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11 Top Recreational Lakes near Albuquerque, NM

Surprisingly, Albuquerque has a good number of recreational lakes. Some are just fishing or swimming holes, but most offer water recreation, including boating, paddling, and sailing.
Blue Hole in Santa Rosa New Mexico

Albuquerque has access to more lakes than many people realize. In fact, the options here are diverse and plentiful.

For example, Tingley Beach is a vital community space with good fishing and trails. Cochiti Lake is the nearest full-on recreation reservoir with amazing windsurfing and swimming. Ramah Lake is for seasoned adventurers, and Fenton Lake is the ultimate mountain lake getaway.

Whether you’re into kayaking, scuba diving, or fly fishing, there is definitely a lake for you here. You can choose one or rent an RV and see them all. Check out the options!

Related: 12 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Santa Fe, NM

Best Lakes near Albuquerque Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Tingley Beach

Tingley Beach in Albuquerque
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Tingley Beach
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 2 miles (5 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics

Tingley Beach is a hugely-popular recreational area just minutes from downtown. Although not as versatile as other destinations on the list, it’s the nearest spot to unwind, cast a rod, and enjoy the outdoors.

It consists of several ponds and has access to the Rio Grande. Here you can find fishing piers, a cafe, grills, and pedal boat rentals – plenty of amenities to spend a fun day outside.

However, despite its name, swimming is prohibited at Tigley Beach, and so are kayaking and boating. 

The only way to get on the water is to rent one of the pedal boats offered by the park. Still, the river is just a stone’s throw away, and this is where you can enjoy kayaking and canoeing.

Yet, the most popular activity at Tingley Beach is fishing. Central and South (Bob Gerding) Ponds are stocked bi-weekly. The latter is a catch-and-release fishery with restrictions on certain bait and lures. While the Central Pond has no such limits and is known for trout, channel catfish, and largemouth bass, not to mention various panfish.

Also, Tingley Beach has access to miles of hiking and biking trails, including the Paseo del Bosque Trail, which stretches along the Rio Grande for 18 miles.

Overall, it’s an excellent recreational area and a vital part of the community that’s best for afternoon breaks and day trips.

Related: 12 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Santa Fe, NM

2. Liam Knight’s Pond

  • Official Page: Liam Knight’s Pond
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 12 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming Pool, Sports Grounds, Splash Pad, Skate Park

Liam Knight’s Pond is a tiny waterhole part of a larger recreational complex in Corrales, just 20 minutes from Albuquerque. The access is from Corrales Parks and Recreation on Jones Road. 

The pond itself is a popular fishing spot known for channel cats. Yet, because of its modest size and pressure from anglers, it’s not very productive. It’s a nice place to fish for the process rather than a result.

The best way to enjoy the pond is as a complement to the family-oriented recreational site nearby. It offers a swimming pool with a splash pad and basketball and tennis courts. 

In short, Liam Knight’s Pond is great for short fishing expeditions, but it’s way too small for swimming, paddling, or boating.

3. Zia Reservoir

  • Official Page: none
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 40 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Hiking

Zia Reservoir is a small pond in Zia Pueblo, some 50 minutes from Albuquerque. It’s an excellent fishing hole, but it lacks other activities.

The reservoir is easily accessible from 550 and is set against a stunning New Mexican landscape with gorgeous Zia Mesa in the distance.

The main reason anglers come here is bass. Despite its modest size, Zia Reservoir frequently yields three and four-pound largemouth bass, as well as channel and blue catfish. Shore access is excellent but be prepared to snag a line or two.

The pond isn’t great for swimming or paddling, but there are plenty of hiking trails in the nearby hills and canyons.

If fishing is your main activity, you’d love it here, but this isn’t a traditional recreational reservoir and won’t suit most folks.

4. Cochiti Lake

Cochiti Lake near Santa Fe and Albuquerque New Mexico
Source: flickr/Public Domain
  • Official Page: Cochiti Lake
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 50 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Boating, Sailing, Windsurfing, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Cochiti Lake is a medium-size reservoir on the Rio Grande, 50 miles north of Albuquerque. It’s the nearest full-on recreational lake with few limits in place.

The reservoir is managed by the Corps of Engineers and has two main recreational areas – Cochiti Lake on the western shore and Tetilla Peak on the eastern. Both are fantastic choices and provide camping, hiking, boat ramps, and designated swimming areas.

