New Mexico is an almost perfectly square-shaped state that borders Mexico in the south of America. The ‘Land of Enchantment’, New Mexico is infused with an assortment of European, Native and Mexican American heritage and culture, making it a fantastic destination to explore. New Mexico has a cheerful vibe, from their canary yellow number plates and colourful native dress to the spectacularly flamboyant Balloon Fiesta.
But did you know this landlocked state also has several beaches to discover? Contrary to popular belief, New Mexico isn’t all arid desert, in fact, nearly one-third of the state is covered in forest. So, where you may ask, are these fabulous New Mexico beaches? New Mexico’s beaches are primarily found next to reservoirs and lakes, making for added interest to your beach visit. These 20 best beaches in New Mexico for the perfect day trip or vacation.
Also read: 21 Landmarks In New Mexico
- New Mexico Beaches
- 20 Beaches In New Mexico
- 1- Lions Beach, Elephant Butte Reservoir, Sierra County
- 2- El Vado Reservoir Beach, Rio Vado County
- 3- Heron Lake Beach, Rio Arriba County
- 4- Lea Lake, Chaves County
- 5- Abiquiu Lake Beach, Rio Arriba County
- 6- Farmington Lake Beach, San Juan County
- 7- Conchas Lake State Park, San Miguel County
- 8- Navajo Lake State Park
- 9- Park Lake Beach, Santa Rosa
- 10- Eagle Nest Lake, Colfax County
- 11- Tingley Beach, Albuquerque
- 12- Ute Reservoir’s Rocky Beach, Quay County
- 13- Cochiti Lake State Park, Sandoval County
- 14- Caballo Lake State Park, Sierra County
- 15- Stone Lake, Rio Arriba
- 16- Stinking Lake, Rio Arriba
- 17- Lake Carlsbad, Eddy County
- 18- Sumner Lake State Park, De Baca County
- 19- Lake Maloya, Colfax County
- 20- White Sands National Park, Otero County & Doña Ana County
- 20 Beaches In New Mexico
New Mexico Beaches
20 Beaches In New Mexico
1- Lions Beach, Elephant Butte Reservoir, Sierra County
Elephant Butte Reservoir is in southwest New Mexico and is a spectacular place to explore.
Elephant Butte is 64km and part of the Rio Grande River.
The large Elephant Butte Dam holts the reservoir’s waters at the lake’s southern end.
Head north up the reservoir and you will find Marina Del Sur, a tiny harbour used for private boats and hiring boats with fun slides on the back.
A 1.7-mile drive from the marina, Lions Beach is a shale, sandy beach.
Lions Beach also has a campground, so it’s a popular spot for motorhomes and caravanners alike.
Relax on the beach with a picnic, fish on the lake’s shores, go for a walk, or a cooling swim, there is plenty to keep you entertained around Lion’s Beach.
You can also hire kayaks and paddle from the beach up to Rattlesnake Island…if you dare!
2- El Vado Reservoir Beach, Rio Vado County
In north-central New Mexico, the El Vado Reservoir is a fantastic area with views of undulating hills, arid and lush greenery, and a small beach to accompany the enticing lake.
The state park allows beach camping, scuba diving, swimming, canoeing and other activities.
If you’re visiting in winter, you may not wish to lounge about on the beach, but you could try ice fishing instead.
You may be surprised to hear that New Mexico experiences average winter temperatures of -2 °C.
3- Heron Lake Beach, Rio Arriba County
The Rio Chama River meanders its way from El Vado Reservoir to our next beach destination, Heron Lake.
Heron Lake appears to be a stone’s throw away, however, the journey by car is a little further along the 112 Highway, 13 miles (21km0 from El Vado.
Heron Lake and its beach is a great place to visit, especially if you are looking for somewhere quiet.
Boats are allowed but must operate at no-wake speed, providing a safe and enjoyable place for paddleboarders and swimmers.
For an even better beach-lake experience, you can camp overnight right on the beach overlooking the tranquil waters.
4- Lea Lake, Chaves County
Lea Lake in Bottomless Lakes State Park is a small oval-shaped lake in Chaves County in the southeast.
The Bottomless Lakes State Park was New Mexico’s first state park, established in 1933.
Unlike some other places on this list, Lea Lake can feel relatively small.
The horseshoe-shaped beach has a facility block behind it, and from the water, you can see cars parked by the side of the lake.
Because of this, you don’t feel like you are totally immersed in nature.
Despite this, Lea Lake’s crystal blue water is the perfect place to have a refreshing and relaxing swim.
Boats are not allowed and there’s a designated swimming area, making it a perfect watering hole and beach to take the family to.
Though the Bottomless Lakes State Park is made up of nine lakes, people are only permitted to swim in Lake Lea.
