New Mexico State Parks Activities
For an incredible outdoor camping adventure with your family or friends, pack up and head on over to the many great camping spots found in New Mexico! At Heron Lake State Park, wake up to views of golden sunflowers stretching to the shore of Heron Lake. Keep an eye out for the many diverse wildlife found here too, especially for the Ospreys and the Bald Eagles soaring high above.
The Cottonwood Campground at Navajo Lake State Park is another famous camping site, especially for fishing enthusiasts visiting New Mexico. Here, set up your tent beneath shimmering leaves and enjoy the sandy banks of the San Juan River.
Those more adventurous would perhaps prefer City of Rocks State Park where 52 individual sites are scattered among the park’s towering boulders. Tent set-up may be a little bit tricky here due to the rocky terrain so keep that in mind.
If you want a relaxing weekend getaway, then Morphy Lake State Park is your best bet. Campsites are situated along Morphy Lake, beneath a canopy of trees, and amid fields of beautiful ponderosas. Each site here boasts of a stunning view of the water so you’re definitely in for a treat.
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One of the best hiking trails in New Mexico is Riparian Nature Trail at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, a beginner-friendly trail that takes hikers through the entire park. Those looking for a more challenging one, though, should take the park’s steep Dog Canyon Trail with its stunning views of the surrounding natural landscapes.
The 5.5-mile Rio Chama Trail at Heron Lake State Park is another favorite hiking trail offering panoramic views in all directions, as well as a river crossing via an intimidating suspension bridge.
At Villanueva State Park, hikers love taking on the 2.5-mile Viewpoint Loop Trail, a route that goes through the entire park and culminating deep in the canyon under the shade of cottonwood trees.
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The 8,200-acre Ute Lake is the longest lake in New Mexico with an abundance of coves and inlets, making it the premier fishing hole in the state. Situated within Ute Lake State Park in the town of Logan, the lake is home to large populations of walleye, channel catfish, crappie, and more. Anglers are welcome to bring their boats to this spot as the lake features several paved ramps for launching.
Those looking to fish for bass and bluegill should cast their lines at Conchas Lake in Conchas Lake State Park. Night fishing is also extremely popular at this spot although beware of the shallow waters and sandbars that dot its river channels. A marina within the park also sells bait, just in case you left yours behind.
Another great fishing spot in New Mexico is Clearwater Lake at Clearwater Lake State Park. While there are no marinas here, the park does have two paved ramps that provide boat access. The lake is home to large populations of cutthroat trout and catfish, making it a popular destination for anglers from outside the state.
Gila National Forest at a whopping 2.7 million acres is a favorite spot among those looking for excellent deer and elk hunting. Within this national forest is Gila Wilderness, one of the most storied elk hunting regions in the United States.
On the other hand, those wishing to pursue turkey should head over to Lincoln National Forest. This destination also boasts of incredible elk and deer hunting opportunities, making it the premier spot for hunters across the country.
For those adventurous enough to hunt mountain lions, then Carson National Forest should be part of your bucket list! There are an abundance of hunting opportunities within this 1.5 million-acre forest.
Day Use Areas
New Mexico’s newest state park, Cerrillos Hills State Park just south of Santa Fe has an abundance of incredible spots perfect for a picnic. Featuring incredible views of rolling hills, as well as the country’s oldest and most productive turquoise mines, this is undoubtedly an excursion you won’t ever forget!
It may not seem like it but City of Rocks State Park is a great picnic destination with breathtaking views of fascinating rock formations created by volcanic eruptions over 35 million years ago. For adventurous picnic-goers who want views like no other, this park is made for you.
Sugarite Canyon State Park draws in thousands of avid bikers from all over the United States due to its abundance of incredible cycling trails. For instance, the two-mile Lake to Lake Trail is a beginner-friendly route that meanders throughout the entire park, giving riders incredible views of its diverse flora and fauna, as well as its beautiful landscapes.