However, Cochiti Lake is a no-wake lake which is its only restriction. This means wakeboarding, water skiing, or jet skiing are prohibited.

Instead, it’s an excellent location for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and fishing. And what’s more, it’s the nearest spot to Albuquerque where windsurfing and kite surfing are possible.

When it comes to fishing, Cochiti Lake is pretty good. It offers a wide selection of species and is primarily known for smallmouth bass, white bass, northern pike, and channel cats. Naturally, a reservoir of such size produces decent sizes, too. For example, a 15-pound pike is not unheard of here.

Also, one thing in the area that you shouldn’t miss is the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, just a couple of miles from the lake. It offers unique and gorgeous rock formations that never fail to amaze, and hiking through them is just magical.

Related: 12 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Santa Fe, NM

5. Escondida Lake

  • Official Page: Escondida Lake
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 75 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Camping

Escondida Lake is a small reservoir near Socorro, some 75 miles south of Albuquerque. It’s a nice spot for fishing, camping, and overnight stops on long journeys south.

The lake is part of the county park, easily accessible from I-25. It offers well-kept facilities, campgrounds with RV hookups, and a few miles of hiking trails. It’s an excellent option for trying out RV life. You can rent one at RVShare and go on a short trip.

Apart from the campground, fishing is the main reason to visit this lake. It’s stocked with trout in winter and channel catfish in summer, offering a chance to catch dinner year-round.

Some may say it’s not worth the drive, but anglers who enjoy peaceful fishing away from busier ponds would love this spot.

6. Bluewater Lake

  • Official Page: Bluewater Lake
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 103 miles (1h 35min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Boating, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Bluewater Lake is a 1,200-acre reservoir in the Zuni Mountains, about 100 miles west of Albuquerque. It’s a well-known recreational spot with hardly any restrictions.

The best thing about this lake is that it’s managed by Bluewater Lake State Park, which offers campgrounds, boat ramps, beaches, and miles of hiking trails – everything you may need on a lake getaway. 

Swimming, kayaking, and motorboating are all allowed on Bluewater Lake. However, this reservoir is sensitive to droughts, to the point when the water level drops below the ramps. If you plan to launch a large craft, check with the park before traveling.

What’s more, the lake is a unique fishery offering a chance to catch gorgeous but vicious tiger muskie. In fact, it even holds the state record for these fish – 31lbs 14oz, set in 2012. Also, you can expect catfish and rainbow trout, but they won’t give you a fight of your life like muskies do.

Overall, it’s a hugely versatile and family-friendly destination that rarely disappoints, well-worth the drive.

7. Ramah Reservoir

  • Official Page: Ramah Reservoir
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 132 miles (2h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping

Ramah Reservoir is a 144-acre man-made lake on the edge of the Cibola National Forest. Remote and rugged, this destination is for seasoned adventurers who know how to take care of themselves in the wilderness.

The lake is used for farming, so the water level fluctuates a lot. Hence, the best times to visit are spring and early summer. This is when the area is at its best, with lush greens contrasting against the bright-red canyon walls that nestle the lake.

Ramah Reservoir is a no-wake place best suited for kayaks and canoes. In fact, this might be one of the most special paddling destinations near Albuquerque. 

Fishing is allowed in Ramah Reservoir, too. But because the stocks aren’t managed, and the lake is prone to droughts, the fish population is having a hard time here. You will probably catch a perch or two, but this is all the one can hope for.

Instead, the area offers an unparalleled hiking experience with gorgeous panoramas and striking layered canyons. This destination is underappreciated, and it’s not something you will find in guidebooks.

Also, once you’re in the national forest, dispersed camping becomes possible, and there is a Ramah Falls to marvel at, too.

Related: 12 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Santa Fe, NM

8. Fenton Lake

Fenton Lake State Park Campground near Santa Fe New Mexico
Source: wikimedia/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Fenton Lake
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 78 miles (1h 35min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping

Fenton Lake is a 37-acre mountain lake deep in Jemez Mountains. It’s an excellent family-friendly destination and a well-known trout fishing spot.

The lake is managed by Fenton Lake State Park, which offers campgrounds, a boat ramp, and a few hiking trails. It’s a well-kept location that gets busy in summer, although it’s open year-round.

Swimming and gas motors aren’t allowed at Fenton Lake. It’s too small for motorized boating, and the water is frigid even in the midst of summer. 

