Daniel is a copywriter who has well and truly been bitten alive by the 'travel bug'. After ticking off several North American National Parks and exploring Europe by train, his sights are now set on South East Asia. Usually with at least one camera locked and loaded, you'll find Daniel wherever there are mountains, lakes or beaches.
Ready for an unforgettable voyage through the mesmerizing lakes near Santa Fe? We’re taking you on a breathtaking journey where natural beauty, rich history, and endless recreational activities collide. From the tranquil waters of Santa Cruz Lake to the rugged trails of Pecos Wilderness, get ready to explore ten lakes that promise adventure, tranquility, and much more.
Santa Rosa Lake
A two-hour journey southeast of Santa Fe leads to Santa Rosa Lake, a 3,500-acre reservoir famous for its fishing prospects. Operated by Santa Rosa State Park, the lake offers a range of activities like swimming, kayaking, wakeboarding, and jet skiing, made more enjoyable by the warmer summer waters due to its lower altitude. While the lake provides serene spaces for camping and hiking, its abundant bass, catfish, carp, and walleye assure that anglers seldom leave empty-handed.
A scenic 143-mile drive from Santa Fe reveals Conchas Lake, stretching 11 miles alongside the Conchas River. A portion of its 88-mile shoreline is managed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, providing access to fishing, swimming, camping, boating, and hiking. Open year-round, Conchas Lake is stocked with a variety of fish, including bluegill, catfish, crappie, bass, and walleye, and offers excellent boating and water skiing opportunities, facilitated by boat ramps in the North and South Recreation Areas.
Santa Cruz Lake
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Take a detour 30 miles north of Santa Fe to Santa Cruz Lake, a tranquil spot where outdoor activities meet historic charm. Born from the snow-fed rivers starting their journey towards the Gulf of Mexico, the Lake sits at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, offering boating, fishing, and hiking. The 1929 Santa Cruz Dam’s presence adds a slice of history to this picturesque 121-acre landscape.
Just over an hour from Santa Fe, Storrie Lake awaits, offering a blend of adventure and tranquility. Managed by Storrie Lake State Park, it provides an array of amenities amidst its 1,100-acre domain. Visitors can enjoy swimming, kayaking, or even wakeboarding when the water levels allow. The unique beach and boat-in camping and the modest prospects of catching trout, carp, or catfish set it apart from typical lakeside locales.
Cochiti Lake, stretching 7 miles on the Rio Grande River and tucked away in the rugged landscape of Sandoval County, is a hub of water-based adventures. Situated 20 miles west of Santa Fe, it boasts a gamut of recreational activities, including sailing, fishing, and windsurfing. The west flank hosts the Cochiti Recreation Area, while the east shelters the Tetilla Peak Recreation Area, each offering camping and day-use facilities. Known for its abundant northern pikes and walleyes, the lake is a haven for those who love to cast a line.
El Vado Lake
Residing in Rio Arriba County, El Vado Lake offers an unforgettable experience with its 3,200-acre expanse, brought to life by the 1935 El Vado Dam. The eastern shore, hosting El Vado Lake State Park, boasts over 100 camping and picnic sites and two boat ramps. Unrestricted boat speeds make the lake popular for boating alongside trout and salmon fishing. A 5.5-mile hiking trail, crossing the Rio Chama Gorge via a pedestrian bridge, further connects to Heron Lake State Park.
Situated 80 miles northwest of Santa Fe, in Rio Arriba County, Heron Lake provides a perfect balance of leisure and adventure. The lake, home to the Heron Lake State Park, is known for salmon and trout fishing, and small boat sailing due to its no-wake policy. Over 200 camping and picnic sites dot the landscape, while a 5.5-mile hiking trail meanders through the Rio Chama Gorge, connecting to El Vado Lake State Park for extended exploration.
Eagle Nest Lake
Tucked away in Eagle Nest Lake State Park, north of Santa Fe, the 2,000-acre Eagle Nest Lake offers a wild landscape complemented by modern conveniences. From accessible boat ramps and campgrounds to nearby shops and eateries, the lake seamlessly blends wilderness with comfort. Despite its chilly waters, the lake invites brave swimmers, kayakers, and paddleboarders to enjoy its pristine beauty. Especially notable, the lake is a hotspot for fishing enthusiasts, boasting a rich variety of large, record-setting fish.
Another body of water in Rio Arriba County, Abiquiu Lake offers plenty of activities from swimming and camping to fishing and hiking. Anglers with a New Mexico license can enjoy catching catfish, crappie, and bass, while treasure hunters can participate in geocaching. When not exploring the lake or its surroundings, the nearby Georgia O’Keefe Museum, Ghost Ranch, and Chaco Canyon offer rich cultural and historical experiences.
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Part of the Santa Fe National Forest, Pecos Wilderness is a haven for adventurous souls offering breathtaking mountain lakes like Nambe Lake, Lake Katherine, and Santa Fe Lake. The challenge lies in the grueling hiking trails to reach these lakes, with a 6.7-mile trail leading to Nambe Lake and an elevation-rising path heading to Santa Fe Lake. The jewel is the 13.5-mile return route to Lake Katherine, you will likely need more than a day for this! These lakes, perfect for fishing, swimming, and potentially paddling, are nestled in stunning terrains free for camping and are well worth the effort of getting to!