Cool down and have some fun with family and friends by visiting one of New Mexico’s many lakes this summer. From swimming and fishing to kayaking and boating, you’re guaranteed to create memories that will last a lifetime. Here are five lakes worth checking out.
Lake Carlsbad Recreation Area is a developed city park consisting of more than 125 acres along the Pecos River in Carlsbad. Here, you can take part in several activities, on both water and land.
“This beautiful area is home to numerous playgrounds, walking trails, a boat dock, swimming area, kayaking, fishing, our municipal golf course, and the Carlsbad Water Park,” said City of Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. “It’s a popular spot for our residents and visiting guests and is one of the reasons Carlsbad recently topped Expedia’s list of most scenic cities in the Southwest.”
Those who don’t own water equipment can rent kayaks, pedal boats, or schedule a boat tour on the lake.
There are also a few recent additions to the area. “Over the past year, the City of Carlsbad has added sand volleyball courts, pickleball courts, two new gazebos, shade structures, and artwork to the area,” Mayor Janway said. “We are committed to showing off and expanding our outstanding oasis in the desert.”
Fees: No entrance fee; $5 admission for water park (those who are 3 and younger and 62 and older get in free)
Info: 575-887-1191, carlsbadnmtrue.com/water-activity
Nearby: Located just 12 miles north of Carlsbad is Brantley Lake State Park, the southernmost lake in New Mexico, which offers water activities, hiking trails, birdwatching, and camping.
Grindstone Lake Recreation Area and Trail System is a popular destination for families in and around Ruidoso.
“It’s a high alpine lake located in the heart of the Sacramento Mountains,” said Ruidoso Director of Tourism Justin Huffmon.
Visitors to Grindstone Lake can enjoy swimming, fishing, paddleboarding, and non-motorized boating. Boats and paddleboards are available for rent, and fishing equipment can be purchased at the lake.
Newer additions to the area include a concession stand, a small tent and RV campground overlooking the lake, and a sand beach. There is also a floating water park — a main attraction during the summer.
“Kids love it; adults love it,” Justin said. “It’s a really fun way to spend a day out on the water.” You can also play disc golf on a 27-hole, 81-par course and view the area’s wildlife, such as black bears, deer, and osprey. Take advantage of the multi-use trail system, which consists of five trails totaling 18 miles, for mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
Reservations are required to access Grindstone Lake Friday through Sunday and can be made in advance online.
Fees: Parking is $5 a day or $20 for an annual pass for Ruidoso residents. Camping fees are $10 – $20 per night.
Info: 575-257-5030, ruidosoparksandrec.com/grindstone-lake-trail-system
Nearby: Another popular location in Ruidoso is Alto Lake, which offers scenic views, several hiking trails, fishing, and boating.
Lake Roberts, a day-use area in the Gila National Forest in the Mimbres Valley near Silver City, is an ideal setting for families.
“Whenever I have visited Lake Roberts early in the day, it is shady and beautiful, and I see seniors fishing with their grandchildren or hiking the trails,” said Marta Call, public affairs officer for the Gila National Forest. “What greater opportunity to share that message of stewardship and pride in the land than to share it with our grandchildren and generations to come.”
Visitors can fish from boats, the shore, or the trails that wind around the lake. There is a small boat launch available only for non-motorized boats and boats with electric motors. Those who want to extend their trip can spend the night at a nearby campground. The two tent and RV campgrounds above the lake are the Upper End Campground and Mesa Campground. While there, be sure to check out the nearby hiking trails, including the leisurely Lake Roberts Trail (1.75 miles) and the Purgatory Trail, a 2.1-mile loop across from the lake’s picnic area.
Fees: No entrance fees; camping fees are $10 – $15 per night.
Info: 575-388-8201, fs.usda.gov
Nearby: Other lakes in the Gila include Quemado Lake and Snow Lake. Both offer fishing, camping, hiking, and water activities.
Bottomless Lakes State Park, located 14 miles southeast of Roswell, is made up of a series of sinkholes, ranging from 17 – 90 feet deep. The unique blueish-green color, created by algae and other aquatic plants, is what makes these bodies of water appear “bottomless.”
“It’s a great place to come and spend a day or a weekend, swimming at the lake and renting some equipment, going out on a paddleboard or pedal boat,” said Joe Desjardins, park superintendent for Bottomless Lakes State Park.
The main recreation area is Lea Lake on the south end of the park. It is the largest of the sinkholes and offers several water activities. Along with paddleboard and pedal-boat rental during the summer months, Lea Lake has a sand beach, playground, sand volleyball court, picnic shelters, and the historic Lea Lake Pavilion and water tower. You can also enjoy scuba diving and non-motorized boating.
Make it a weekend retreat by reserving a spot at Lea Lake Campground, which includes 32 campsites with hookups.
Other activities include hiking and fishing at Cottonwood Lake and Devil’s Inkwell Lake. The three trails are the three-mile Skidmarks Trail for hiking and mountain biking, the half-mile Wetlands Trail, which features a boardwalk and wildlife viewing opportunities, and the Bluff Trail, an easy 0.86-mile nature trail.
Joe said Bottomless Lakes is the primary watersport destination in the area. “There’s not really any other natural lakes around here,” he said.
Fees: $5 entrance fee; camping fee is $10 per night.
About 20 minutes south of the town of Truth or Consequences lies Caballo Lake State Park. Here, visitors can enjoy scenic desert views and plenty of water activities. “It’s really beautiful,” said Park Manager Abdon Aguirre. “You’ve got the backdrop of the Caballo Mountains and then, of course, if you love to fish, it’s a great lake for fishing . . . It’s a family-oriented lake. You can come out to do some camping or just come out for the day.”
In addition to fishing, visitors can go boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and swimming at the lake. The park allows both motorized and non-motorized boating and offers three boat docks and two boat ramps.
Off the water, activities include hiking, horseback riding, and picnicking. There is also a playground for children.
If you’re planning to stay the night, the park offers several tent and RV campgrounds, and reservations are required. Explore the landscape by walking the trails in the area, and don’t forget to carry a pair of binoculars for looking at birds and other wildlife.
Fees: $5 entrance fee; camping fees are $8 – 18 per night.
Nearby: About 16 miles north of Caballo Lake is Elephant Butte Lake, which is New Mexico’s largest state park and can accommodate a variety of watercraft. The park offers picnic areas, playgrounds, camping, and fishing.
Pro tip: No matter which lake you decide to visit, always call ahead and check the website for any COVID-19 restrictions or changes in rules and regulations.
Written by Alexia Severson | Courtesy photos
Originally published in Neighbors magazine