If you’re traveling in western New Mexico and want to stay amidst a stunningly beautiful desert landscape, Caballo Lake State Park might be the perfect place for your next RV vacation. The Caballo Mountains rise over 2,000 feet above the lake to provide an amazing backdrop for all your adventures in the park. Even better, it’s not far from Las Cruces and is even closer to the town of Truth or Consequences (yes, that’s a real town name!). However, no matter what time of year you visit, you’re unlikely to find a crowd. Peak season for Caballo Lake includes summer weekends, but nearby Elephant Butte Lake relieves much of the tourist pressure.
What attracts most visitors to Caballo Lake State Park is of course the lake, with its glistening waters reflecting the expansive sky and it’s billowy cloud shapes. The lake is formed by the mighty Rio Grande, which had a much more seasonal flow before the Caballo Dam was built; now the lake provides extensive recreational opportunities. Boating, motorized and non-motorized, is popular during the summer months when New Mexico’s high temperatures have everyone looking for a place to cool off.
When it’s cooler though, hiking and horseback riding are also popular, and there’s a vast network of trails running along the lake’s western edge. Lower temperatures also bring out an abundance of wildlife that spend their time burrowed into the ground or hidden high up in the trees to escape the summer heat. Always carry a pair of binoculars in Caballo Lake State Park; you never know what you might see.
RV Rentals in Caballo Lake State Park
Transportation in Caballo Lake State Park
Getting to Caballo Lake State Park is a cinch, weather you’re coming from the north or south. If you’re driving from Truth or Consequences, it’s less than a half hour down Interstate 25 and just over an hour from Las Cruces. There’s a small section of two-lane road connecting the park to the Interstate, but it’s plenty wide enough for most RV and trailers.
Most of the facilities in the park, including the campgrounds, are located near the lake’s southern end. The park is split into five camping areas: Riverside, Stallion, Appaloosa, and Palamino. Apallosa is first-come, first-served while the other three take reservations. All of the RV parks are built on a semi-circular loop, so you’ll need to be able to back your RV in.
Campgrounds and parking in Caballo Lake State Park
Campsites in Caballo Lake State Park
This is one of the smaller campgrounds at Lake Caballo and is located near the boat ramps and day use parking areas. Sites have access to water and electrical hookups along with the dump station nearby. The showers and restrooms are just between the campground and the boat ramp. There’s a group shelter that can be used for picnic and family gatherings too. If you’re spending a lot of time on the water, this is one of the best campgrounds to stay in.
The Stallion Campground is a relatively large semi-circular loop between the Caballo Dam and the lake’s boat ramps. It has water and electrical hookups and is close to a set of showers and restrooms. A telephone and the park’s camping office are also nearby.
The Riverside Campground is one of the larger ones in the park and offers water and electrical hookups for your RV. There’s also a small playground nearby and some picnic tables; showers and restrooms are between the campground and the lake. The Rio Grande passes to the east of Riverside, but this section is below the dam and has no boat traffic, making sites much quieter than those adjacent to the lake.
Appaloosa Camping Area
This small semi-circular loop of RV camping spaces has water and electrical hookups along with access to a group shelter area. There’s a very short hiking trail leading down to the lake too. Showers and restrooms are located near the Stallion and Palamino Campgrounds to the north and south.
Seasonal activities in Caballo Lake State Park
Touring the Visitor’s Center
If you want a place to cool off during the summer park your campervan at the Visitor’s Center. It has a few exhibits pertaining to area’s geology and the wildlife that lives around the lake. It probably won’t take more than twenty minutes to see everything, but it can still be a nice reprieve.
Caballo Lake is known for being home to some record breaking walleye and bass, so you’ll probably want to get yourself a New Mexico fishing license (available online) if you’ll be camping with your rig here. There’s a kayak fishing tournament held in May of each year, but even if you don’t have of boat to get around in, fishing from the shore can be just as fun.
Caballo Lake State Park is one of the best places to go kayaking, canoeing, or stand up paddling boarding in western New Mexico. The waters of the Rio Grande are warm enough that if you fall in, it won’t be an entirely unwelcome experience. This large lake can be accessed from the three boat docks and two boats ramps that surround it. However, it’s also quite popular with motorized boats, so stay vigilant for them, as they won’t see you as easily.
Saddle up, because you’re in cowboy country here. If you’re visiting Caballo Lake State Park with your horse or have access to one while you’re there, the trails surrounding the lake are perfect for a ride. Most of them aren’t very well developed, so bring a map or your phone so as to not get lost. There aren’t really any facilities set up for horses like hitching posts or corrals, so be prepared for self-sufficiency.
Hiking in Caballo Lake State Park is best enjoyed in the winter month so as to avoid a heat stroke or dehydration. There’s not much in the way of marked trails inside the park, but it’s not hard to find a walkable amidst the sparsely vegetated desert landscape. Just start wandering north from the campgrounds and you’re sure to find something interesting. There are also some very interesting drainages and canyons on the eastern side of the lake, but these can be difficult to access without a boat and can also be quite dangerous. Only attempt them if you’re an experienced hiker and always hikes with a partner.
Summer temperatures in Caballo Lake State Park can soar above 100 degrees, so bird watching is best experienced in the cooler months of late fall and early spring when they’re a much more pleasant 70 to 75 degree range. The Audubon Society has designated Caballo Lake an important birding area and you’re likely to see herons, pelicans, grebes, and many other species if you’re lucky.