Summer is here and there is no better time to hit the trails in one of our state parks. Here are only a few noteworthy parks to add to your summer bucket list.
Manzano Mountain State Park
Nestled at the remote southern end of the Manzano Mountains, Manzano Mountain State Park (County Rd. B062, Mountainair) is an untapped gem. Far from the crowds around Albuquerque but still within an hour’s drive of the city, the park allows visitors an abundance of recreational opportunities.
Just north of Mountainair, the park may be the destination of choice for anyone seeking a quiet getaway from the city and who wants to avoid the crowds. Wildlife abounds at this park. The chances are you are more likely to run into a turkey on the trail than another hiker. The park is also at the southern end of the Manzano Range, which is the Sandias’ less developed and more wild counterpart. The park’s foothills gives way to rugged peaks that rise 5,000 feet above the desert floor.
Campsites for all levels are located throughout the state park.
Fenton Lake State Park
Tucked into the endless forested mesas that compose the Jemez, the most southern extent of the Rockies, Fenton Lake State Park (455 Fenton Lake Rd., Jemez Springs) has been a popular destination for New Mexicans for generations.
Trout teem in this mountain lake, attracting fisherman from all over New Mexico. In recent years fisherman have been joined by paddleboarders that take advantage of the lake’s elevation to escape the heat.
A creek flows at the end of the lake. Wildflowers of every color imaginable line the creek. Further from the creek, lush green meadows rise until they hit the mesas overlooking the state park. Towering Ponderosas cover the mesas and picnic areas around the lake.
For fishermen seeking a challenge, the stream at the lake’s southern end holds a healthy trout population. They are more wild and skittish than their lake counterparts.
Campsites are available throughout the state park, but be careful; it is often slim pickings during the summer months.
Hyde Memorial State Park
High above Santa Fe, Hyde Memorial State Park (740 Hyde Park Rd., Santa Fe) is a beloved escape for Northern New Mexicans. With an abundance of campsites and located within the expansive Santa Fe National Forest, the park is an outdoor mecca for state parks.
A popular wedding destination among other superlatives, the park boasts countless hiking trails that will take hikers deep into the southern end of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Little Tesuque Creek gently meanders through the park’s campsites, offering an excellent opportunity to unwind along the creek’s banks.
The fun doesn’t stop when summer ends. Along with being located near Ski Santa Fe, the park also offers tubing for anyone seeking to beat the crowds of the famed ski resort.
A 20-minute drive from Santa Fe, Hydes Memorial State Park is the perfect destination for anyone seeking to escape for an afternoon or a weekend.
El Vado Lake State Park
Amongst the rolling hills and fields of Northern New Mexico lies El Vado Lake State Park (NM-112, Tierra Amarilla), a reservoir that offers unparalleled fishing and recreational opportunities for any weekend warrior in New Mexico. Located near the border with Colorado, there is a good chance that visitors may forget that they’re in New Mexico entirely.
Created from the famed Chama River, which begins its journey high in the San Juan Mountains, El Vado Lake is part of a system of reservoirs along the Chama that offers recreational opportunities for hikers of all skill levels.
World-class fishing attracts fly fishermen from across the country to Chama’s water. El Vado Lake is no exception and offers fishermen some of the best trout fishing in New Mexico. The lake also boasts a population of kokanee salmon.
The park has over 100 camping sites and several areas to launch boats of all types.
Eagle Nest Lake State Park
Deep within the Sangre De Cristo Mountains lies Eagle Nest Lake State Park (42 Marina Ln., Eagle Nest). Eagle Nest Lake State Park spans over one of the range’s countless glacial valleys. At an elevation of 8,300 feet, the lake is also considered alpine and offers refuge from New Mexico’s stifling summer heat.
Created from the Cimarron River, Eagle Nest Lake holds countless prized game fish, including trout, bass and the elusive Northern Pike, which were accidentally released into the lake. Meadows line the shores of the lake, making it a prime place to learn how to fly fish.
This lake is also a kayaker’s paradise. Without the crowds and larger boats of Heron and El Vado, Eagle Nest Lake is a serene experience awaiting any visitor willing to make the drive.
The state park is also within a 20-minute drive from Red River, a lively mountain town with an abundance of restaurants and breweries.
City Of Rocks State Park
For those brave (or crazy) enough to venture to southern New Mexico in the summer, City of Rocks State Park (327 NM-61, Faywood) is worthy of any visit. Hundreds of rock formations rise from the desert floor, with some reaching heights of over 40 feet.
In recent years the park has become a mecca for climbers of all skill levels. With seemingly infinite climbing routes located throughout the park, there is little chance anyone will have to wait in line for a route.
Along with endless climbing opportunities, the park should be on any photographer’s list with its spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Located at the southern end of the Black Range, the Gila Wildnerness’ towering western border, the state park offers uninterrupted views of the northern Chihuahuan desert.
The park spans 640 acres and offers campsites year-round. Many of the campsites also offer electrical and water hook-ups.