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19 of the Best and Most Beautiful Lakes in New Mexico

By | Last Updated: 16th December 2022

New Mexico is a diverse geographical region, having so much to offer-from snowy peaks to auburn-colored deserts, in addition to beautiful lakes lying in their heart. These lakes, mainly artificial while a few natural, flows in the state parks, majorly similar to the lake’s name. Most of them occupy remote areas, providing a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life, besides offering a breathtaking view and array of recreational facilities.

Lakes in New Mexico

Lakes in Northern New Mexico

1. Heron Lake

Heron Lake Northern New Mexico

This picturesque lake in Rio Arriba County has tall pine trees surrounding it and the spectacular Brazos Cliff in the background. On the southern and eastern shores lies the Heron Lake State Park and El Vado State Park, ideal for picnicking, camping., and many other recreational activities. There are some secluded coves too where you can spend time relaxing and swimming. Look out for black bears, deer, elk, bald eagles, or even mountain lions wandering here.

You can go hiking along the Rio Chama from the stairs near the Heron Dam for some adventure. It is a 5.5-mile trail that includes a suspension bridge across the river, offering scenic views of the lake. The trail also leads you to the nearby El Vado Lake.

Fishing: Anglers commonly catch salmon and trout. Ice fishing is also popular here in winters.

Other Activities: Boating, swimming, tubing, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, camping, cross country skiing, snowshoeing

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2. Navajo Lake

Navajo Lake Northern New Mexico

It is a crystal clear lake, the second-largest in New Mexico. The Navajo Lake State Park borders two of its shoreline, including marinas and sandy beaches. Take a boat ride to explore the gorgeous series of canyons nearby and the San Juan River that feeds the lake.

You can also hike on the serene trail located nearby and enjoy the beauty of its blue waters. Rented cabins and campground facilities are also available in abundance here.

Fishing: Fishes that dwell here are smallmouth bass, northern pike, trout, black crappie, and channel catfish.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, wakeboarding, windsurfing, cliff diving, camping, wildlife viewing, picnicking

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3. Conchas Lake

Conchas Lake in Northern New Mexico

Conchas Lake is a reservoir on the Canadian River, getting its share of water from the Concha Dam. Close to it is the Conchas Lake State Park, divided into the north and south parts. It is an ideal place for some peaceful time as it includes secluded beaches, canyons, and tiny coves. Do not miss the lovely sunset here. You may also catch a glimpse of mule deer, porcupines, and wild turkeys or spend time camping here.

The siltstone and sandstone surfaces are almost 200 million old. As a result, you may spot dinosaur fossils or their track prints on rock surfaces.

Fishing: The lake provides fishing opportunities for walleye, largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, white bass, bluegill.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, jet-skiing, water surfing, camping, picnicking, hiking, biking, wildlife viewing

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4. El Vado Lake

El Vado Lake in Northern New Mexico

El Vado Lake is a remote reservoir at 7200 meters in the northern mountains near Tierra Amarilla. The El Vado Lake State Park occupies its eastern shore offering several recreational activities.

The lake provides many opportunities to spot bald eagles, red-tail hawks, ospreys or water ouzels, and other migratory birds, especially in winters.

Hiking on the impressive trail of 5.5 miles along its north end would take you straight to the Heron Lake State Park.

Fishing: Fishing for salmon and trout is popular here.

Other Activities: Swimming, canoeing, paddleboarding, kayaking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing

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5. Fenton Lake

Fenton Lake in Northern New Mexico

Fenton Lake is a part of the Fenton State Park, positioned in the Jemez Mountains. These mountains enhance the beauty of the serene lake, along with the forest of ponderosa pine trees. The scenery gets highly impressive during fall when the golden hues of the surrounding trees contrast the mountainous setting fabulously.

The state park is open all year round to enjoy various activities from cross-country skiing to ice fishing in winters to picnicking and camping in summers. However, swimming is not allowed here.

Hikers of all skill levels can access the 2-mile loop trail, which starts from the park and traverses along the bank of Rio Cebolla. You may bring your dogs also.

Fishing: Rainbow trout and German brown trout are available in this lake. This lake also offers ice fishing during the winters.

Other Activities: Boating, kayaking, cross-country skiing, camping, horseback riding, bird watching

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6. Abiquiu Lake

Abiquiu Lake in Northern New Mexico

Sitting at an elevation of more than 6000 feet on Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountain ranges, the Abiquiu Lake is a 5,200-surface-acre reservoir in Northern New Mexico. The encompassing red sandstone rock formation and the nearby Cerro Pedernal Peak, along with juniper, sage, and pinon trees, elevate the place’s beauty.

You will find many campsites along its shorelines in the Riana Campground and also a playground area. Leashed dogs can visit the place.

