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17 Incredible State and National Parks In New Mexico

sand dune at white sands national park - best state parks in new mexico

Some of the best things to do in New Mexico are right in your backyard. From the Sandia Mountains to the White Sands National Monument, New Mexico is rich with history, culture, and many natural wonders. These scenic treats deserve a visit, but how can you decide which park or monument to explore? I’m here to help! The following list features 17 of the very best state parks and national monuments that New Mexico has to offer.

See our top 8 picks in this video of the best state & national parks in New Mexico

The 17 Best State And National Parks In New Mexico

Clayton Lake State Park and Dinosaur Trackways

Clayton Lake State Park - best state parks in new mexico

Clayton Lake State Park is tucked away in the Sandia Mountains, just 20 minutes east of Albuquerque. The park offers camping, hiking trails, boating – and dinosaur footprints!

The park’s namesake lake is home to rainbow trout. You can rent kayaks and canoes at the marina to explore the shoreline or take a guided pontoon tour on the lake. Hikers have access to 10 miles of trails that wind through pine forests and along ridges overlooking the lake.


El Morro National Monument

el morro - best state parks in new mexico
Image Credit: kenlund (Flickr CC)

El Morro National Monument is just north of Santa Fe on Highway 84, near Grants. It’s known for its sandstone cliffs, home to hundreds of ancient petroglyphs carved into them by Native Americans centuries ago.

Visitors can hike along 2 miles of trails through piñon and juniper trees, leading to two mesas with views of the monument below. Those who want a more leisurely hike can drive up to one of two overlooks above the monument area, where there are interpretive signs explaining some of its history and geology (the other overlook is located at the visitor center).


Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park

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Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park is a must-see for anyone visiting New Mexico. The park is home to multiple endangered species of animals, including the Mexican wolf, which can be seen on guided tours of the grounds. There are also several different hiking trails available to visitors, and they all offer stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape.

There are more than 40 species of animals to see and hundreds of plants native to the surrounding desert.


White Sands National Monument

white sands - best state parks in new mexico
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The most popular state park in New Mexico, White Sands National Monument, is located in the northern part of the state and is a short drive from Alamogordo and Las Cruces. The national monument encompasses 275 square miles and is home to the world’s largest gypsum dune field, which covers about 190 square miles. Visitors who want to experience the park should plan their trip during one of the rare times when it’s not covered in snow — typically late February through March or early April.

White Sands has several campgrounds offering amenities such as RV hookups, showers, drinking water, and restrooms. The park also offers more than 20 hiking trails that vary from less than a mile to 10 miles long, and has some of the best hiking trails you’ll find in New Mexico. There are also many things to do while visiting White Sands besides hiking, including camping, bicycling, dune driving, sledding, and exploring its historical sites.


Elephant Butte Lake State Park

elephant butte - best state parks in new mexico
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Elephant Butte Lake State Park is one of the most popular state parks in New Mexico. The park offers a variety of activities, including camping, boating, fishing, and kayaking. The park also has a marina that rents boats and provides launch ramps for watercraft. Visitors can also enjoy hiking trails and picnic areas.

The lake is located approximately 40 miles south of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and 70 miles north of El Paso, Texas. It was formed by a volcanic eruption over 6 million years ago and is considered the largest body of water in the state.


Leasburg Dam State Park

leasburg dam - best state parks in new mexico

The park is situated along the Rio Grande River, where visitors can see wildlife or go fishing. There are several trails in the park, including one that leads to a picnic area. Visitors can also enjoy camping at this New Mexico state park.

This is a great place to bring kids because of its many activities and facilities. The campground features full hookups and showers. There are also cabins available for rent if you want to stay longer than just a weekend.


Percha Dam State Park

percha dam - best state parks in new mexico

Percha Dam State Park is a great place to spend a day with the family. There are many activities to choose from when visiting this park, including fishing, hiking, and camping. The park is located near the town of Grants in southwestern New Mexico. It offers many beautiful views of the Santa Fe National Forest, and it’s easy to get lost in all there is to see here.

There are several hiking trails within Percha Dam State Park that will take you through tall pine trees and streams where you can enjoy the natural beauty of this area. The best time to visit Percha Dam State Park is during summer when it isn’t too hot outside. You can enjoy yourself by swimming in one of two lakes or taking part in any number of other activities throughout the year such as camping and boating on Lake San Lorenzo or Lake San Antonio.


