Visiting a Volcano

We finally paid this unique and scenic place a personal visit!

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Entrance to Capulin Volcano National Monument at Capulin, NM

Over the past five years, we have traveled regularly to northeast New Mexico in the summer to escape the heat at home a bit.  However, on our drives to and from the area, we have never had time to stop at a rather prominent national monument along the way.  We have always enjoyed seeing it as we drove by and always remarked that we needed to make the time for a quick visit in the future.  So, on our week-long trip to the area back in early September by ourselves, we finally decided to take a little time to make the short drive from our route to check it out in person.

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Our view of Capulin Volcano National Monument back in July while driving Highway 87 from Clayton to Raton.  After some recent rains, the area was beautifully green.  We couldn’t stop for a visit then, but two months later, we did!

Capulin Volcano National Monument is definitely worth a quick (or even longer) visit when driving on Highway 87 between Clayton and Raton.  Since we started visiting this area each summer a few years ago, I have truly loved the beautiful and unique scenery in this remote area that is comprised of extinct volcanoes and grasslands because is it so unique, unlike any other area we have visited.

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Highway 87 cuts across the Raton-Clayton volcano field, and Capulin Volcano is actually one of the youngest cones in this area, listed as *probably* extinct, which I find a little fascinating.  It last erupted 56,000 to 62,000 years ago, and there are about 125 cinder cones in this field.  If this area in northeast New Mexico has been blessed with good rains, this entire area is truly a spectacular sight to see, but I find it spectacular pretty much every time we make the trip, it seems.

Our side trip to the monument only took us a little over an hour, but it was an hour well-spent just to drive up the volcano to see the amazing views.

 

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Visitor center and gift shop

 

 

 

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Wildflowers were in abundance

 

The visitor center sits at the base of the volcano and has a small gift shop where we bought our traditional souvenirs when visiting state and national parks, a magnet for me and a hiking stick medallion for Hubby.  His wooden hiking stick, made from an old broom handle that his father had, is really an impressive thing now.  He did such a great job staining it and adding some thin green rope accents, and it is displays his many medallions in a most impressive way.  He used to use it as his regular hiking stick, but now, it is primarily a display piece in our RV.  My magnets just sit on our refrigerator at home, not nearly as impressive, but I enjoy seeing them everyday and letting them remind me of so many beautiful places and fond memories.

 

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View of the visitor center (and our RV) from the parking area at the top

 

After parking the RV in the visitor center parking lot, we loaded up in the car with the dogs for the drive up the volcano.  The drive to the upper lot was not a long one, but it was pretty curvy in parts while also offering some great views, at least for the passengers.  😉

 

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Starting our drive up the volcano
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Curvy road on the drive up

 

Even though the park allows some folks to drive their RVs to the top, after stopping two-way traffic on both ends to allow the RV sufficient room to make the drive up and back down, there is absolutely no way we could recommend anyone doing that!  The parking lot at the top has very little room for cars, much less RVs.  Just leave the RV in the lot at the bottom and drive the car to the top… and save some aggravation to others by not inconveniencing them on their own drives up and down the volcano.

 

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Small parking area at the top

 

We were slightly disappointed that the parking lot at the top wasn’t actually very close to the top of the volcano, as we hoped it would be.  It was still a pretty steep hike on a long sidewalk to the top of the volcano, and we couldn’t take the dogs along on any trails up there.  I walked up the very steep sidewalk just a bit to grab a few photos, but it wasn’t a good plan to go too far, since I was wearing my flip flops.

Nevertheless, the views of the extinct volcanoes in every direction from this vantage point were fabulous!  Taking in the views of the area while driving on Highway 87 is great, but taking a little time to see these ancient volcanoes from on high was even better.

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I’m glad we finally made this little side trip to see Capulin Volcano, and I certainly encourage others to do the same when in this area.  (Just leave the RV at the visitor center.)  The views are spectacular, especially on a clear day.

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There is also a small, privately-owned RV park (Good Sam rated) nearby in Capulin just a few miles away, that would probably be nice for a night or two.

Also, be sure to check the park hours of operation before planning your visit, as they shorten their operating hours at the park in the off season.

More information on the magnificent ancient volcanoes of northeast New Mexico

More great views, including aerial views, of Capulin Volcano

We certainly enjoyed our nice vacation week in northern New Mexico and the Enchanted Circle, but it’s always good to come home again, too.  After all, there’s no place like home and our always magnificent sunsets.

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Home Sweet Home on the plains

Our own personal “summer” of RV travel was finally beginning after our long, hot actual summer months at home, and little did we know how much fun we would have on our shorter trips in the coming weeks with a family member, with some friends and also on our own.  More to come.

Wordless Wednesday – Foggy Canyon

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Around Angel Fire

So much fun, so little time!

