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12 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe has an excellent selection of lakes. Most are part of state parks and offer every activity imaginable. Yet, there are a few gems that allow for scuba diving or require hiking to get to.
ItIsWild.com: Best Lakes near Santa Fe New Mexico

Santa Fe has a fantastic selection of lakes. Most of the options are operated by state parks and offer a wide variety of activities, both on water and land.

Yet, there are a few unique gems like Blue Hole in Santa Rosa and mountain lakes in Pecos Wilderness which are simply breathtaking.

Whether you like fishing in solitude or looking for a family-friendly lake to cool off in summer, Santa Fe has it. You can pick one or rent an RV and go see them all. Check out the options!

Related: 11 Top Recreational Lakes near Albuquerque, NM

Best Lakes near Santa Fe Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Cochiti Lake

Cochiti Lake near Santa Fe and Albuquerque New Mexico
Source: flickr/Public Domain
  • Official Page: Cochiti Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 36 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Boating, Sailing, Windsurfing, Hiking, Camping

Cochiti Lake is one of the nearest recreational lakes to the city. It’s located halfway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, making it a popular destination that’s buzzing on summer weekends.

The reservoir is managed by the Corp of Engineers and offers two large recreation areas – Tetilla Peak on the eastern side and Cochiti Lake Recreational Area on the western. Both locations provide campgrounds, boat ramps, and swimming areas.

Although boating is allowed on Cochiti Lake, it’s limited to no-wake speeds, meaning sports like wakeboarding, skiing, and jet skiing are prohibited.

Instead, the reservoir is known for its windy conditions and attracts windsurfers, kitesurfers, and sailors from far and wide. When the wind is blowing, you can always spot a sail here, but at other times, it’s an excellent paddling spot with kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding in full swing.

Another excellent thing about Cochiti Lake is fishing. It doesn’t get the best reviews, but it offers a wide selection of species, starting from bluegill and crappie to bass, cats, walleye, and 15-pound pike. However, rainbow trout is non-existent here, and largemouth bass is scarce.

What’s more, the Corps run a Facebook page for this lake, so it’s easy to get information and keep an eye on water levels.

Related: 11 Top Recreational Lakes near Albuquerque, NM

2. Santa Cruz Lake

  • Official Page: Santa Cruz Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 32 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Boating, Hiking, Camping

Santa Cruz Lake is a 121-acre reservoir just 32 miles from Santa Fe. It’s a charming lake nestled by rolling hillsides with some of the best trout fishing around.

The access area is managed by BLM. It operates seasonally, and the opening times vary depending on the month. See the BLM page for more details. 

When it comes to amenities, there are two campgrounds, a boat ramp, a fishing pier, and a selection of trails offering stunning views over the lake – everything you might need on a lake getaway. 

Yet, the lake has restrictions. For example, swimming is prohibited here, and boating is restricted to no-wake speeds. Still, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are fun ways to explore this incredible reservoir.

However, the main activity here is fishing. Santa Cruz lake is an incredible fishery, generously stocked with rainbow trout. In fact, it holds the state record for this specie – 31 lbs 12.5 oz, an impressive size for rainbow trout. Also, you can expect brown trout, but when it comes to warm water fish, apart from occasional bluegill, there are hardly any.

Yet, the biggest drawback to this lake is that it’s sensitive to drought. Water levels tend to fluctuate a lot, so if you plan to launch a large craft, check ahead.

3. Abiquiu Lake

Abiquiu Lake near Santa Fe New Mexico
Source: wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Official Page: Abiquiu Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 56 miles (1h 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Boating, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Windsurfing, Hiking, Camping

Abiquiu Lake┬áis a 5,200-acre reservoir on Rio Chama, just one hour from Santa Fe. It’s a gorgeous and versatile lake with hardly any restrictions. It’s a great choice for renting an RV and spending a weekend with family here.

The reservoir is managed by the Corps of Engineers and offers a campground, a boat ramp, and a designated swimming area. 