Cimarron Canyon State Park

cimarron canyon - best state parks in new mexico
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Cimarron Canyon State Park is one of New Mexico’s most popular state parks, and for a good reason. This park has it all — hiking, biking, horseback riding, and even rock climbing. Nearly 40 miles of hiking trails lead visitors through the canyon and up to the mesa tops.

Cimarron Canyon State Park is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. The park offers an excellent example of the transition zone between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. The park is named for its most striking feature, Cimarron Canyon, extending for about 3 miles (5 km) along the Cimarron River.

Cimarron Canyon also contains a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, and black bear. The visitor center has exhibits on the geology, plants, and animals of the area and other topics related to New Mexico’s history and culture.


Carlsbad Caverns National Park

carlsbad caverns - best state parks in new mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is one of the most popular state parks in New Mexico and one of the most famous caves in the world. It’s easy to see why: Carlsbad Caverns are spectacular, with miles of underground passages and rooms filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

The park has two entrances: the main entrance at Carlsbad and a back entrance in Guadalupe Canyon. The visitor center at the main entrance features exhibits about the park’s geology, wildlife, and history. Rangers offer guided tours that last from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Reservations are required for large groups and can be made up to six months in advance.

The guided tour takes visitors into Big Room, where they see large columns, impressive formations, and delicate cave pearls (larval sulfur). The highlight is Flame Cave, which was named for its orange-red color caused by iron oxide deposits on the walls. Several smaller caves are also open for exploration by visitors with flashlights or headlamps.


Morphy Lake State Park

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Morphy Lake is one of the smallest state parks in New Mexico at 400 acres of land, with more than half of that being water. The lake itself covers more than 100 acres and is one of the largest man-made lakes in New Mexico. The lake was created in 1921 when it was used as a reservoir for irrigation purposes. However, it wasn’t until 1950 that it became a state park and opened to the public.

There are several different recreation opportunities at this park, including camping, boating, and fishing. There are also hiking trails available for those who want to spend more time enjoying the outdoors without having to rough it too much!


Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

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The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park encompasses the upper reaches of the Rio Grande Gorge, where the river plunges through a narrow chasm. Trails wind along the gorge and offer views of waterfalls, rock formations, and wildlife. The park is open year-round, and there are no fees for day use.

This park is a great place to go if you want to see some wildlife. It is home to many birds, including the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow and the threatened Chihuahuan raven. There are also plenty of mammals, including deer and elk, which can be spotted roaming around during the day. The park also features hiking trails that wind through some beautiful scenery and take you right along the banks of the Rio Grande River.


Navajo Lake State Park

navajo lake - best state parks in new mexico

Navajo Lake is one of the most popular parks in New Mexico. Located in the Four Corners region, Navajo Lake State Park offers everything from fishing and boating to hiking and horseback riding. The lake itself has many sandy beaches where you can swim or sunbathe. There are also several hiking trails around the lake that lead visitors through forests and over ridges. If you’re looking for a more relaxing time at the lake, there’s even an overnight campground available with RV hookups.


Sumner Lake State Park

sumner lake - best state parks in new mexico

Sumner Lake State Park is one of the most scenic parks in New Mexico, with a large reservoir, hiking trails, and camping. It’s also home to many birds, including sandhill cranes and bald eagles. The park has two campgrounds open year-round and offers electric hookups for RVs.

Located at the base of the Sandias, this state park is a haven for bird-watchers, mountain bikers, and visitors looking to enjoy the area’s natural beauty. The park has more than 35 campsites (some with hookups) and ten cabins available for rent. There are also plenty of hiking trails to choose from, including one that takes you up to the top of Mount Taylor.


Sandia Mountains

sandia mountains - best state parks in new mexico
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The Sandia Mountains are one of the most popular destinations in New Mexico. The mountains have been designated as a State Park since 1939, and the park covers nearly 100,000 acres of land. The peaks of these mountains reach up to 10,378 feet above sea level and offer some of the best hiking trails in the state.

Sandia Mountains State Park is located just south of Albuquerque and offers hiking, rock climbing, camping, picnicking and more. The park has over 100 miles of hiking trails leading through forests, meadows, and rocky peaks.

The most popular hike is to the top of the mountain for views of the city below. There are also several other peaks to climb throughout the park including: South Peak (6,687 feet), North Peak (6,376 feet) and Middle Peak (6,268 feet). If you’re looking for a more challenging hike with more breathtaking scenery, try the Piedra Lisa Loop Trail, which takes you around Middle Peak where you’ll find an ancient Indian ruin in a cave called Piedra Lisa.