In my previous posts, I’ve shared some of our adventures in the Enchanted Circle area of New Mexico.  Most of these were places that we visited on day trips away from our RV base camp at Angel Fire, but today, I want to share about our fun time in Angel Fire.  I previously shared about our visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is located just outside Angel Fire, too.

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New Mexico’s Famous Enchanted Circle

We stayed six days and five nights at Angel Fire RV Resort, which is part of Angel Fire Resort properties.  This year-round RV park opened in May 2015, and it sits a few miles away from town, just off Highway 64.  We were referred to this park by another RV friend who was quite impressed by it on a previous trip, and we opted to stay here because it was also centrally located for day trips to Taos, Eagle Nest and Red River.

The best option for us to drive to the area was Highway 64 from Cimarron, and the pass between Cimarron and Eagle Nest was very do-able in the RV, although *very* crowded with traffic on Labor Day with many people leaving the Enchanted Circle area to go home.

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Angel Fire RV Resort – one of the pretty paths in the park

Angel Fire RV Resort guests are granted full access to all resort amenities, no matter where they are located in the area.

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Angel Fire Resort Hotel at the ski area. RV Resort guests are permitted to use all resort facilities, even at the hotel.

Hubby played golf at the resort on our first day in the area and received a discount, and we were also given two free passes to ride the chairlift to the top of the ski mountain, compliments of the resort, worth $24.  It’s definitely worth taking these free and discounted items into account when deciding where to park the RV in this area.

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Gorgeous flowers were all around the RV park, and we felt that we were camping in a flower garden.

RVs older than ten years must be pre-approved to stay at Angel Fire RV Resort.  Since ours is more than ten years old, I sent a few photos to the RV resort office by email, and we were immediately approved for our stay.  I will also share that this is definitely the most expensive RV park we have ever stayed in at about $70 per night, but after our awesome experience there, we would do it again in a heartbeat for a special vacation week such as this.  If we took a nice vacation, stayed in a hotel and boarded the dogs, we would spend almost $60 per night just on boarding, so being able to bring them along on a nice vacation helped to justify this nightly rate.  Plus, we had them along for the fun!  After all, we are dog people.

We truly loved the spectacular views from the park, especially on the surreal foggy mornings we enjoyed our first few days there.

All the RV park amenities can be found on their website.  What we enjoyed the most was the pad site itself (long and level), nice views of the area, gated security (since it is just off a busy road), outdoor hot tub, gorgeous landscaping everywhere in the park and the big, grassy “Bark Park” to let our dogs run off-leash a few times each day, which was a lot of fun for all of us.

While this is already a beautiful RV park with amazing landscaping and flowers, it’s going to be even more beautiful in a few years as the trees grow taller.  There are a lot of trees in the park, and it should be a stunning place, for sure.

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View of Angel Fire Ski Area from our RV site, slightly zoomed in
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Evenings were just beautiful as the sun set with a mostly unobstructed view of the brilliant colors

The large conference center on property is really nice.  It also houses another camper restroom/shower facility with an outside entrance.  This was the closest restroom/shower facility for us, and we opted to shower there on two days, just because it was so very nice!  Just outside the center, we also enjoyed simply rocking in the nice wooden rockers in the evening after the campfire was lit.

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Conference center in the RV park for gatherings and concerts

To say the pups were happy at the “Bark Park” is an understatement!  Next time, I will bring their Frisbee along.  Having this nice dog park made us realize how much we wish other RV parks would consider adding one, too.

On the food front, there is a nice, well-stocked grocery store in Angel Fire, which is good to know since we discovered that there are only a few restaurants in the area.  On the morning we departed for home, we also filled the RV with gas at a pump at the grocery store, too.

We dined out twice in Angel Fire and certainly enjoyed our food both times.  We enjoyed a good pizza at Angel Fired Pizza for lunch.  This restaurant is located on the second floor of a shopping center next to the grocery store, and we had a great view of the ski mountain as we dined.  We also ate breakfast at The Bakery and Café at Angel Fire on our last full day in the area, and it was so good!  I had a huge breakfast burrito, and it was almost more than I could eat, but somehow, I managed to eat the whole thing.  They are not open for dinner, just breakfast and lunch.

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My huge breakfast burrito at Angel Fire Bakery and Café with green chile gravy and salsa on the side.  I. Ate. Every. Bite!

Trails in the Angel Fire area allow dogs, something that is actually a bit rare for many areas in New Mexico.

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Deer Trail in Angel Fire
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Trailhead in Angel Fire

We really enjoyed hiking one of the resort trails with the dogs one cool morning, and this trailhead is located just behind the Angel Fire Visitor’s Center in town.

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Hiking on a clear, cool morning with the dogs

The resort golf course is very pretty and is located just outside town.  Hubby enjoyed playing the course, even though some brief rain showers interrupted play for a bit.

