New Mexico is known for its stunning desert terrain, which is home to gorgeous sandstone cliffs, mountain ranges, and volcanic calderas. Popular parks such as Carlsbad Caverns National Park are home to world-famous sites such as the glorious Carlsbad Cavern, which offers regular guided and self-guided tours throughout the year. A number of national parks and monuments preserve sites connected to the region's Ancestral Puebloan indigenous and Spanish Catholic mission history. Others protect significant dinosaur tracks and remains or showcase sites connected to the region's history of atomic testing or hydroelectric development.
1.Cimarron Canyon State Park
Cimarron Canyon State Park is a gorgeous state park near the town of Eagle Nest, extending for approximately eight miles along the stunning Cimarron Canyon between Ute Park and Tolby Creek. The park, which sits at an elevation of more than 7,800 feet above sea level, is traversed by the thickly-forested Cimarron River and offers amazing opportunities for wildlife watching as part of the regional Colin Neblett Wildlife Management Area. Parkgoers can enjoy amazing photo opportunities at the cliffs of the Palisades Sill or hike throughout the park's excellent trail system to sites such as the picturesque waterfalls of Clear Creek Trail. Opportunities to catch rainbow and brown trout abound at the Cimarron River and Clear Creek. Overnight camping is offered at three campgrounds throughout the park, which all feature RV and tent hookups.
28869 US-64, Eagle Nest, NM 87718, Phone: 575-377-6271
2.City of Rocks State Park
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City of Rocks State Park is one of New Mexico's most popular state parks, visited by more than 50,000 parkgoers each year. The park, which spans a square mile throughout the Chihuahuan Desert near the cities of Deming and Silver City, is named in honor of its spectacular volcanic rock formations, including its namesake 40-foot-high sculpted pinnacle rock formations. The park's formations were created approximately 35 million years ago and eroded into their present state today, which vaguely resembles the pathways and lanes of city streets. Parkgoers can enjoy excellent opportunities for hiking and mountain biking throughout the park's extensive trail system. Dark-sky viewing opportunities are offered via public access telescopes. Other attractions include a desert botanical garden, a newly-renovated visitor center with modern exhibits, and a number of day-use picnic sites.
327 New Mexico 61, Faywood, NM 88034, Phone: 575-536-2800
3.Clayton Lake State Park
Clayton Lake State Park is a lovely state park located approximately 15 miles north of the city of Clayton, near New Mexico's Four Corners state border. The park is anchored around the scenic 170-acre reservoir of the same name, which was originally created as a fishing and recreational lake in 1955 by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Parkgoers can view one of North America's most extensively preserved sects of dinosaur tracks, which are embedded in rocks near Clayton Lake and can be observed from a quarter-mile access trail. Anglers on the lake can catch trout, bass, catfish, and walleye throughout the park's fishing season, which typically lasts between March and October. Since 2010, the park has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park and is home to the Lake Observatory, which gives visitors a chance to look at stars up close with public-access telescopes.
141 Clayton Lake Rd, Clayton, NM 88415, Phone: 575-374-8808
4.Heron Lake State Park
Heron Lake State Park is a gorgeous state park anchored around the 5,900-acre lake of the same name, which was named in honor of hydroelectric engineer Kenneth A. Heron, a prominent area figure in the early 20th century. The designated quiet lake, which only allows boats at no-wake speed, is located within Rio Arriba County and receives water from the San Juan River as part of the region's San Juan-Chama Project water diversion. Amazing opportunities for water sports are offered throughout the year, including sailing and fishing for record-breaking kokanee salmon and trout. On land, parkgoers can hike the park's 5.5-mile trail to nearby El Vado Lake or enjoy cross-country skiing opportunities during the winter months. Wildlife watching opportunities abound for species such as black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, and osprey.
Los Ojos, NM 87551, Phone: 575-588-7470
5.Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park is a gorgeous New Mexico state park near Carlsbad, located atop the beautiful Ocotillo Hills overlooking the scenic Pecos River. The park, which has been an accredited Association of Zoos and Aquariums facility since 2002, is home to more than 40 species of native Chihuahuan Desert flora and fauna kept within their natural habitats. Gorgeous hiking trails meander through the living museum, which can be explored as part of a 1.3-mile self-guided walking tour. Along the route, visitors can see animals such as bison, bobcats, pronghorn, mule deer, Gila monsters, and Mexican wolves in their natural habitats. An aviary also showcases spectacular golden eagles, roadrunners, hawks, and songbirds.