Fishing: The lake is famous among anglers for fishing walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass, striped bass, spotted bass.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, hiking, picnicking, camping

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7. Blue Hole

Blue Hole in Northern New Mexico

The Blue Hole is a little natural lake in Santa Rosa fed by an underground water system.  You can come along with your family and enjoy taking a dip in its refreshing sapphire waters. It is also a favorite spot among scuba divers.

You need to purchase a Blue Hole Diving Pass for $20 and spend $5 as a parking fee.

Fishing: Catfish, bluegill, crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike are some of the fish found here.

Other Activities: Swimming, diving, cliff jumping, scuba diving, snorkeling

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8. Lake Maloya

Lake Maloya in Northern New Mexico

With an elevation of 7,516 feet, Lake Maloya flows in the Sugarite Canyon State Park. It is an artificial lake, home to tons of migratory birds. Swimming is strictly prohibited as the lake’s water is used for drinking purposes in Raton. However, you can enjoy paddling or relax watching the lake and birds flying by in the peaceful atmosphere.

If you plan to camp here, you need to pay about $10 per night, with a $ 5 parking fee.

Fishing: Trout, perch, largemouth bass are usually found in the lake.

Other Activities: Boating, kayaking, canoeing, bird watching, camping

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9. Morphy Lake

Morphy Lake in Northern New Mexico

Tucked away in the gorgeous Sangre de Cristo Mountains with ponderosa pines all around, this hidden lake sits at an elevation of 8000 feet. It’s a perfect getaway for those who seek seclusion and peace in a beautiful natural environment. You will also love the splendid sunset here.

The Morphy Lake State Park, which houses the lake, remains open year-round. It offers stunning views during fall when the trees change color, adding to the scenic appeal. There is a campground with campsites to the northern and eastern sides of the lake.

You may also spot whitetail deer or mule deer wandering around the lake.

Fishing: The lake mostly remains stocked with trout and kokanee salmon

Other Activities: Canoeing, bird watching, picnicking, hiking, swimming (though the lifeguards remain absent and the water is mostly cold)

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10. Williams Lake

Williams Lake in Northern New Mexico

This alpine lake also lies in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. To reach it, you need to hike Williams Lake Trail starting from the Taos Ski Valley. The excellent sight of the lake is sure to reward you after the strenuous hike. You can relax by dipping your feet in the waters while cherishing the ecstatic view of the mountains and pine trees. You can also spot chipmunks, marmots, or jays. Camping is not allowed near the lake.

Fishing: This natural lake does not have any fish as it remains frozen throughout the winter.

Other Activities: Hiking, picnicking, nature gazing, wildlife watching

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11. Nambe Lake

Nambe Lake in Northern New Mexico

This lake is an absolute relaxation spot on a hot, tiring day. You can enjoy many fun-filled activities along here under the cottonwood trees’ shady branches or dip your feet in the greenish calm waters.

You have to hike the Nambe Lake Trail, a 6 miles loop trail to reach the lake. The starting point is from Santa Fe Ski Basin leading through the aspen and pine forest, offering a stunning view of the surrounding. In addition, you will get to see the nearby Nambe Falls too. You can bring your dogs along but don’t forget to leash them.

Fishing: You can enjoy fishing trout in this lake.

Other Activities: Picnicking, swimming, hiking

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12. Santa Cruz Lake

Santa Cruz Lake in Northern New Mexico

Nestled at the Sangre de Cristo Mountains base, Santa Cruz Lake offers a picturesque view of its surroundings. Its eastern shoreline has various beautiful trees lined along, such as juniper, pine, cottonwood, and mountain mahogany. Swimming in the lake is restricted, but you can enjoy other water activities.

Several campsites are available for those who wish to spend a few days away from the commotion of city life. Also, there are few hiking trails nearby. Dogs can come with you but must wear a leash. You need to pay a minimal fee of $ 5 to park your vehicle.

Fishing: Trout fishing is excellent here. You need to have a fishing license, though.

Other Activities: Boating, picnicking, camping, hiking

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13. Cochiti Lake

Cochiti Lake in Northern New Mexico

Positioned in the foothills of the Jemez Mountains, Cochiti Lake sits at an elevation of 5343 feet. The beautiful desert setting around has numerous trees, like pinyon, juniper trees. Wildlife watching is ideal for animals such as deer, rabbits, beavers, coyotes, river otters frequent the eastern shoreline. The lake also features two recreation spots, Cochiti Recreation Area to the west, and Tetilla Peak Recreation on the east, giving one the scope of enjoying many activities.

Fishing: Anglers commonly catch a wide variety of fish that includes bass, walleye, catfish, pike, crappie, sunfish, and trout.