Wapiti Trail, also found within the park, is another easy and laid-back route perfect for those looking for a relaxing afternoon ride.
Those looking for a more difficult ride, however, should take on the six-mile Sugarite Canyon Trail with its abundance of challenges and obstacles. This ride through some of the roughest terrain in New Mexico is undoubtedly one that you won’t ever forget!
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New Mexico boasts of a great many phenomenal lakes, all of them equipped with ramps and other amenities that make them the perfect spot for your next boating excursion.
Guests love boating on the 2,400-hectare Heron Lake at Heron Lake State Park. The park offers over 200 camping sites, picnic areas, and boat ramps, making it the perfect family-friendly spot.
Boating enthusiasts also love going to Navajo Lake State Park where Navajo Lake, a 6,300-hectare reservoir has two marinas and two boat ramps. Those looking to explore New Mexico aboard a watercraft vehicle should do so here.
For the best Birding spot in New Mexico, check out Rio Grande Nature Center State Park where more than 300 species have been observed. Its one-of-a-kind location and diverse habitats make it the state’s premier bird watching destination where plenty of rarities, including the Cooper’s Hawk, the Gambel’s Quail, and Spotted Towhee may be observed.
Meanwhile, the towering cottonwoods found at Percha Dam State Park attract migrant songbirds and other species during the spring season. An abundance of rarities have also made their homes here, such as the Great Kiskadee, the Philadelphia Vireo, and the Kentucky Warbler. Bring your birding binoculars along with your bird watching journal. Remember, early in the day is the best time for bird watching.
Hyde Memorial State Park is best known for its large populations of Steller’s Jay, Western Tanager, and Pine Siskin. Bird-watching enthusiasts should also explore the park’s extensive spruce-fir forest where hundreds of other beautiful species can be found.
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For an afternoon of swimming that you won’t ever forget, head over to Elephant Butte State Park where the sparkling waters of the Elephant Butte Reservoir draw in hundreds of guests every week. After an exhausting afternoon on the water, stretch out on the park’s soft and sandy beaches with the shade of an umbrella.
At Bottomless Lakes State Park, make sure to dip your toes in the cool waters of Lea Lake, the only lake in the park where swimming is allowed. Its turquoise waters and beautiful quartz crystals – referred to as Pecos Diamonds – make this one-of-a-kind park a must-visit!
The second largest lake in New Mexico, Navajo Lake is undoubtedly a must for all those looking for an incredible swimming experience. Located within Navajo Lake State Park, the many recreational activities offered here are sure to win you over.
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Rock Climbing and Mountaineering
Only the most daring of climbing enthusiasts will take on Little Horse Mesa, a 40 to 50-foot cliff of basalt rock at Sugarite State Park. This towering cliff has plenty of vertical cracks and face climbs, making it the perfect adventure for avid climbers. While routes here are relatively short, the challenges they present are still well worth the effort.
Giant monolithic rock formations that make for an incredible bouldering experience are also found at City of Rocks State Park. With plenty of steep slabs and overhangs, this is undoubtedly a climb that you won’t ever forget!
For a look into New Mexico’s underground natural treasures, head over to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, located on the southern border with Texas. The park has over 119 mapped caves, which feature plenty of limestones deposited by an ancient coral reef. Here, guests love exploring the Big Room, a natural chamber over 4,000-feet long and 625-feet wide, making it the third-largest cave chamber in North America and the seventh-largest in the entire world.
Interesting rock formations also make City of Rocks State Park one of the most-visited destinations in New Mexico. Explore this towering metropolis, shaped by volcanic eruptions that date back to millions of years ago.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Renowned all over the country as the Scuba Capital of the Southwest, there’s no shortage of phenomenal diving spots in New Mexico! Elephant Butte Lake State Park and Bottomless Lakes State Park are two of the best dive sites in the state, featuring mild temperatures and good visibility. Keep an eye out for the many volcanic rocks found underwater!