With summer around the corner, it’s time to plan road trips and outdoor vacations. Camping and hiking are two of the most popular pastimes in New Mexico — and most of the state parks and national parks show it. Throughout the season and especially on holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day, the parks overflow with visitors. If you’re seeking more solitude, check out these six parks from Portales to Mountainair. Since closures change frequently, please refer to the New Mexico State Parks list of closures before planning your trip.
Bottomless Lakes State Park
Much to the confusion of geographically challenged people, New Mexico doesn’t have turquoise ocean waters and sandy beaches. It gets close, however, at Bottomless Lakes State Park, where 17- to 90-foot-deep sinkholes have glistening blue waters for kayaking and even scuba diving. Lea Lake Day Use Area offers a white sand beach and swimming area. The day-use area was closed for renovations earlier in 2022, but it should reopen for summer recreation. Note: Bottomless Lakes State Park is closed through Memorial Day, 2022.
Mesilla Valley State Park
Located just outside Las Cruces and 1.5 miles from Mesilla, the Mesilla Valley State Park unfolds along the Rio Grande. It offers 2.3 miles of trails through riparian areas and past wetlands. Birds are abundant, so much so that the park has earned status as an Audubon Important Birding Area.
Cerrillos Hills State Park
Many visitors zoom by Cerrillos Hills State Park on the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway headed to Albuquerque or Santa Fe. However, the park deserves more exploration. Five miles of trails open to panoramic views of the Sandia, Ortiz, Jemez, and Sangre de Cristo Mountain Ranges. As you trek, you’ll see the evidence of historic mines that birthed communities such as nearby Madrid.
City of Rocks
Escape from metropolises to sightsee in a rock city between Silver City and Deming. In City of Rocks State Park, rock columns and pinnacles stand up to 40 feet tall and create narrow avenues that resemble city streets. The one-square-mile desertscape feels a world away from the urban landscape, however. It offers hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing. The only “city” lights you’ll see here are the stars.
If you want to escape the popular waters of Elephant Butte Lake State Park, this duo of high-mountain lakes near Chama offers a long list of water sports and activities. Nearby Heron Lake is a “quiet lake” where motorized boats must operate at no-wake speeds, so even sailboats can enjoy the waters here. Fishing is also popular; anglers cast for behemoth trout and kokanee salmon.
Oasis State Park
Just outside Portales, Oasis State Park features a small fishing lake rimmed with cottonwood trees. Several hiking trails amble around the lake and through sand dunes. The peaceful campground is a hidden gem.
We hope you’ll enjoy escaping to these lesser-known New Mexico state parks this summer and beyond.