You’ve heard of some of New Mexico’s national monuments, but what about our state parks? We actually have 35 state parks, and visiting them is a great way to explore New Mexico. No matter the time of year, here are 14 state parks that you don’t want to miss.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Elephant Butte, Elephant Butte
This is New Mexico's biggest state park. It's great for boating and all types of water sports. The sandy beaches are ideal for picnicking too.
2. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, near Alamogordo
Highlights of this park, which abuts the Sacramento Mountains, include an interpretative trail that focuses on the flora and fauna found in this oasis. The Dog Canyon Trail is also a popular, if strenuous, hike.
3. Bottomless Lakes State Park, near Roswell
The lakes in this park are all sinkholes, which range from 19-40 feet in depth. But the water looks much deeper than it is. The reason for that is the aquatic plants that give the water a blue-green hue, creating the illusion that the water is bottomless.. You can swim and even scuba dive in this park!
4. City of Rocks State Park, between Silver City and Deming
The volcanic rocks in this park date back 34.9 million years. You can weave through passages between the rock columns, some of which stand 40 feet high. Popular activities include stargazing, birding, and mountain biking.
5. Pancho Villa State Park, Columbus
In 1916, Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary leader, crossed the border with 1500 guerrilla fighters, killed 19 Americans, and burned the town of Columbus. This park, right near the border with Mexico, is devoted to the history of the Pancho Villa Raid, Camp Furlong, and the U.S. response to this attack.
6. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park near Carlsbad
This small zoo houses 40 species of animals and also plants that are native to the Chihuahuan Desert region. These include creatures like mountain lions, bobcat, javelina, and wolves.
7. Cerrillos Hills State Park, Cerrillos
If you're interested in New Mexico's mining history, this is the place to go. Situated just off the Turquoise Trail, this day-use park contains five miles of trails and has impressive mountain views.
8. Bluewater Lake near Grants
Bluewater Lake is known for fishing, especially for tiger muskie.
9. Cimarron Canyon State Park, Eagle Nest
The drive through this canyon is gorgeous. Those into fishing flock to the Cimarron River. But this is also a great place for wildlife fans and photographers because it is in the middle of a wildlife management area.
10. Navajo Dam State Park, near Bloomfield
While Elephant Butte is the place to go boating in the southern half of the state, if you're further north, head to Navajo Lake. The park offers two marinas and two boat docks. Plus the San Juan River is a must for fly-fishing.
11. Clayton Lake State Park, near Clayton
It's incredible to see dinosaur footprints up close.
12. Heron Lake State Park, near Tierra Amarilla
Come here to get away from it all. At this lake, boat speeds are limited, creating a more peaceful environment for those on the shore. Kokanee salmon fishing is another draw and you can even go ice fishing in winter.
13. Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, Albuquerque
As this park is on the Rio Grande Flyway, it's perfect for birding. Blinds and feeders increase your chances of spotting birds. You can even observe the wildlife from the glass-walled library inside the visitor center.
14. Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park, Angel Fire
This park was established by parents who lost their son in the Vietnam War. The park opened in 1971, making it one of the first memorials to honor those who served in the Vietnam War.
Which of these state parks have you been to? Do you have a favorite? Tell us in the comments.