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Angel Fire Country Club
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Driving range

The resort lake, which is just past the golf course, is also a pretty place to visit, picnic, fish or rent a paddle boat.

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Monte Verde Lake – Angel Fire Resort

One of the highlights of our trip was using our complimentary tickets from the resort and riding the chair lift to the top of the ski area.  In years gone by, we brought our kids skiing here on a few occasions with other families from our church, so it was a bit surreal to ride the chairlift with no snow on the ground below us.  It was even more awesome to ride it back down with the fabulous views of Angel Fire below us, growing closer and closer as we approached the base of the lift.  Truly, the views riding back down were just fabulous!

In the warmer months, Angel Fire Ski Resort transitions to Angel Fire Bike Park, offering a large selection of downhill bike trails.

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Big map at the top of the mountain

On the Friday we visited, there were several cyclists riding the chair lift up with their special bikes to ride the trails back to the bottom, and I admit that it looked like a lot of fun, too.  The trails are rated by difficulty, just like the ski trails in winter.  We could probably ride the green trails and may have to give this a try before we get much older.  If we opt to do that, we will rent our bikes and other gear at one of the local shops nearby.

We dined at the outdoor grill at the top of the mountain for lunch.  On the day we were there is was not too crowded, so it was a pleasant experience for us with great views.

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View of Eagle Nest Lake and the town of Eagle Nest from the top of the ski mountain
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Lunch cooked outside at the top of the mountain made for a great dining experience

At the top of the mountain resides an 18-hole disc golf course.  We walked over to the first two holes after lunch, and it looks like a lot of fun.  Just be aware that the altitude might take a bit to get used to.  I started to feel pretty lightheaded while we were there, so we decided to forego any further exploration and head back down the mountain.

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Map of the 18 hole disc golf course at the top of the mountain
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Look at the rough on this Frisbee golf course!

The resort also offers a zip line at the top of the mountain for those inclined to even more adventure.  I’m not sure I’m ready for something like this, but I might could be talked into it, too.

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Zip Line at Angel Fire Ski Resort – It’s straight down the mountain from here!

We also made a quick afternoon drive to check out Coyote Creek State Park to the south of Angel Fire.  This state park is remote, very pretty and has some hookups, but I doubt we ever take our RV there, since RVs are not permitted on the road between the park and Angel Fire… and for good reason.  Vehicles over ten feet are not permitted on this road that is quite narrow in one stretch.  Visitors to this state park must drive their RVs in from the south instead.

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Entrance to Coyote Creek State Park, south of Angel Fire
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A few RV sites on the river at Coyote Creek State Park

The drive to and from the state park was beautiful on a narrow and winding road through the tall trees, and we even stopped at one pullout to let the dogs get in the creek.

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Old abandoned log cabins on our drive

Girly Girl jumped right in the water, but Big Red wanted none of it.  Fortunately, we brought along some old towels on the drive.  Carry old towels is something we actually do most of the time when on vacation, especially when bringing the dogs with us.

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Big Red wouldn’t get in the water
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Girly Girl has always loved playing in the water and jumped right in

We had a great time re-visiting this area after many years and look forward to returning again in the future.  Our experience with Angel Fire RV Resort was so good that I suspect we will continue to base camp there, even if we stop over at Cimarron Canyon State Park for a night or two and maybe a night at Eagle Nest Lake State Park on the way next time.  I also hope to spend a little more time in Taos and Red River next time, if possible, especially Taos.

We didn’t actually drive the Enchanted Circle highway between Taos and Questa, and that was our plan for this trip due to time constraints.  On a future trip, we hope to complete the circle and visit that area, too.

I have one more post to share to complete my posts on this great trip, sharing some sights we saw on our drive to this area, especially Capulin Volcano National Monument in northern New Mexico.  Look for that one soon!

For more good, detailed information on visiting the Enchanted Circle, please check out the article below.

Legends of America – Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

Roaming in Red River

A fun and scenic day trip with the dogs

On our recent trip to the Enchanted Circle area in New Mexico, we opted to load up ourselves and the dogs for a day trip to Red River on Thursday.  The clouds had finally melted away, and the sun was shining, so it was a great day for a scenic drive to a beautiful area.

As we approached the base of Bobcat Pass, though, we encountered a long delay of twenty minutes due to road construction that resulted in only one lane of traffic across the entire pass. In fact, the wait was so long that several cars finally gave up and turned around toward Eagle Nest.  We considered doing the same, but I’m glad we waited it out.

Finally, the lead pickup escorted our very long line of cars across the steep pass (9820 ft.) and back down into Red River, taking it very slow the entire way.  We were certainly glad that we were not in our motor home for this drive on this day, and we smelled hot brakes from other cars as we arrived in town.  Fortunately, our brakes were fine.  Hubby did a good job to not ride the brake as we came down off the pass.

