noisy.

Pro Tip: Exploring New Mexico on a budget? Check out one of these 7 Best Sites for Free Camping in New Mexico.

Is a Trip to Billy the Kid’s Grave Worth It? 

Definitely! Billy the Kid’s Grave is fun to see, whether or not you’re into Old West history. People frequently leave offerings for him there, so feel free to bring him a pack of smokes or whatever you like. 

There aren’t many towns that celebrate their criminal pasts, and that vibe sets this attraction apart.

There isn’t a ton to do in Fort Sumner as a whole, but if you want to party like it’s 1881, you couldn’t pick a better spot. 

New Mexico ghost town.
With plenty of hiking and camping options, New Mexico makes for an exciting adventure.

Billy the Kid’s Grave Offers a Brief Escape

Billy the Kid’s grave offers visitors a chance to make escapes of their own, briefly trading their concerns for the Old West’s colorful characters and frontier concerns.

Along the way, you’ll hear campfire-ready theories of Billy the Kid’s grave and the death that probably preceded it. 

Though the Fort Sumner area doesn’t have a large selection of hiking or camping sites, you’ll do just fine for a weekend. Have you ever visited Billy the Kid’s gravesite?

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