There are two campgrounds within Sandia Mountains State Park: Little Bear Campground and Big Bear Campground, which both offer campsites with water and electricity hookups as well as tent sites without hookups. Both campgrounds have restrooms with showers, while Big Bear Campground also has Wi-Fi access at its general store; however, neither campground has any RV hookups or dump stations, so make sure you bring everything needed!


Petroglyph National Monument

petroglpyh national monument - best state parks in new mexico

Petroglyph National Monument is located about 15 miles east of Albuquerque, near Los Lunas. It’s one of the best places to see ancient petroglyphs and rock carvings created by Native Americans who lived in this area thousands of years ago. The park also contains historical sites such as El Morro National Monument, built by the Spanish in 1605.

The Petroglyph National Monument is home to the largest collection of rock art in the world. The park protects more than 15,000 ancient petroglyphs and pictographs carved into the sandstone. The images include animals like lizards and waterfowl, human figures, and symbols such as crosses.

Visitors can take guided tours through the monument or they may choose to explore on their own. There are no fees required to enter the park, but visitors are asked not to remove any items from its grounds without permission from park officials


Caballo Lake State Park

caballo lake - best state parks in new mexico

Caballo Lake State Park is one of the top state parks in New Mexico. It has a beautiful lake, as well as a variety of hiking trails. Caballo Lake State Park also provides visitors with cabins and camping grounds.

Caballo Lake State Park is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near the town of Taos, New Mexico. The park is about a 10-minute drive from the town center. Caballo Lake is surrounded by pine trees and offers plenty of opportunities for recreation.

The park offers activities like fishing and boating on Caballo Lake, hiking on trails through the pine forest, picnicking, and camping at sites with water and electricity hookups. Caballo Lake is also home to a historic ranch house called El Zaguanito, where visitors can see how ranches operated during the 1800s.


Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

organ mountains - best state parks in new mexico
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Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is a 496,000-acre national monument in southern New Mexico that is home to a diverse array of wildlife and plants, including more than 600 plant species and several endangered species.

The monument also offers visitors opportunities for hiking, camping, horseback riding, and photography. The park features two main units: the Organ Mountains and the Desert Peaks Unit.

The Organ Mountains Unit is located about 50 miles southeast of Las Cruces and contains the highest peak in the park at 5,093 feet above sea level. It encompasses three distinct mountain ranges: the San Andres Mountains (east), Laguna Mountains (north), and Sierra de las Uvas Mountains (west). The Desert Peaks Unit is located about 35 miles south of Las Cruces. It includes five mountain ranges: Doña Ana Range (northeast), Potrillo/Chihuahua/San Andres Mountains (southwest), Mangas Mountain (southeast), Santa Teresa Mountain (northwest), and Three Sisters Mountain (north).

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is a United States National Monument managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It encompasses three mountain ranges – the Organ Mountains, the Potrillo Mountains, and the Franklin Mountains – and two separate desert valleys, Las Cruces and Tularosa.

  • Address: Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, Las Cruces District Office, Las Cruces, NM 88005
  • View More Park Info

Conclusion

New Mexico is home to some incredible state and national parks. From the breathtaking views of the Organ Mountains to the unique rock formations of White Sands National Monument, there are so many beautiful places to explore in the Land of Enchantment. If you’re looking for something new and exciting this summer, why not experience nature first-hand and head out to one of these thrilling natural parks?

Frequently Asked Questions About State Parks In New Mexico

Are New Mexico state parks open to out-of-state visitors?

New Mexico’s state parks are open to everyone, regardless of where you’re from. The only exception is that some of the parks may charge an additional fee for non-residents. So if you’re traveling through New Mexico and want to make sure you get your money’s worth out of your park experience, it’s always a good idea to check ahead of time!

How many state parks are there in New Mexico?

There are 35 state parks in New Mexico, not including national parks and monuments.

Is camping allowed in New Mexico right now (2022)?

Yes, you can camp in New Mexico right now! The state parks system in New Mexico offers several excellent camping experiences, from rustic tent-only campsites to more modern cabin accommodations.

What is the biggest national park in New Mexico?

The biggest national park in New Mexico is the White Sands National Monument, which covers nearly 150,000 acres of beautiful dunes and land.

What is the biggest state park in New Mexico?

The biggest state park in New Mexico is Elephant Butte Lake State Park, with over 24,000 acres.

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