Spread across the New Mexico landscape are 34 state parks preserving, protecting and enhancing some of the most glorious territory in the state.
Centered around lakes, forests, mountains and rivers, the parks run by the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department offer a myriad of recreational opportunities.
From the southern lowlands to the northern highlands and central urban areas, the parks are a bastion of tranquility and a wildlife haven.
Starting with the Central Region, over the course of the next five months, those parks will be featured monthly by regional groupings to showcase New Mexico’s grandeur.
Situated almost equidistant between Interstate-40 and Interstate-25, this park will be celebrating its 50th anniversary on April 28. It will feature a car show, local music, talks from local historians on the history of the park and even a birthday cake, said Sarah Wood, central region manager.
“Villanueva is a beautiful little park with 35 campsites on the Pecos River,” she said. “You can camp by the river by the cottonwood trees, or in the campground.”
It’s one of those convenient getaways from the metro areas, Wood said.
“The Pecos River runs right through the park,” she said. “A lot of people come there to fish. It tends to be a favorite park from people from Albuquerque. It’s just far enough that you feel like you’re away from the city.”
Located just outside the town of Cerrillos in the foothills south of Santa Fe, Cerrillos Hills is a day-use park that pays homage to the mining history that has gone on for countless centuries right into the present day.
“It has a very long mining history in the Cerrillos Hills,” Wood said. “Starting about 1,000 years ago Native Americans, probably ancestors of the Santo Domingo and Cochiti tribes, were digging out turquoise and galena, a silver-lead sulfide. Spanish colonists were mining there and in the later 1800s, there was a mining bubble when miners came down from Colorado.”
Just north of Santa Fe beneath the ski basin, Hyde Memorial has recently been the recipient of three new yurts big enough for family camping.
“Those are beautiful,” Wood said. “You can drive up to them so it’s very convenient, but they’re spaced far enough apart so you feel like you’re in the middle of the forest. I think people are really enjoying them.”
Heavily wooded and set adjacent to the Santa Fe National Forest, the park contains six miles of hiking trails, although the favorite is a half-mile stroll that crosses the stream in several places leading to a popular waterfall.”
Also conveniently located the metro area, Manzano Mountains is a forested retreat.
“There’s no lake or water, but the Ponderosa Pines are very peaceful,” Wood said. “A lot of people have told me, ‘This is a park I’m not going to tell anyone about because I don’t want else to know about it.’ There’s a lot of good hiking trails that a lot of people kind of overlook.”
Situated about 7,000 feet in elevation, it borders national forest land.
“I’ve seen turkey and elk and bobcat scat,” she said. “There’s lots of deer and Albert’s or tassel-eared squirrel that are fun to watch.”
In the heart of Albuquerque’s North Valley, the Nature Center is an urban oasis adjacent to the Open Space bosque.
Weekly bird-spotting excursions and nature hikes help draw local residents, and other ongoing programs, like story telling the first Saturday of the month, keep children entertained.
Guided bird walks are every weekend at 8:30 a.m.
And May 12-13 will be the annual Herbfest, bringing together nature, music and gardening.
Located just north of Las Vegas, Storrie Lake currently covers about 940 acres and is water playground with all kinds of crafts welcome.
“The attraction is the lake,” Wood said. “It is high now and has been high for the past few years. We’re keeping our fingers crossed it will stay that way. “You can go swimming and in no wake areas you can take out paddle craft. People bring up jet skis and motor boats. You get out in the middle and it a beautiful turquoise. You get a little way from the shore and it’s a different world.”
Lakeside camping, fishing and even primitive camping are all part of the lure of the park.