FYI – Bobcat Pass is the highest mountain pass in New Mexico.

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On the road to Red River for the day with the pups

The dogs dearly love to go anywhere at any time, whether on a walk, a car ride or a RV trip.  We only have to say “let’s go in the car” one time, and they are off to the car!  😀

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Following the lead truck through road construction down Bobcat Pass into Red River
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Red River ahead as we drove down from Bobcat Pass

As we approached Red River ahead of us, I remembered the words to the chorus of “Red River Valley” that I learned as a kid, and it made me smile.  I almost broke out in song… almost.  Hubby didn’t need any distractions on this particular drive, so I’ll just share it here.

Then come sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy that’s loved you so true

Once we approached the edge of town, we were finally free from the long line of cars and were ready to do some exploring!

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Entering Red River, New Mexico (8671 ft.)

This is a truly beautiful area with lots of tall trees, and quaint little Red River is a cute, touristy town with an Alpine theme.  It offers year-round fun with snow skiing in the winter and outdoor fun in the warmer months, especially in summer when so many people are looking for a cool area to escape the heat at home.  The ski lifts are located in the middle of town and are easily accessed by walking from several lodges nearby and just a short drive from all the other lodges in town.

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Ski lift in Red River
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Lift house at Red River ski area

 

Throwback:  Hubby and I skied the slopes in Red River many years ago with a group of friends before any of us had children, and we have some great memories of that particular trip.  Our group rented a large cabin for two nights, and the heater struggled to keep us warm.  It also sounded something like a 747 taking off, too.  It wasn’t too much fun at the time, but we certainly laugh about now.  Good times, fun memories!

We carried a picnic lunch with us on this day trip, since we had the dogs along for the ride, and we found a perfect picnic spot right in the middle of town at a pretty park in front of the Red River Conference Center.  It was just a short walk over to the river just behind the conference center, and we enjoyed a quick walk there after lunch with the dogs.

I wish we would have had more time to just walk around town and along the river, but we were also on a little mission to check out RV campgrounds in the area.  We certainly enjoyed the hour or so we spent eating our picnic lunch and walking along the scenic river, though.

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Pretty park in Red River
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Our picnic spot
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Toni Woerndle Memorial River Park on the Red River behind the conference center
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A nice walk along the river
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A ray of sunshine as we crossed the bridge
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Crystal-clear water in the Red River
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Lodges along the river would provide a nice, scenic stay in the area
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Another secluded picnic spot on the river
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Such a nice walk along the river
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Red River Conference Center on the Red River

 

After our picnic and walk along the river, we got back in the car and proceeded to check out the RV parks and national forest campgrounds in this area.  Well, I should say we tried to check out the national forest campgrounds, but just like the ones at Cloudcroft, most of them were already closed for the year, even though it was only the week after Labor Day.  It looked like there might be some nice ones, but once again, they are not made available to the public as they should be, a continuing gripe of ours concerning the national forest campgrounds in New Mexico.

There are some decent options in the private RV parks in or near town, so if we ever opt to take the RV over steep Bobcat Pass into Red River, we will likely stay at one of them if we can actually secure a reservation.  For the record, our first choice of the private RV parks would be Road Runner RV Resort, and our second choice would be River Ranch RV Park.  We were especially impressed by the staff and facilities at Road Runner RV Resort, too.  I honestly don’t think we would consider any other RV parks in this area, but summer time visitors would certainly want to check out the national forest options, too.  I wish we could have seen them.

Based on our experience on this day, though, we will likely base camp elsewhere in the RV and make a day trip to Red River instead.  It is such a popular tourist town, especially in the summer months, so it is generally not easy to secure reservations due to the many RVers who reserve far ahead of time and stay in this area for the entire season to escape the summer heat.

We might also consider reserving a pet-friendly room in Red River overnight if we want to have a bit more time there on future trips while leaving the RV elsewhere in the area.  Several motels and lodges there are pet-friendly and can be found at the link below.  Most are also in town within walking distance to most everything we would want to see, which is not the case with the RV parks.

Red River Pet-Friendly Lodging

Red River is such a beautiful, delightful area in the Enchanted Circle, and it most definitely worth a visit.  I’m ready to go back again!

A Tiny Treasure of a Park

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.

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Main entrance to Eagle Nest Lake State Park
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Visitor’s center area

 

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.

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Visitor’s center
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Wish we could have seen inside the visitor’s center, but it was locked up. 😦
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A little info on 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.

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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!

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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?

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The tiny town of Eagle Nest sits at the north end of the lake and is easily seen from the visitor’s center area.

 

 

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.

Photos of Cimarron Canyon State Park

Campsite Photos – Cimarron Canyon State Park

I have more to share on our trip soon. 😉

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