1504 Miehls Rd, Carlsbad, NM 88220, Phone: 575-887-5516
6.Morphy Lake State Park
Morphy Lake State Park is one of New Mexico's smallest state parks, only spanning an area of approximately 30 acres throughout the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near the city of Mora. The park, which is located at an elevation of more than 8,000 feet, is home to a beautiful 15-acre lake within the Pecos Wilderness, which provides excellent opportunities for rainbow trout and kokanee salmon fishing. Though boats are allowed on the lake, visitors should note that gas-powered motors are prohibited to protect sensitive environmental conditions. Throughout the winter months, the lake's waters frequently freeze over due to the park's high altitude conditions, making for excellent ice fishing conditions. Overnight camping is popular at the park, including primitive backcountry camping.
Murphy Lake Road, Mora, NM 87732, Phone: 575-387-2328
7.Navajo Lake State Park
Navajo Lake State Park is anchored around New Mexico's second-largest reservoir, which is located within San Juan and Rio Arriba Counties and neighboring Colorado county Archuleta County. The lake and park serve as a boater's paradise throughout the year, known as a world-class fly fishing destination. Anglers can catch smallmouth bass, northern pike, black crappie, channel catfish, and trout throughout the year aboard motorized and non-motorized boats. Two boat docks are offered at the park, along with two marinas offering rentals and supplies. Water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, and water skiing are popular activities throughout the warmer months.
36 Road 4110 #1, Navajo Dam, NM 87419, Phone: 505-632-2278
8.Rockhound State Park
Rockhound State Park is a lovely state park located approximately seven miles outside the city of Deming, named in honor of the abundance of unique historic minerals and rocks throughout the region. The park, which is located within the gorgeous Little Florida Mountains, is a prime spot for rock collectors in the area, stocked with beautiful deposits of quartz crystals, jasper, perlite, and geodoes. Stunning rugged mountain slopes showcase unique geology and picturesque patches of wildflowers, particularly in the park's Spring Canyon unit, which serves as a popular spot for cliff hiking. A quaint campground offers primitive accommodations, while several day-use picnic sites provide places to rest and relax with lunch amidst the scenery.
9880 Stirrup Rd SE, Deming, NM 88030, Phone: 575-546-6182
9.Sugarite Canyon State Park
Sugarite Canyon State Park is a unique state park located along the Colorado-New Mexico state border near the city of Raton, preserving gorgeous natural landmarks and the remains of a pioneer-era coal mining camp. The park's lands, which are named for an indigenous word for a bird found within the canyon era, served as a significant water source and coal mining region beginning as early as 1891 and were abandoned around the time of World War II. Since 1985, it has been preserved as a state park, attracting more than 125,000 visitors each year. A myriad of outdoor recreation opportunities are offered throughout the year, including chances for fishing, boating, horseback riding, hunting, and nature hiking. Electric hookup campsites are offered at the Lake Alice and Soda Pocket Campgrounds, while group shelters are available at the park's Gambel Oak Group Area.
211 Highway 526, Raton, NM 87740, Phone: 575-445-5607
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10.Villanueva State Park
Villanueva State Park is a delightful state park located along the banks of the beautiful Pecos River in Villanueva, approximately half an hour southwest of downtown Las Vegas. The park is known for its unique red and yellow sandstone cliff formations, which are located along high sandstone bluffs in a canyon above the Pecos River. Cottonwood trees and other native flora are showcased throughout the park, which reaches elevations of more than 5,600 feet above sea level at its highest points. Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of recreational activities throughout the year, ranging from fishing and wildlife watching to hiking along the canyon's steep walls. Primitive camping opportunities are offered for visitor use, along with day-use picnic sites.