And like most Corps’ reservoirs, Abiquiu Lake doesn’t have any restrictions on recreation – swimming, paddling, fishing, and fast boating are all possible here. The only constraint is the fluctuating water levels which is the universal problem around Santa Fe.

One cool place here that you won’t find anywhere else is the Abiquiu Wave. It’s a spot on Rio Chama, a mile below the dam, where water creates a rapid with a reverse wave. It’s popular with white-water kayakers and surfers. Who knew there’s surfing in New Mexico!

What’s more, Abiquiu Lake is a pretty good fishing destination. It’s not known for trout or largemouth bass, but if you’re into smallmouth and walleye, you’d love it here. 

4. Storrie Lake

Storrie Lake near Las Vegas New Mexico
Source: flickr/public domain
  • Official Page: Storrie Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 73 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Boating, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Windsurfing, Hiking, Camping

Storrie Lake is a 1,100-acre reservoir near Las Vegas, just over an hour’s drive from Santa Fe. It’s a versatile lake with lots of activities and year-round operation.

The best thing about this destination is that it’s managed by Storrie Lake State Park, which offers plenty of amenities, including a boat ramp, a campground with RV spaces, and playgrounds. It has a little bit of everything.

Swimming is allowed at Storrie Lake. Also, it’s an excellent spot for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. And when the lake is full, it’s a fun boating spot with no restrictions, making wakeboarding, skiing, and sailing possible. Yet, the prolonged drought made the water levels unpredictable, so check before traveling

When it comes to fishing, Storrie Lake is OK. It’s not an exceptional fishery, nor the worst. You can catch rainbow trout, carp, and catfish, but bass is hard to find. 

However, what makes this lake special is the fact that you can do beach camping and boat-in camping. So, if setting up a camp by the water floats your boat, you’d love it here.

Related: 11 Top Recreational Lakes near Albuquerque, NM

5. Fenton Lake

Fenton Lake State Park Campground near Santa Fe New Mexico
Source: wikimedia/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Fenton Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 73 miles (1h 30min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping

Fenton Lake is a small 37-acre lake deep in Jerez Mountains. It has a classic mountain lake vibe and stunning scenery with pine-covered hills all around.

Like Storrie Lake, Fenton is managed by the state park system and offers year-round access. The park has campgrounds, a boat ramp, and a few miles of hiking trails – it’s a small but cozy place. 

Yet, unlike Storrie, Fenton Lake has restrictions on some activities. For example, gas boating and swimming aren’t allowed here. Instead, it’s a fantastic place to put in a kayak, explore the shoreline, and soak in the views. 

What’s more, the lake is a highly-rated trout fishing spot. It’s stocked generously with rainbow and also has lake, brown, Skamania, and cutthroat varieties. You won’t find warm-water fish here, but it’s the best trout lake near Santa Fe.

And the fun doesn’t stop here. Because Fenton Lake is open year-round, it also offers plenty of winter recreation. Ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are all possible here in winter. 

The only drawback is that it gets busy sometimes, especially on summer weekends, but the best places usually are. If you want to avoid crowds and have the lake for yourself, off-peak visits are the only option.

6. Eagle Nest Lake

Eagle Nest Lake near Santa Fe New Mexico
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Eagle Nest Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 98 miles (2h 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Boating, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Windsurfing, Hiking, Camping

Eagle Nest Lake is a 2,000-acre mountain lake north of Santa Fe. It’s a highly rated spot known for impressive views, excellent fishing, and a wide variety of activities.

The lake is accessed from the state park, which has boat ramps, campgrounds, and a few miles of hiking trails. Also, the town nearby provides lodges, eateries, and shops, so despite the wild landscapes and diverse wildlife, you are never too far from civilization.

When it comes to activities, swimming is allowed at Eagle Nest Lake, but at 8,200 feet of elevation, the water is always frigid; it’s not a typical swimming destination.

When it’s not windy, the lake is excellent for exploring in a kayak or canoe. And if you decide to paddleboard, make sure you’re prepared for the cold water.

