Nature November 23, 2017
Escape The Black Friday Madness And Explore New Mexico State Parks
Ah, the Friday after Thanksgiving! While many will be heading out to the stores to start their holiday shopping, New Mexico State Parks are inviting you to skip the malls and “Opt Outside.” To encourage folks to spend the day in nature, entrance fees will be waived at all New Mexico State Parks on Friday, November 24th. If you’re not sure which state park to visit, here are a few favorites from around the state.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Cerrillos Hills (Cerrillos)
Stroll through the five miles of mountain-view trails solo or join the annual post-holiday "Stuffing Strut," where eager walkers turn out to traverse the hills with others. The hike starts promptly at 11 am.
Meet in the main parking lot, a half-mile north of Cerrillos on County Road 59.
2. Elephant Butte (Elephant Butte)
Elephant Butte State Park surrounds the biggest man-made lake in the state. This is a great spot for boating, water sports, or just walking along the soft, sandy beaches.
3. City of Rocks (Deming)
Located about halfway between Silver City and Deming, the "city" is a geologic formation made up of large, sculptured rock columns, or pinnacles, rising as high as 40 feet and separated by paths or lanes resembling city streets.
4. Sugarite Canyon (Raton)
Nestled where the Rocky Mountains meets the great plains, nature lovers will marvel at this park's abundant wildlife. Highlights here also include the remains of an old mining camp and basaltic "caprock" columns.
5. Leasburg Dam (Las Cruces)
Relax along the Rio Grande at this peaceful state park just outside Las Cruces. Hike one of the improved trails, or fish, canoe, kayak or watch the birds. There's year-round camping here too.
6. Villanueva (Villanueva)
Here, picturesque bluffs rise beside the Pecos River. This isolated stretch of land offers 2.9 miles of (mostly vertical) hiking trails, along with opportunities for birding and fishing.
7. Oliver Lee (Alamogordo)
This 640-acre park is set against the astoundingly beautiful Sacramento Mountains. The park offers dramatic canyon hiking, a trail that weaves beneath cottonwood trees by pools of water, historic buildings, and night skies so clear that it feels like you can view the whole universe from this one spot in the Chihuahuan Desert.
8. Cimarron Canyon (Eagle Nest)
The Cimarron River flows through this narrow, forested canyon, located near Eagle Nest on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. The whole canyon is picturesque but Palisades Sill is especially impressive. This cliff face towers 300-feet high and is 40 million years old.
9. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (Carlsbad)
See native wildlife up-close. This native wildlife zoo features more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of species of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert. Living Desert also has striking hiking trails, picnic areas and group facilities. Please leave your pets at home for this one.
10. Heron Lake (Alcalde)
Come here to get away from it all. At this "quiet" lake, boat speeds are limited, creating a more peaceful environment for those on the shore. Kokanee salmon fishing is another draw. You can even ice fish in winter too.
11. Hyde Memorial (Santa Fe)
Often overlooked because it’s surrounded by the Santa Fe National Forest, Hyde Memorial State Park offers beautiful hiking trails with spectacular views. You can enjoy this park in the winter months too, with snowshoeing, sledding and cross-country skiing.
Which of New Mexico’s State Parks are your favorites? How many have you visited? Tell us in the comments about your experience with these great outdoor spaces.