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New Mexico is a place that often feels off-the-grid, with hidden surprises and natural wonders for adventurers to discover. There are so many wide-open places to explore throughout the state to immerse yourself in the varied landscapes and impressive formations. Many of these places are state parks that offer hiking, camping, and many other types of outdoor recreation. Here are some of the best state parks in New Mexico to get to know the “Land of Enchantment.”
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Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo
This New Mexico state park is situated in the Sacramento Mountains and Chihuahuan Desert. It is unique because of its oasis of pools, cottonwood trees, and historic ranch house. There are trails to hike here, including the challenging Dog Canyon Trail and the easy Riparian Nature Trail. Located about eight miles south of the town of Alamogordo, this park is typically open 24 hours a day and also offers picnicking, wildlife viewing, and educational programs. For camping, there are water and electric sites, developed sites with water nearby, and an RV dump station. You can make a reservation online for some sites, while others are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For restrooms, there are vault toilets and showers.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Elephant Butte
This is a popular New Mexico state park for boaters, fishermen, and campers. There is a great beach area here to relax on and plenty of water recreation, including kayaking, jet-skiing, and taking out a sailboat or houseboat. The park offers electric and water hookups for RV camping, picnic areas, playgrounds, and restrooms. It’s near the town of Elephant Butte and has about 15 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. Other fun things to do here include volleyball, birding, swimming, scuba diving, and boat rentals.
City of Rocks State Park, Silver City
One truly impressive state park is City of Rocks State Park, which is in southwestern New Mexico and in the Chihuahuan desert. Here you’ll find volcanic rock formations and sculptured rock pinnacles that rise up to 40 feet from the ground. A large volcano erupted here nearly 35 million years ago and created this otherworldly landscape. The park is between Silver City and Deming and offers mountain biking, hiking, picnicking, camping, and a desert botanical garden. There’s a nice visitor’s center here with displays. You can make a reservation for some campsites online, while others are available on a non-reservation basis.
Fenton Lake State Park, Jemez Springs
Fenton Lake is in the Jemez Mountains and surrounded by ponderosa pine trees in a beautiful part of New Mexico. Canoeing and fishing are popular on the Rio Cebolla here, with common fish to catch including rainbow trout and German brown trout. Summer fishing and winter ice fishing are possible here. Other things to do in the park are hiking, camping, a playground for kids, and cross-country skiing. There are water and electric campsites available here, as well as group campsites, vault toilets, and a boat ramp.
Manzano Mountains State Park, Mountainair
Hiking and camping are popular activities at Manzano Mountains State Park, which is situated at an elevation of 7,250 feet in New Mexico. The Manzanos offer a quiet and wooded getaway for families who enjoy viewing wildlife, photography, and birding. The park is near the town of Mountainair, New Mexico and has 23 developed campsites and nine electric sites. There are portable toilets available, as well as water in the campground for visitors to use.
Sumner Lake State Park, Lake Sumner
Anyone looking for water recreation in New Mexico should also make a point to visit Sumner Lake State Park. Here you can camp in a peaceful site with views of the lake and take your boat out for some relaxing time on the water. Swimming, fishing, birding, and wildlife viewing are also popular activities here. The park is in the quiet area of Sumner Lake, New Mexico and has a boat dock and three boat ramps. You can also spend your day here waterfowl hunting, canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing, and hiking and mountain biking on the couple miles of trails. There are 50 developed campsites here, as well as group campsites, an RV dump station, shoreline camping, and boat-in camping.
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, Albuquerque
You don’t even have to travel far outside the big city of Albuquerque to get a state park experience in New Mexico. This state park is an awesome place to do some birdwatching at any time of the year. Here you’ll find trail access to the Rio Grande River and can view exhibits at the visitor centers and browse the gift shop. There are 1.2 miles of trails here, as well as gardens, picnic areas, and an amphitheater. This is an easily accessible park for people living in and visiting Albuquerque.
Cerrillos Hills State Park, Cerrillos
Cerrillos Hills State Park is a day-use park just off the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, which is an awesome road trip route between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. At this park, you can learn about the region’s mining history, hike the five miles of trails, and enjoy the views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia, and Ortiz mountain ranges. It’s fun to take a guided horseback ride with Broken Saddle Riding Company when you are here. There’s also a visitor’s center, wedding facilities, and picnic areas at this New Mexico state park.
Bottomless Lakes State Park, Roswell
This state park is about 14 miles southeast of the city of Roswell and unique because of its sinkholes that are between 17 and 90 feet deep. The lakes here have a green-blue color because of the aquatic plants that live here, which makes them appear to be very deep. When you’re at the park, you can go scuba diving, birding, fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming. There are over 4.5 miles of trails, including the 3.13-mile Skidmarks Mountain Bike Trail. Stay overnight in one of the 32 campsites with hookups at the Lea Lake Campground or the 10 developed campsites at the Lower Lakes Area.
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, Carlsbad
There are over 40 species of animals and hundreds of species of plants to learn about at this state park, which is an accredited native wildlife zoo. Join an interpretative program with your family to learn about the Chihuahuan Desert and enjoy the hiking trails and picnic areas. This is a day-use only park that does not allow pets. The walking tour through the park is 1.3 miles round-trip, and the Ocotillo Hills Nature Trail is 0.9 miles long.
Cimarron Canyon State Park, Eagles Nest
Visit this state park as a stop along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and when you’re in the Eagle Nest area of New Mexico. The views here are beautiful, the geology is interesting, and the camping is quiet. This park is within the Colin Neblett Wildlife Management Area and home to many native species. There are four campgrounds with 94 developed campsites, restrooms, and vault toilets available for overnight visitors. Fly fishing is also a popular activity to do here.
Caballo Lake State Park, Caballo
Caballo Lake State Park is a great place to camp because there are 170 campsites, many of which have utility hookups for RVs. Primitive camping options include beach camping and boat-in camping. It’s fun to come to this Caballo Mountains-region park for boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Other things to do here include birding, horseback riding, and using the three boat docks and two boat ramps for your water recreation.
Hyde Memorial State Park, Santa Fe
Hyde Memorial State Park is New Mexico’s very first state park and just a short drive from Santa Fe. Camping and hiking are popular in the summer, while cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding are great here in the winter season. Plan a glamping experience here by renting out a yurt in the park. The park has 4.2 miles of trails, 50 developed campsites, and vault toilets.
Oasis State Park, Portales
Oasis State Park just north of Portales, New Mexico really is an oasis and situated among sand dunes, cottonwood trees, and a small lake. The big draw here for visitors is fishing in the small lake at Oasis State Park. However, you can also hike here, go birdwatching, and camp overnight here. Some of the campsites are available by online reservation, while others are first-come, first-served.
Villanueva State Park, Villanueva
While there are numerous other state parks in New Mexico as well, the last one we’ll mention on this list is Villanueva State Park. This park is between sandstone bluffs that create a canyon by the Pecos River. You can camp here under the cottonwood trees and enjoy hiking, fishing, birding, and seeing the wildflowers. Villanueva State Park offers 2.9 miles of hiking trails, an RV dump station, equestrian camping, swimming, and a visitor’s center with exhibits to check out. For overnight stays, there are 33 developed campsites, including 12 electric sites, at this park.