Still, the main activity here is fishing. Eagle Nest Lake is a highly-rated fishery known for large northern pike, planted rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon, for which it holds the state record (5 lbs). Action may be average, but if you hook something, it’s usually big.

The best fishing is from the boat as the banks are weedy with restricted access. Alternatively, you can try ice-fishing in winter, which the lake is also known for.

Surrounded by spectacular peaks, this destination is also a nice base for hiking. The park itself has a few flat trails, but the mountains nearby offer impressive hikes, including the eastern approach to Wheeler Peak – the highest peak in New Mexico.

7. Heron Lake

Heron Lake near Santa Fe New Mexico
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Heron Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 104 miles (1h 50min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Boating, Sailing, Windsurfing, Hiking, Camping

Heron Lake is a large 5,900-acre reservoir near Los Ojos, about two hours drive from Santa Fe. It’s a tranquil spot with stunning ponderosa pines, breathtaking views, and excellent campgrounds.

Heron Lake State Park manages this lake and offers boat ramps, a courtesy dock, a swimming area, and a campground with RV sites. It’s a developed park with well-kept facilities.

Despite its vast size, Heron Lake is a no-wake lake. So sports like wakeboarding, water skiing, and jet skiing are not allowed here. 

Instead, it offers excellent kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing. There are plenty of beach landings for boat-in picnics and an island to explore.

Even when the water is low, this destination is still worth visiting, especially for its tranquility. The park has several trails for hiking and biking, and there is plenty of wildlife to spot and photograph.

And when it comes to fishing, Heron Lake has seen better days. It still holds the state record for lake trout set in 1999 (31 lbs 6 oz), but recent droughts put pressure on the fishing population, so the yields are not what they used to be. You can expect rainbow and lake trout, kokanee salmon, as well as carp and perch.

Related: 11 Top Recreational Lakes near Albuquerque, NM

8. El Vado Lake

El Vado Lake near Santa Fe New Mexico
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: El Vado Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 108 miles (2 h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Boating, Sailing, Windsurfing, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

El Vado Lake is a charming 3,200-acre reservoir on Rio Chama, just a stone’s throw away from Heron Lake. It’s an excellent option for solitude seekers and a great base for exploring the gorgeous Chama canyons.

Like Heron, El Vado Lake is managed by a state park that offers a marina, boat ramps, and campgrounds. Yet, unlike its neighbor, this reservoir has no restrictions on boating. You can wakeboard, water ski, and jet ski to all your heart’s desire, but be mindful of the water temperature; it’s ice-cold even in summer.

In addition to boating, El Vado Lake is a fun place to explore on a kayak or canoe. It has boat-in camping options, and the views are breathtaking, with gorgeous mesas for a backdrop.

Fishing is OK at El Vado Lake. Like Heron, the reservoir suffers significantly from the droughts putting pressure on the fishing population. Still, you can expect smallmouth bass, rainbow and brown trout, perch, carp, and an occasional walleye.

What’s more, this lake is an excellent winter destination with ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing – you can enjoy it year-round.

But if you plan on boating in summer, check the conditions here before traveling.

9. Santa Rosa Lake

Santa Rosa Lake near Santa Rosa New Mexico
Source: flickr/Public Domain
  • Official Page: Santa Rosa Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 116 miles (2 h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

Santa Rosa Lake is a 3,500-acre reservoir southeast of Santa Fe, about two hours away. It’s a fantastic fishing destination and another option with a state park in charge.

Santa Rosa State Park offers swimming areas, a boat ramp, campgrounds, and a few miles of hiking trails. Although close to Santa Rosa city and I-40, it rarely feels crowded.

Like many large lakes in New Mexico, there are hardly any restrictions on activities here. Swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, and jet skiing are just to name a few. And because its altitude is lower than most on the list, the water temperature is slightly warmer here in summer.

Yet, where this destination stands out is fishing. It’s a highly-rated fishery with lots of action and decent sizes (but very little trout). It has largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel cats, carp, and anglers’ favorite walleye. Santa Rosa Lake rarely disappoints, and you are unlikely to return home empty-handed.

