New Mexico October 03, 2017
The One Hikeable Lake In New Mexico That’s Simply Breathtaking In The Fall
When folks think of Elephant Butte Lake, they think of boating and time in the water. But did you know that this recreation area also has 15 miles of trails? While others are flocking to the mountains for leaf peeping, head to this state park for a laid-back, crowd-free day of hiking, birding, picnicking, mountain biking and exploring the rest of this park.
Beat the heat and the crowds
Elephant Butte Lake is one of the most visited state parks in New Mexico but it isn't known for its hiking.
However, since the park encompasses the northern tip of the Chihuahuan Desert it's a great place to explore one of New Mexico's distinct climates. If the desert doesn't grab you, don't worry. There is plenty to do and see as you explore the park's trails (developed and unimproved), beach and river bank.
Catch views of the lake
Westshore Lake Trail is the main Elephant Butte Trail. This 10-mile trail provides panoramic views of Elephant Butte Lake and surrounding mesas and high desert. For shorter hikes, the trail can be accessed from different trailhead parking areas.
See a ghost town relic
During construction of the dam, a large construction community sprang up. Now a ghost town, most of the building from the construction town are gone. This old, four cell jail is one of the few buildings that remain.
Walk along the river too
The Rio Grande meets the lake at the south end of the park. Though not on the West Lakeshore Trail, you can explore the river from the Paseo del Rio campground area.
It's the best time for birding
Fall is the best time for birds at Elephant Butte. The park is also a birding two-for-one, with both land and seabirds. Look for seabirds, (including pelicans!) near the marinas. Loons are more common at the southern end of the lake. Birding on land is best from Rock Canyon south.
Pack a lunch or spend the night
Unlike some hikes where amenities aren't available, Elephant Butte
State Park has several picnic areas, playgrounds, and restrooms throughout the trail. The campgrounds at Elephant Butte are open year-round too. Bring your RV or pitch a tent.
Learn about the lake
Elephant Butte Lake wasn't always there. It was built 100 years ago to provide water for southern New Mexico and parts of Texas. The dam holds in the largest lake in the state. Though you can't walk out on it anymore, you can get a great view of the dam from above while exploring the State Park.
Don't Forget the Beach
Did you know that Elephant Butte Lake has more than 200 miles of shoreline? Not all of it is easily accessible, but there is more than enough for a long walk on the beach.
Plan your trip
Elephant Butte State Park is just a few miles from Truth or Consequences. Find the park entrance at 101 Highway 195, in Elephant Butte. Day passes are $5. Camping starts at $8 for a primitive site and goes up to $18 for a developed site with sewer and electric. See the
Elephant Butte State Park website
for more information.
What’s your best memory of Elephant Butte? Did you take time to explore the areas beyond the lake itself?