Although the weather is finally starting to break a bit, with temperatures finally descending from triple digits, New Mexico State Parks in the north are still a great way to beat the metro blues.
Sugarite Canyon State Park
The park near Raton is home to one of the most unique stage races in the country; the Master of the Mountains Adventure Relay (ratonmom.com) is set for Sept. 8.
In its sixth year, the race begins with a six-mile trail run around the park’s Little Horse Mesa, followed by a three-mile kayak ride in Lake Maloya, park Superintendent Robert McIvor said. Then it is on to bicycles for a 20-mile ride into Raton, finishing up with a tactical shotgun course.
“It’s unique,” McIvor said of the run. “We’ve had teams from Canada, Germany; we get folks from Missouri and Florida.”
Kayaking in Lake Maloya
is a thing the park has become well-known for after a kayak launch was added to the new boat dock, he said.
“Kayaking has more than quadrupled since I first started,” McIvor said. “You can’t go a day without seeing kayaks on there. It’s a perfect lake for that.”
Likewise, about 20 miles of hiking trails meander through the park, many crossing the Colorado border into an adjacent wildlife area.
“We have deer, elk, mountain lion, bear, turkey, eagles, blue herons – you name it, and it’s most likely here,” he said.
Cimarron Canyon State Park
Threatened and closed by the Ute Park wildfire earlier this summer, the park emerged unscathed and is back open, bustling with activity, said superintendent Steve Clark.
“The hiking is spectacular here,” he said. “The fishing is phenomenal. And you don’t see country like this unless you experience it here. It’s pretty remote, pretty rugged. A little jewel in the middle of nowhere.”
As a remote, wilderness-type park, it has no electric hookups for campers, but it is that very remoteness that many visitors are seeking, Clark said.
“What we do have is peace and quiet and solitude,” he said. “There’s something about the country that draws people into the park here.”
Fishing in Cimarron Creek, as well as in two water-filled gravel pits, is a big draw, as is birding.
“Photographers love us, too,” Clark said. “The country is spectacular. We’re just blessed that we didn’t lose this.”
Eagle Nest Lake State Park
Although the lake at 8,300 feet in elevation on the Enchanted Circle beyond Angel Fire generally remains too chilly for swimming most of the year, it is a haven for boaters and anglers, said superintendent Mark Sullivan.
“We have four different game fish … northern pike, which were illegally stocked in the lake, but they get very large,” he said. “This year I’ve seen people with pike in excess of 45 inches and 30 pounds. That’s a big draw.”
Fishermen have pulled 30-inch, 10-pound rainbow trout. Earlier this year, the lake was stocked with nearly 300,000 fish “so the fishing has been pretty good,” Sullivan said. For yellow perch, the limit is 30 and it’s not a problem to catch your limit.”
Kokanee salmon also inhabit the lake, but their numbers are down this year and it has been a rare find.
The park’s annual Fish Fest — a nine-day angling extravaganza — is set for Sept. 1-9. About 300 fish are tagged and anyone who lands a tagged fish during those days is put in a drawing for a cash prize. No tagged fish were bagged last year, Sullivan said, so that prize pool will be added to this year’s total.
Ute Lake State Park
Near Logan, the park centers around the 13-mile-long lake and is fed by both the Canadian River and Ute Creek.
Fishing is the name of the game here. There’s usually some kind of bass tournament going on every weekend, said superintendent Rick Martin.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said of the number of tournaments.
Additionally, with a summertime temperature of about 80 degrees, it’s a prime spot for swimming, parasailing, water skiing, as well as personal water crafts and sail boating, Martin said.
One trail covers about 1½ miles of hiking along the side of the lake, and there is a family of grey foxes living in the vicinity.
“And usually around September and October we start getting water fowl,” Martin said. “Geese – and when that happens we get some bald eagles, which is very pretty for bird watchers. Geese come in by the bunch. I think we’re one of the prettiest lakes in the state.”