If you fancy scuba diving in the lake, you will get a pleasant surprise as there’s some rather intriguing underwater poker to be played at the bottom.
5- Abiquiu Lake Beach, Rio Arriba County
Abiquiu Lake Beach is around 56 miles (90 km) northwest of New Mexico’s state capital, Santa Fe.
Abiquiu Lake is renowned as being the premier fishing spot in New Mexico.
Fishing enthusiasts come to the lake to enjoy catfish, trout, bluegill, smallmouth bass and walleye.
If fishing’s not your thing, then not to worry, Abiquiu Lake is an incredibly scenic place with fantastic rocky beaches to discover.
Though soft sand cannot be found at Abiquiu, there’s no need to worry because this rocky beach still provides everything you need from a great day out.
Explore the rocky beach or dive into the lake; this beach has fantastic views of Cerro Pedernal (or Flint Mountain).
After you’ve explored the area, why not head along one of the lakeside trails and see if you can find some two million-year-old fossils, which have regularly been found in the area.
Come prepared with everything you need though, as there are no facilities at Abiquiu Lake Beach apart from a picnic area.
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6- Farmington Lake Beach, San Juan County
This fantastic lake is located in the northwest of New Mexico, just 75 miles east of the famous Four Corners, the quadripoint where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet.
This spot is so well renowned because it’s the only place where four states touch in the USA.
Farmington Lake’s beach is located at the top of this 250-acre (101 ha) lake and provides visitors with a small but enticing sandy beach.
In addition to a lovely sandy beach, Lake Farmington also has lanes for swimming, a kid’s play area, water slides, inflatables, and kayaks and paddleboards for rent.
Access to this sandy beach can be enjoyed from 12 pm to 6 pm, with a daily fee of $1 per person. What a bargain!
7- Conchas Lake State Park, San Miguel County
Take the I-40 east from Albuquerque, then at exit 300, turn left along the NM-129 towards Newkirk and you will find Conchas Lake.
The Canadian River flows into Conchas Lake, which has several sandy beaches for you to enjoy and hidden coves and canyons, making for an exciting day of exploring.
Coves, canyons, and creeks define the north of the lake.
Towards the bottom of the lake, there are several islands, including another Rattlesnake Island, Green Island and Little Island.
Unlike some of the other beaches in New Mexico, the landscape around Conchas Lake is flat and arid, making for the perfect hiking spot after a relax or play on the beach.
New Mexico’s second-largest lake is surrounded by incredible views and has a tiny but amazing beach.
Navajo Lake State Park opened in 1964 after the completion of the Navajo Dam.
Since then, it has become increasingly popular with locals and out of staters wanting to explore the lake’s many nooks and crannies.
The lake is a cornucopia of excitement, particularly for those interested in water sports.
Motorboats, canoes, kayaks, water skis and sailboats are all allowed on the lake, and there are even two marinas.
Although Navajo Lake’s beach may be tiny, its spectacular views make up for its size.
9- Park Lake Beach, Santa Rosa
Park Lake Beach in Santa Rosa is one of the best lakes and beaches in New Mexico for kids.
As soon as you arrive at the lake, you will notice that there are things to do that will entertain the family for hours.
One of the highlights at Park Lake is the giant water inflatable obstacle course.
Climb up inflatable ladders, hurl yourself off inflatable cushions and slide right into the water.
You’ll have the entire family joining in.
As far as New Mexico beaches go, Santa Rosa’s beach is relatively large, and once you’ve finished diving around on the inflatables, you can enjoy a picnic on the beach.
Park Lake Beach is open year-round, but swimming, water activities and boats are only allowed between Memorial Day (30th May) and Labor Day (5th September).
10- Eagle Nest Lake, Colfax County
Eagle Nest Lake is a tranquil spot in Colfax County in northern New Mexico.
The lake is located on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, a popular touring route among visitors.
With rolling mountains in the distance, including Wheeler Peak (New Mexico’s highest point) this is the perfect spot to escape some of the scorching summer heat.
Though many advise that the water temperatures are a bit cold for swimming, a walk along the shingle beach shorelines and a toe-dip in the lake is highly recommended.
11- Tingley Beach, Albuquerque
If you find yourself in Albuquerque but need a place to walk and explore, then the cutely named Tingley Beach is the place to go.
This inner-city fishing pond doesn’t have an official beach per se but again has a beach-like area next to the water’s edge.
Tingley is a popular spot among local fishermen and a good place for children wanting to get involved in fishing, with under 12’s fishing for free at the children’s pond.
12- Ute Reservoir’s Rocky Beach, Quay County
At 13 miles (21 km) long, the Ute Reservoir is one of the longest lakes in New Mexico.
Just west of the small town of Logan, the Canadian River flows through the reservoir.