Instead, it’s a fantastic spot for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. The lake is large enough to explore yet cozy and unintimidating for beginners.

Another reason to visit is fishing. Fenton Lake is a highly-rated trout fishery that gets stocked with rainbow trout in winter. Plus, you can expect brown and Rio Grande trout, too. The shore access is ok; there is a bank for anglers but if you want more space for yourself, bringing a kayak or a row boat is a good idea.

The great thing about Fenton Lake is that it’s open year-round. In winter, it’s a fantastic spot for ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. So, no matter the weather, it’s an excellent lake getaway.

9. Blue Hole

Blue Hole in Santa Rosa New Mexico on Route 66
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Blue Hole
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 118 miles (1h 45min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Picnics, Aqua Park, Scuba Diving

Blue Hole is a hugely-popular swimming hole in Santa Rosa. Its crystal clear sapphire water makes it the perfect destination for cooling off in summer and one of the must-visit places on Route 66.

You can dive, jump, swim, and snorkel here. And although it’s only 60 feet in diameter, the hole extends 80 feet below, making it an incredible scuba diving spot. You have to see it to believe it!

In addition to Blue Hole, Santa Rosa has ponds and a lake, offering even more swimming opportunities. The park nearby has picnic benches, a jumping platform, and an impressive inflatable water park. Plus, you can hire peddle boats and kayaks and go on an adventure.

Santa Rosa takes water recreation to a whole new level and is by far the most family-friendly option on the list; definitely worth the drive.

10. Santa Rosa Lake

Santa Rosa Lake State Park near Santa Rosa New Mexico
Source: flickr/Public Domain
  • Official Page: Santa Rosa Lake
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 124 miles (1h 50min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

Santa Rosa Lake is a 3,500-acre reservoir north of Santa Rosa. It’s a gorgeous destination with plenty of activities and hardly any restrictions.

The lake is accessed from Santa Rosa Lake State Park, located near the dam, which offers campgrounds, miles of hiking trails, a boat ramp, and swimming areas. It’s a peaceful destination that doesn’t get crowded, making it the perfect spot for escaping the hustle and bustle of cities.

When it comes to activities, everything goes at Santa Rosa Lake. From swimming and kayaking to fast boating and wakeboarding, there are no restrictions here. Yet, it suffers greatly from droughts. In some years, even in early June, it can be already closed for motorized boating. Check with the park before traveling.

However, where the lake excels is fishing. It’s a highly-rated spot with rich fishing reports. Trout is hard to catch here, so most anglers go for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and walleye. Plus, there are plenty of channel cats, bluegill, and carp, too.

Another fantastic thing about Santa Rosa Lake is the lack of light pollution. Located at 4,751 feet and with an unrestricted skyline, it makes for incredible night sky photos.

Naturally, the biggest drawback to this destination is the long drive. But with a shortage of large recreational reservoirs, a place of this caliber is worth it.

Related: 12 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Santa Fe, NM

11. Elephant Butte Reservoir

Elephant Butte Reservoir on Rio Grande New Mexico
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Elephant Butte Reservoir
  • Distance from Albuquerque: 145 miles (2h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Boating, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

It’s hard to imagine a list of lakes near Albuquerque without Elephant Butte Reservoir. At 36,000 acres, it’s the largest and the most versatile lake in New Mexico.

With 100 miles of shoreline, it offers dozens of access areas, including marinas, remote beaches, and a state park. Generally, it’s a well-developed destination with plenty of campgrounds and boat ramps to choose from.

Water activities here are endless. Swimming, paddling, wakeboarding, and pulling tubes are all possible. Yet, like many places in New Mexico, the reservoir is sensitive to droughts, and some boat ramps remain closed for months, if not years. You can check the current conditions here.

Besides fantastic boating, Elephant Butte Reservoir is known for incredible fishing and frequently gets the highest reviews. The fish variety here is ridiculous. You can catch any type of bass or catfish, as well as drum, carp, shad, bluegill, and crappie, just to name a few.

The action is really good at this lake. It’s highly unlikely that you will return home empty-handed. And what’s more, Elephant Butte Reservoir has the most fishing records in the state, with five record-breaking catches.

With so many advantages, this destination is a safe bet when choosing a lake, although it’s over 2 hours away from Albuquerque. And if you want to make your visit even more special, try visiting when Balloon Regatta is on (usually the first weekend of August). 

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