135 Dodge Road, Villanueva, NM 87583, Phone: 575-421-2957
11.Aztec Ruins National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument preserve gorgeous 11th-century Ancestral Puebloan homes and civic structures located approximately nine miles from the Salmon Ruins Museum. The monument, which is easily accessible from the city of Farmington, is named in honor of the ruins' 19th-century discovery by European settlers, who mistakenly believed that the ruins belonged to the ancient Aztec Empire. Today, the site is incorporated as a part of the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway and is preserved as part of the Chaco Culture UNESCO World Heritage Site. Parkgoers can view the preserved historic structures as part of self-guided tours along the park's educational visitor trail, which also showcases touring site reconstructions. A visitor center is also offered at the park, along with a native plants walk showcasing plants common to the New Mexico region. A pedestrian river bridge at the park is designated as a site along the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, documenting the region's Spanish mission history.
725 Ruins Road, Aztec, NM 87410, Phone: 505-334-6174
12.Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is a gorgeous national monument dedicated in order to preserve an ancient Ancestral Puebloan site believed to have been occupied between 1150 and 1550. Following the arrival of Europeans in the region and a series of extreme droughts that impacted the area's farming capacity, the Ancestral Pueblo at the site migrated to the nearby Rio Grande region. Today, parkgoers can view preserved archaeological village sites at the park along self-guided nature trails, including petroglyphs preserved at Tsankawi and Frijoles Canyon. More than 33,000 acres of mesa and canyon terrain are preserved overall at the park, making for gorgeous photo opportunities. Cultural exhibits and a documentary film are offered at the park's visitor center, which also hosts ranger-led nature walks and night sky programming throughout the year. Parkgoers looking for backcountry hiking and camping opportunities can obtain single-day and multi-day permits upon request from the park's visitor center.
15 Entrance RD, Los Alamos, NM 87544, Phone: 505-672-3861
13.Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park showcases over a hundred gorgeous caves throughout New Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountain regions, stretching for more than 46,000 acres near the city of Carlsbad. The park is best known as the home of the internationally-renowned Carlsbad Cavern, which can be toured as part of guided and self-guided tours throughout the year. The stunning cavern is home to major attractions such as its Big Room limestone chamber, which stretches for 4,000 feet and is one of the largest cavern rooms of its kind in North America. A visitor center at the park offers educational exhibits on the region's ecology and leads interpretive programming such as bat flight viewings and nature hiking excursions.
3225 National Parks Highway, Carlsbad, NM 88220, Phone: 575-785-2232
14.Capulin Volcano National Monument
Capulin Volcano National Monument preserves a gorgeous well-preserved symmetrical cinder cone volcano located within northeastern New Mexico's Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field, approximately three miles outside the town of Capulin. The volcano, which is presumed to be approximately 60,000 years old, reaches heights of more than 8,000 feet above sea level, while its rim stretches approximately a mile in circumference. Since its designation as a national monument in 1916, the park has received national notoriety for its geologic training for NASA astronauts, including Apollo 16 crew members Charlie Duke and John Young. Visitors can hike to the top of the mountain and view beautiful panoramas of five states, including Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado. A visitor center at the park offers exhibits on the volcano's history and the region's geologic and cultural history.
44 Volcano Road, Capulin, NM 88414, Phone: 575-278-2201
15.Chaco Culture National Historical Park
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Chaco Culture National Historical Park is anchored around a preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site within the gorgeous Chaco Canyon, believed to have been heavily populated as a major center of indigenous culture between 850 and 1250. During its peak around 1050, the site is believed to have been the central economic and ceremonial area of New Mexico's San Juan Basin region and is thought to have served as an important spiritual site for indigenous people throughout what is now the American Southwest. Since 1907, the site has been preserved as a National Historical Park. In 2013, the park's lands were designated as an International Dark Sky Park to protect natural ecosystems from light pollution damage. Developed attractions at the park include a visitor center with nature exhibits, a self-guided Canyon Loop Drive trail showcasing archaeological sites, and ranger-led astronomy and solar viewing programming.