The reservoir has several small sandy beaches as well as interesting rocky beaches.
Mine Cove located on the south side of the lake, is a small softer sand beach where people relax and go for a much-needed cooling off in the lake.
After exploring the rocky beach and having a dip in the water, you could go to the 12 Shores Golf Club for a scenic round of golf.
If you plan on staying at the lake, there are two campgrounds in the north of the lake, Rogers Park Campground and Oldham’s Campground.
13- Cochiti Lake State Park, Sandoval County
Cochiti Lake State Park is located halfway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque in Sandoval County.
The lake and its surrounding area belong to the indigenous Pueblo.
The term pueblo refers to both the people and the communities.
You may recognise the pueblo settlements which are these impressive brown flat walled stacked houses with tiny windows.
The Pueblos have 19 communities throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
Cochiti Lake is one of the 10 largest dams in America and is home to an array of wildlife.
There is wildlife to see in the park, from ospreys to coyotes, beavers to river otters.
Cochiti Lake has an orange, sandy swimming beach with plenty of space and access to the lake.
Either before or after the beach, you can head to the breathtaking Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
These white statuesque turret rock formations were created from layers of volcanic rock and pyroclastic-flow deposits.
They make a fascinating addition to a day at Cochiti Lake’s beach.
14- Caballo Lake State Park, Sierra County
Close to the White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico, the Caballo Lake State Park sits in the foreground of the beautiful Caballo Mountains.
Caballo Lake has a fantastic rocky beach ideal for watching the incredible New Mexico sunsets.
While at the lake, you can also enjoy several water activities, including boating, canoeing, sailing, kayaking, swimming and fishing.
There are also 170 campsites in the local area, so you are spoiled for choice for where to spend the night.
15- Stone Lake, Rio Arriba
Stone Lake is in the north of New Mexico, just under 50 miles (80 km) from the Colorado border.
Though not technically a beach, the grassy, sandy banks of the lake are perfect for a picnic.
The lake has a small boating ramp, so you can bring your boat, though boat hire at the lake is not available.
16- Stinking Lake, Rio Arriba
Just 7 miles (11 km) south of Stone Lake, Stinking Lake doesn’t have the most enticing name, but it does have great lake views and is New Mexico’s largest natural lake.
Also known as Burford Lake (which frankly sounds far more appealing) makes up a significant area of wetland.
The rocky beaches along the shores of Stinking Lake provide visitors with suitable terrain to explore.
Bring binoculars as there are a plethora of bird species that breed at the lake, including the black-crowned night heron, the Virginia rail, and the northern shoveler, to name a few.
17- Lake Carlsbad, Eddy County
Lake Carlsbad is a 125-acre (50 ha) recreation area next to the Pecos River.
Although not technically a beach, this recreation area gives off a beach-like vibe.
Between May and September, the swimming area is open to the public, and there is an array of water sports to enjoy.
Pack a picnic and watch the hubbub of activity as you sit on the grassy banks.
And remember, when you’re in a landlocked state, sometimes a grass beach is all you can manage.
18- Sumner Lake State Park, De Baca County
The Sumner Lake State Park feels vast and tranquil.
You will find Sumner Lake in the east of New Mexico, a 50-minute drive from Santa Rosa. Sumner Lake’s beach is shale, not sand, but is far less frequented than some of the other beaches on this list.
The lake is surrounded by grassy plains which whistle in the breeze.
The Sumner Dam lies at the south end of the lake, where there is also the Alamito Picnic Area, where you can recover with some sustenance before exploring further.
19- Lake Maloya, Colfax County
Lake Maloya is a 130-acre (53 ha) lake that shares its waters between New Mexico and Colorado.
This cross-state lake lies within the Sugarite Canyon State Park, and the waters are tranquil as they are devoid of motorboats.
So, it’s a popular place for rowing boats.
Unfortunately owing to the fact that the lake is used for the city of Raton’s drinking water, swimming is not allowed in the lake.
Around the lake, there are many small rocky beaches, ideal for relaxing and admiring the views.
20- White Sands National Park, Otero County & Doña Ana County
Admittedly when you are in a landlocked state, beaches are hard to come by.
New Mexico has some incredible landscapes with the addition of some small and somewhat questionable beaches.
But no one can question whether the White Sands National Park is a beach because it has 589.9km ² of sand dunes.
There isn’t any water, but if you’re willing to overlook that fact, a trip to White Sands National Park may just be the best ‘beach’ in New Mexico to visit.
In southern Mexico, White Sands is a fantastic place to visit and enjoy.
Drive the 8-mile (13km) scenic loop from the visitor centre right through the heart of gypsum dunefield.
Horseback ride through the dunes, sled down the sands, or join one of the ranger program tours.