However, the biggest drawback here is the same as at other lakes in the area – lack of water. This reservoir is sensitive to droughts, so check the conditions before traveling.

10. Blue Hole

Blue Hole in Santa Rosa New Mexico
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Blue Hole
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 109 miles (1h 45min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Picnics, Aqua Park, Scuba Diving

Blue Hole is a hugely-popular swimming spot in Santa Rosa. It’s a natural marvel and a must-see destination on Route 66.

The hole is a natural artesian well with crystal clear sapphire water. It’s only 60 feet in diameter, yet it extends to over 80 feet below the surface.

This attraction isn’t just an incredible spot for swimming and diving but also a nation-famous scuba diving site used for training and recreation daily.

In addition to this wonder, Santa Rosa has a park with ponds and a lake. Here you can find picnic tables, a diving platform, and an impressive inflatable aqua park. Plus, there are kayaks and peddle boats to hire.

Thanks to all these facilities, Santa Rosa is synonymous with swimming and water activities. It’s the most family-friendly destination on the list and a must-visit spot, especially if you’re visiting Santa Rosa Lake nearby.

Related: 11 Top Recreational Lakes near Albuquerque, NM

11. Conchas Lake

  • Official Page: Conchas Lake
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 140 miles (2h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Hiking, Camping

At 9,600 acres, Conchas Lake is one of the largest in New Mexico. Like Santa Rosa Lake, it’s located on the Great Plains, some 140 miles east of Santa Fe. This lake is highly-regarded for water recreation, especially boating and wind sports.

And like many lakes on the list, there is a state park to manage activities and greet visitors. The state park is split into three parts – North, Central, and South. All are excellent options and offer plenty of amenities like boat ramps, campgrounds, and docks.

When Conchas Lake is full, it attracts boating enthusiasts from far and wide. Wakeboarding, waterskiing, and pulling tubes are all possible here. And because the area is prone to the winds, it’s a popular windsurfing spot.

Kayaking and canoeing are a lot of fun here as well. There are steep cliffs to explore and plenty of landings for picnics and boat-in camping. Paddling from one section of the park to another can be a nice mini-adventure.

Like Santa Rosa Lake, Conchas Lake is a popular fishing destination, especially if you target bass. Smallmouth and largemouth varieties are plentiful here. Yet, it’s probably the best lake on the list for walleye, which is a prized catch.

Although it’s a long drive from Santa Fe, it’s a solid option and a highly-rated spot. It can make for a fantastic weekend trip or a stopover on the way to Texas or Oklahoma.

12. Pecos Wilderness

Nambe Lake in Pecos Wilderness Santa Fe National Forest
Source: flickr/public domain
  • Official Page: Pecos Wilderness
  • Distance from Santa Fe: 15 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Backpacking, Snowshoeing

Pecos Wilderness is part of the Santa Fe National Forest and is easily accessible from the city. It offers several sensational mountain lakes that will take your breath away.

Some of the most popular options are Nambe Lake, Lake Katherine, and Santa Fe Lake. Yet, these gems require grueling hiking on rough terrain to get to, frequently without adequate trail markings.

Needless to say, these are not for everyone. But if you want a challenge, start with Nambe Lake. It’s the nearest and the most popular option with a 6.7-mile return trip which takes at least five hours to complete. 

Another option is a loop to Lake Peak with a short detour to Santa Fe Lake. It’s also 6.7 miles but has much more elevation to gain.

Finally, there is Lake Katherine near Santa Fe Baldy. It’s a 13.5 miles return route that most people won’t be able to complete in a day.

All three lakes are gorgeous and offer fishing and swimming. You are probably allowed to paddle here as well, but only a mad man would carry a kayak through this terrain (challenge accepted!).

National forest rules allow for free camping, so tackling these as part of a backpacking trip is not just easier but also makes for an incredible experience.

Two words of caution, though. Even in summer, the temperature can drop below freezing. And despite their popularity, these routes are not clearly marked. Come prepared!

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