PO Box 220, Nageezi, NM 87037, Phone: 505-786-7014
16.El Malpais National Monument
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El Malpais National Monument is a gorgeous national monument in western New Mexico, named for the Spanish term malpaís, which translates to "badlands." The park, which is located along the Trails of the Ancients Byway, showcases features of the Zuni-Bandera volcanic field, one of the American Southwest's largest volcanic fields. Since 1987, the region has been overseen by the National Park Service, under joint supervision with the nearby El Morro National Monument. Visitors can explore the park's unique lava tube and cavern features, which are accessible with free caving permits offered from the park's visitor center. A stunning overlook vista at Sandstone Bluffs also offers beautiful panoramic views of the region's lava flows. Two visitor centers at the park showcase natural history exhibits and showings of documentary films on the region's ecology.
11000 Ice Cave Rd, Grants, NM 87020, Phone: 505-876-2783
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17.El Morro National Monument
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El Morro National Monument is one of New Mexico's unique indigenous archaeological sites, preserving a former Ancestral Puebloan and pioneer campsite and watering hole that served as a central stopping point for travelers through the American Southwest during the region's early European settler period. For several hundred years, the monument was carved with more than 2,000 signatures and petroglyphs, including dates and messages marking pioneer travels through the region. Today, the site has been preserved as a national monument, showcased along an Inscription Trail which offers self-guided tours to the petroglyph site. Ancestral Puebloan ruins atop a cuesta at Atsinna can also be explored via the two-mile Headland Trail.
HC 61 Box 43, Ramah, NM 87321, Phone: 505-783-4226
18.Fort Union National Monument
Fort Union National Monument was established to protect the remains of the historic Fort Union, which served as a prominent defense fort for the New Mexico region throughout the mid-19th century. The monument, which is easily accessible via the city of Watrous, preserves the ruins of the 1851 fort, the second of three of its kind that stood at its location. Parkgoers can observe the second and third forts' ruins along the park's two self-guided interpretive trails, which stretch for half a mile and 1.25 miles and are easily accessible for visitors of all mobility levels. A network of ruts created by pioneer travel along the Mountain and Cimarron portions of the Santa Fe Trail is also highlighted along interpretive trails. At the park's visitor center, parkgoers can view museum exhibits related to the forts and ruins, along with a short documentary film outlining the history of the Santa Fe Trail. Interpretive programming offered throughout the year includes guided nature walks and night sky observation parties.
PO Box 127, Watrous, NM 87753, Phone: 505-425-8025
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19.Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a gorgeous national monument near Silver City, preserving significant Mogollon cliff dwellings within the Gila Wilderness near the Gila River. The monument was originally established in 1907 following the discovery of the Mogollon ruins by Silver City resident Henry B. Ailman in 1878. Today, the monument showcases the ruins of two ancient Mimbres Culture sites at its TJ Ruins and Cliff Dweller Canyon units. 553 acres of beautiful wilderness is also preserved as a natural area, which can be explored by hikers and backcountry campers. At the park's visitor center, parkgoers can view a number of exhibits showcasing Mogollon and Apache artifacts, including exhibits on a mummified body uncovered at the site that is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum.
26 Jim Bradford Trail, Mimbres, NM 88049, Phone: 575-536-9461
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20.Pecos National Historic Park
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Pecos National Historic Park stretches for more than 6,600 acres throughout Santa Fe and San Miguel Counties, located less than half an hour drive from downtown Santa Fe. The park protects the intact ruins of its namesake indigenous Pueblo village, which was home to more than 2,000 citizens at the peak of its occupancy in the mid-13th century. Visitors can view the ruins along a mile-and-a-half self-guided interpretive trail, which also provides access to the 17th-century Spanish Catholic Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Porciúncula de los Pecos. Other sites showcased at the park include the Glorieta Pass Battlefield, the early-20th-century Forked Lightning Ranch, and several preserved portions of the Old Santa Fe Trail.
P.O. Box 418, Pecos, NM 87552, Phone: 505-757-7241
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21.Petroglyph National Monument
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Petroglyph National Monument extends for 17 miles throughout the West Mesa volcanic basalt escarpment, which forms a beautiful silhouette along the western skyline horizon of the city of Albuquerque. The park, which was originally established in 1990, is a joint venture by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque, protecting volcanic cones and archaeological sites and artifacts throughout the city's bordering region. Visitors can view a chain of dormant fissure volcanoes via the Volcano Day Use Trail or explore the park's Boca Negra, Rinconada, and Piedras Marcadas Canyon units. Approximately 24,000 petroglyphs carved by Ancestral Pueblo area residents are also preserved, many of which are believed to have held deep cultural significance to the region's indigenous groups.
