Make the call.
Make the call.
A relatively new state park in the cool mountains New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle
On our recent week-long trip to the Enchanted Circle area of New Mexico, we had the opportunity to visit several places to take our RV on future trips. One little state park we found was pretty and one we would consider for a night or two on a return trip.
Eagle Nest Lake State Park is not a big park, but it occupies some prime real estate on the west side of Eagle Nest Lake, which is quite beautiful. It is a relatively new state park, only founded in 2004.
We took the opportunity, after paying our day use fee at the gate drop box, to tour this little park and check out some of the RV sites.
We started our tour at the visitor’s center, but it was locked up on that Wednesday morning. In fact, we never saw a park employee anywhere in the park during our visit. It looks like a very nice visitor’s center, and I wish we could have checked it out to see what was offered inside. There were about six RV campers in the campground, but they obviously could not use any of these facilities, at least on the day we were there. (I will give some credit here for at least keeping the park open for day visitors and campers, though, unlike the national forests in New Mexico who just seem to pretty much close up shop after Labor Day and completely lock their parks and campgrounds up to everyone. Ugh.)
For anyone with a boat, there is a boat ramp next to the visitor’s center to give easy access to the lake right in the park.
There are some nice, tall trees in the day use area, along with beautiful lakeside covered tables. A picnic here would be a lovely experience, for sure. We were the only people in this area during our visit, too.
Unlike the day use area, there are no trees in the RV campground, which is unfortunate. The draw to camping here for us, though, would be the great lakeside sites with the nice covered tables. These particular sites are also pull-through sites and looked to be pretty level. And as if to try to make up for the lack of trees here, the yellow and purple wildflowers were absolutely beautiful!
There is a small area of private residences just behind the state park, including the campground, so if you want a campground that is away from more developed areas, this one might not be for you. All of the RV sites are dry camping sites, too. However, for a small nightly fee, camping by a beautiful lake with mountains behind it, a covered table at the site and cooler summer temps is still a good deal to us! I think the nightly fee was about $10?
The town of Eagle Nest is nearby, and Angel Fire is only about ten miles away to the south. When planning a visit to this area, it would be worth checking to see what businesses are open and what businesses are closed in each community, especially if visiting in the off-season on a weekday. The little town of Eagle Nest was pretty much buttoned up on this same day when we went there and hoping to check out some restaurants and shops. There is a Lowe’s grocery store in Angel Fire, if needed.
This was a fact-finding, or RV park-finding, trip for us, and if/when we return to this area again, I think we might spend a night or two in this pretty little park. The nightly rate is so cheap, and it would put us a bit closer for day trips to Eagle Nest and Red River, as compared to staying in Angel Fire where we stayed during our trip. Our only disappointment was finding the park facilities to be locked up with no one on duty, but for just a night or two, we would probably be fine with that.
We also paid a quick visit to two campgrounds at Cimarron Canyon State Park, Ponderosa Campground and Maverick Campground. I was driving the car and did not take any photos, unfortunately, but we really liked that park. Just like Eagle Nest Lake State Park, the sites are dry camping, but we would most definitely consider camping there for a few nights. The draw to that park for us is a true forest camping experience with access to the Cimarron River and some nice hiking trails. Larger RVs use the Ponderosa Campground in that park, but smaller ones have a few more options in campgrounds.
Since I have no photos to share of this pretty park, here are two helpful links.
I have more to share on our trip soon. 😉
Our first RV trip to this beautiful area
We enjoyed a nice vacation in the mountains of northern New Mexico last week, our first time to vacation in this area in our RV. Northern New Mexico is a further drive for us than southern New Mexico, but we wanted to spend some time in that area in our RV. I’m so glad we did!
We certainly visited this great area to just relax and enjoy being out in our RV again, but we also wanted to check out RV campgrounds for future trips back here, too. I will share a bit about what we found as far as RV options in this post, after first giving a little background on why we no longer attempt to camp in another part of the state.
We love visiting the mountains of New Mexico for a cool break when the weather is hot at home, but since we started vacationing by RV five years ago, we have only visited the mountains of southern New Mexico in our RV, specifically the national forest campgrounds in the Cloudcroft area.
While it is a pretty area and closer to home for us, we’ve found that the mountain area of southern New Mexico just does not seem to work for us in our RV for a few reasons. The national forest campgrounds are definitely the best campgrounds in the forest, but we cannot reserve a site in them ahead of time. Also, all but one of these campgrounds are closed after Labor Day, which is actually the best time of the year to visit this area weather-wise when the daytime temperatures are more moderate than in summer months. We’ve also looked into most all of the private campgrounds in this area, but none of them are appealing to us, and most are usually booked on weekends anyway. To sum it up, it is very hard to find suitable sites in this area in our RV.
We’ve decided to just pass on visiting the southern New Mexico mountains area in our RV for now until better options are available. We have always loved visiting Ruidoso and Cloudcroft and have done so for decades, staying in cabins or lodges there. It’s just not a good option in our RV and with our dogs, which is sad. We love this area a lot, but we don’t love taking our RV there right now. The folks that run the national forest campgrounds in this area need to keep their campgrounds open longer, since they definitely have a monopoly on the good RV camping options in the area. They also need to allow some sites to be reserved in advance. Shutting these lovely campgrounds down on Labor Day is just ridiculous.