Other Activities: Swimming, paddling, sail crafting, windsurfing, picnicking

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14. Eagle Nest Lake

Eagle Nest Lake in Northern New Mexico

This beautiful alpine lake is in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The quiet and serene atmosphere with lovely scenery makes visitors attract the place mainly during the hot months. However, you can also enjoy ice fishing and cross-country skiing in the winters. The lake also has two boat ramps. There are also hiking trails for those starting from highway 64.

Fishing: It provides excellent fishing opportunities for trout, smallmouth bass, kokanee salmon, yellow perch, channel catfish, northern pike and, sunfish.

Other Activities: Boating, swimming, ice fishing, snowmobiling, wildlife viewing

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Lakes in Southern New Mexico

1. Caballo Lake

Caballo Lake in Southern New Mexico

Caballo Lake, on the Rio Grande, is fed by the dam of the same name. The Caballo Mountains form a picturesque backdrop towards its eastern shore.

The Caballo Lake State Park, situated on the lake’s southwest part, features a beach, boat docks, picnic areas, and boat ramps.

The beautiful view of the lovely sunset is sure to leave you spellbound. In addition, the place offers a fantastic scope for bird watchers to view various migratory birds that stop by or eagles that frequent the area. You could even choose to camp here, spending the night, looking at the stars in awe at the well-maintained campsites near its shoreline.

Fishing: It is home to various fish such as walleye, crappie, bass, catfish, and bluegill.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, water skiing, camping, bird watching

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2. Bottomless Lakes

Bottomless Lakes in Southern New Mexico

Bottomless Lakes is a state park that comprises nine lakes flowing in the remote desert of southern New Mexico. These lakes are enormous sinkholes filled with water, layers of rocks surrounding them. Unlike other stream-fed lakes, these get their water from underground.

Among these, Lea Lake is the only lake that permits swimming. This beautiful body of water also offers a sandy beach and is famous for scuba diving.

The greenish-blue waters and the adjoining rugged beauty are sure to give you a mesmerizing experience.

You can also visit the nearby museum and gather knowledge about the well-known UFO crash that took place somewhere in the vicinity.

Fishing: Rainbow trout is a common catch in Devil’s Inkwell and Cottonwood Lake.

Other Activities: Swimming, kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving, camping, hiking, bird watching

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3. Elephant Butte Reservoir

Elephant Butte Reservoir in Southern New Mexico

Elephant Butte Reservoir is the largest human-made lake of New Mexico. It gets its peculiar name from the ancient volcanic core, which is now an island in the reservoir.

The Elephant Butte Reservoir State Park features a marina, sandy beaches, camping and picnicking spots.  The gentle climate of the region makes it worth visiting any time in the year. You can also spot pelicans perching alongside the lake or flying over it.

You need to spend $5 for entering the park or avail the annual pass for about $40. In addition, you need to pay a separate fee for vehicle parking. 

Fishing: The lake has a stock of largemouth bass, striped bass, white bass, crappie, walleye, bluegill, and catfish.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, water skiing, wildlife viewing, camping

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4. Brantley Lake

Brantley Lake in Southern New Mexico

Brantley Lake is an oasis amidst the Chihuahuan desert region. If you love bird watching, then this place will not disappoint you. It is home to several birds, including gulls, waterfowls, pelicans, and shorebirds. The Brantley Lake State Park, a part of the lake, also boasts many recreational activities.

Fishing: The lake has various fish such as walleye, largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, white bass, and crappie.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing, bird watching, camping

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Lakes in Western New Mexico

1. Snow Lake

Snow Lake in Western New Mexico

Snow Lake is a reservoir at an elevation of 7,313 feet above sea level in Gila National Forest. The magnificent rugged setting with ponderosa pine and aspen forest surrounding the lake offers a stunning view.

Those who wish to go hiking, trails with fantastic scenic views are also available in the adjacent areas. You can camp at the campground on its western shore, equipped with 40 proper sites. The lake also provides opportunities to spot wildlife such as deer, bears, elk, or turkey. April – November is the best time to go there.

Fishing: Different trout species seem the best catch available here.

Other Activities: Nature viewing, hiking, camping, wildlife watching

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Best Lakes for Fishing: Eagle Nest Lake, Conchas Lake, Elephant Butte Reservoir

Best Lakes for Swimming: Blue Hole, Abiquiu Lake, Brantley Lake

Best Lakes to Live On: Abiquiu Lake, Conchas Lake, Brantley Lake

Best Lakes for Camping: Caballo Lake, Conchas Lake, Fenton Lake, Bottomless Lakes

Best Hidden Lakes: Morphy Lake, Santa Cruz Lake

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