Western Trail NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120, Phone: 505-899-0205
22.Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is one of New Mexico's premiere Spanish-era historical parks, preserving the remains of three significant Spanish Catholic mission facilities constructed between 1622 and 1635. The park, which was originally established in 1909 to protect the remains of the Gran Quivira mission, now protects three missions within the Mountainair region. In addition to Gran Quivira, which is considered to be one of the American Southwest's most important preserved missions, the park also preserves the Mission of San Gregoiro de Abó and the Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Quarai mission. Visitors can explore the mission's ruins along self-guided interpretive trails, which offer information on the ruins' historical context.
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, PO Box 517, Mountainair, NM 87036-0517, Phone: 505-847-2585
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23.Valles Caldera National Preserve
Valles Caldera National Preserve protects the 13-mile inactive volcanic caldera of the same name, located within New Mexico's Jemez Mountain range. The caldera, which was designated in 1975 as a National Natural Landmark, was recently transferred to the care of the Valles Caldera National Preserve in 2000. Today, the preserve protects a wide variety of natural landmarks associated with the caldera, including the 11,253-foot Redondo Peak, a resurgent lava dome located within the caldera. Visitors can bring their horses to stroll along an extensive network of equestrian trails, many of which were developed in conjunction with the 1876 Baca Ranch, which was once located on the caldera's lands. Winter skiing opportunities are also available with advance reservation through the Valle Grande skiing valley within the park.
PO Box 359, Jemez Springs, NM 87025, Phone: 575-829-4100
24.White Sands National Monument
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White Sands National Monument is a beautiful national monument located near the city of Alamogordo, preserving a unique field of gorgeous white sand dunes. The park, which was originally established in 1933, is noted as the home of the world's largest gypsum dune field, which stretches over 275 square miles within the Tularosa Basin. Visitors can observe the stunning dunes, which have been featured in classic Western films such as Four Faces West and The Hired Hand, via four self-guided interpretive trails. A plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities are offered throughout the year, including opportunities for hiking, cycling, horseback riding, sledding, and backcountry camping. Ranger-led nature walks and programming embark regularly from the park's visitor center, which also showcases gorgeous preserved Spanish Pueblo-style ranger buildings.
PO Box 1086, Holloman AFB, NM 88330, Phone: 575-479-6124
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24 Best New Mexico State & National Parks
- Cimarron Canyon State Park, Photo: qingwa/stock.adobe.com
- City of Rocks State Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Clayton Lake State Park, Photo: DSGNSR/stock.adobe.com
- Heron Lake State Park, Photo: NADEZHDA/stock.adobe.com
- Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, Photo: Melastmohican/stock.adobe.com
- Morphy Lake State Park, Photo: eyepark/stock.adobe.com
- Navajo Lake State Park, Photo: Miniloc/stock.adobe.com
- Rockhound State Park, Photo: Laurens/stock.adobe.com
- Sugarite Canyon State Park, Photo: traveller70/stock.adobe.com
- Villanueva State Park, Photo: tadeas/stock.adobe.com
- Aztec Ruins National Monument, Photo: traveller70/stock.adobe.com
- Bandelier National Monument, Photo: stellamc/stock.adobe.com
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Photo: Takeshi/stock.adobe.com
- Capulin Volcano National Monument, Photo: traveller70/stock.adobe.com
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Photo: Josemaria Toscano/stock.adobe.com
- El Malpais National Monument, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- El Morro National Monument, Photo: jon manjeot/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Union National Monument, Photo: cbdusty/stock.adobe.com
- Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Pecos National Historic Park, Photo: Felipe Sanchez/stock.adobe.com
- Petroglyph National Monument, Photo: Frank Fichtmüller/stock.adobe.com
- Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Photo: Melastmohican/stock.adobe.com
- Valles Caldera National Preserve, Photo: tdezenzio/stock.adobe.com
- White Sands National Monument, Photo: Galyna Andrushko/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: traveller70/stock.adobe.com