After visiting northern New Mexico and the camping options there last week, we found some nice options for our RV. Unlike the national forest campgrounds at Cloudcroft, some sites in the national forest campgrounds at Red River can actually be reserved online. However, just like the national forest campgrounds at Cloudcroft, most of the campgrounds are closed after Labor Day. I just do not get this at all. The campground that was open, Fawn Lakes Campground in the Carson National Forest, seemed to only have sites for smaller RVs and probably could not accommodate ours.
There are two private RV parks on either side of town in Red River that we would consider, and both sit on the river not far from town. Our first choice would be Roadrunner RV Resort, and our second choice would be River Ranch. Both are pretty nice parks but experience high demand in the summer months with people reserving far in advance, and once again, sites are pretty close but do-able.
The other possible downside for us to the Red River area is Highway 38 into Red River, which is a pretty steep climb both ways (almost 10,000 feet) to cross Bobcat Pass, the highest elevation pass in the state of New Mexico. We encountered a long road construction delay on this stretch of road, which delayed us over twenty minutes. We were also forced to creep up and down the pass behind a lead truck, and we were very glad that we were not in our RV. We certainly smelled hot brakes when we finally arrived in town. Fortunately, they were not ours.
I suspect this is the time of year for road repairs in this area before winter sets in, as we ran into a similar delay on our drive over the pass to Taos on another day. While the drive to Red River in our RV is do-able for us, we may just opt to base camp elsewhere and make this a day trip on future trips to the area, just as we did last week.
There are some nice state park options available, especially at heavily wooded Cimarron Canyon State Park. While this state park only offers boondocking options, like the national forest campgrounds, the park is open year-round. In the summer months, some sites can also be reserved online. It’s a beautiful place, even though Highway 64 runs through the middle of the park. The park stretches for miles on either side of the highway along the Cimarron River, and in our 38′ RV, we would fit in the Ponderosa Campground. We pulled into this campground to check it out on Saturday morning, and the camp host could not have been nicer to us, giving us some helpful information for a return trip someday. He wanted us to stay there that night, but we needed to start our drive home. I didn’t take any pictures while we were briefly stopped there, but photos can be found online.
Eagle Nest Lake State Park is another option in our RV. Again, it is boondocking camping only, but many of the sites sit on the edge of scenic Eagle Nest Lake, which is quite beautiful with mountains just across the lake. The colorful wildflowers were especially pretty there, too.
There is no tree shade at these overnight sites, but the weather is typically cooler than southern New Mexico, often at least fifteen degrees cooler. We also found a private campground with full hookups just outside this park that we would consider if sites are available, Angel Nest RV Retreat, since the state park is within easy walking distance. I believe this park is open until sometime in October, too. In the tiny town of Eagle Nest, we would also consider Lost Eagle RV Park, which sits in the middle of town within walking distance to businesses there, probably just for a night.
We also checked out Coyote Creek State Park, which is deep in the Carson National Forest on Coyote Creek south of Angel Fire.
This park offers some hookups, including electricity, and it was pretty much empty on the day we visited. RVs need to drive to this park from the south, though, as there is a six mile stretch of road from Angel Fire to the park that prohibits vehicles over ten feet in length, and for good reason! We even joked as we drove to the park that this road reminded us of driving the epic twisting road to Hana on Maui. I might avoid this park if there is a chance of flooding, but otherwise, it would be a nice, quiet place to camp for a few days.
One thing we noticed at some of the state parks on this trip is that they seemed to have no paid staff on duty when we were there, which is not a good thing in our book. We are spoiled to well-staffed state parks in Texas, I guess, but this fact definitely was noticeable to us.
We actually opted to base camp at Angel Fire RV Resort for the week, and while it is fairly expensive for RV camping, we found it to be well worth the price we paid for the high quality facilities there. Sometimes we opt for a non-RV trip for a week of vacation each year, but this year, we opted to make our vacation week a RV trip, bringing the dogs along. Not boarding our two dogs saved us $60 a night, which is about the nightly cost of sites at this park. They gave Hubby a discount on his round of golf since he was a resort guest, and we also received two free tickets to ride the chair lift to the top of the Angel Fire ski mountain, a $24 value. These little perks helped to justify the nightly rate a bit. Hubby really needed Wi-Fi for some business needs on this trip (unfortunately), and the Wi-Fi service was excellent at our site. I thought that this park was in the town of Angel Fire, but happily, it actually sits about three miles out of town, and the views from our site were just beautiful.
RVs need to avoid Highway 434 to the south of Angel Fire, the road to Coyote Creek State Park, so we drove into Angel Fire via Highway 64 from Cimarron and Eagle Nest. The staff at the resort will ask RVers to send photos of the RV if it is over ten years old for pre-approval, and this was not an issue for us, as they sent us an immediate approval once I sent our photos. We even saw a pop-up camper there during our stay. Given the fact that most private RV parks with full hookups in this area are not cheap, we would have no issue paying just a little more money and staying at this park again. I think on future trips, we may opt for a brief stay at one of the beautiful state parks, in addition to some nights at Angel Fire RV Resort, to enjoy a more traditional forest camping experience, too.
One more thing we noticed on this trip is the dog-friendly experience we had in the Angel Fire area. Unlike southern New Mexico, there are some dog-friendly trails and businesses available, and it was nice to take the dogs on a two-mile hike in the forest, something we cannot do at Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, as dogs are forbidden on those trails. The camp host at Cimarron Canyon State Park also told us that the trails there are dog-friendly trails.
We put 1300 miles on the car on our trip, and we saw so many great sights in the area. I’m working on photos and will try to share more about our trip here soon. We can’t wait to return to this beautiful and mostly uncrowded area!