Dense and jagged clusters of mountains mark the landscape of northern New Mexico. The area is popular with bikers for its long scenic backroads and RVers for its dry winters and cooler summer temps above 7,000 feet.
Cimmaron Canyon State Park is a long narrow park of eight miles that begins just east of Eagle Nest Lake. The Cimarron River has carved into the mountain and exposed millions of years of geology in steep rock cliffs that tower 400 feet over the roadway.
The park is well know by fly fishermen who travel from all over the region to enjoy this thriving trout stream with ideal conditions for shallow river wading and dry fly fishing. The state also stocks the gravel pit lakes in the park which are fishable right from some of the campsites.
The wildlife viewing opportunities are significant with the Colin Neblett Wildlife Management Area literally surrounding the State Park. Elk, deer, bobcat, mountain lions, and bears have all been seen in the area. Local hunters utilize the park as a base camp during hunting season and hike into the wildlife area.
Three small primitive campgrounds provide overnight accommodations in the canyon. Only a few of the sites are reservable online, so you may end up staying in Cimmaron if it's filled up in the summer. But visitors love Cimmaron and often visit there for some "Wild West" fun, with rodeos, western music events, and cowboy themed entertainment all summer long.
There are also several great hiking trails which include access to waterfalls and great views of the Cimmaron river and the unique geology of the canyon. This spot is a favorite with visitors looking for peace and quiet. Wake up to the natural sounds of the river and experience a relaxing retreat from civilization.
RV Rentals in Cimarron Canyon State Park
Transportation in Cimarron Canyon State Park
The road through the park doesn't have much shoulder so you can really only stop to see the sights at the day use area pull-outs. Watch out for fishermen walking along the side of the road looking for honey-holes. The high elevation here means snow and freezing temperatures in the winter. If you're exploring in the off-season, prepare for any weather conditions.
Campgrounds and parking in Cimarron Canyon State Park
Campsites in Cimarron Canyon State Park
Cimmaron Canyon State Park Campgrounds
There are 94 total sites across three different campgrounds, and in each of these only a handful are reservable online. All of the sites are primitive, but there is plenty of room for RVs to dry camp. There is a visitor center at the Tolby campground. There are full restrooms, showers, and drinking water at each campground. There are picnic tables and fire rings and they are technically open year-round, although this is in the mountains and receives snow and freezing temperatures in winter.
Seasonal activities in Cimarron Canyon State Park
Soak in the River
When there's no clouds in sight and the summer pushes temperatures into the 80's in July and August, find yourself a slow shallow section of the Cimmaron River and sit right down. Most of the slow and deep holes in the river will be occupied with fishermen but it's incredibly pleasant to soak in the shallows and feel the water moving through your toes with a cold drink in hand. Don't forget the hat and sun screen.
Cowboy Music & Poetry
Each year the old western town of Cimmaron hosts a variety of fun events like rodeo, dancing, music festivals, and old fashioned parades. August brings the annual Cimmaron Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering to town. Singers, songwriters, musicians, and poets come together for a good-fun weekend of authentic western music and poetry. Cowboy hats as far as the eye can see and pretty ladies ready to dance.
Clear Creek Trail Hike
With it's year-round water flows and 8,000 foot elevations, Cimmaron Canyon is a great destination for those looking to cool off from the New Mexico summer heat. The Clear Creek Trail head is at mile marker 292 (three miles past Tolby) and takes you on a three mile out-and-back trail that crisscrosses the creek several times and leads to several pleasant waterfalls. The climbing parts of the trail are short and most of the hike is level. The total elevation gain is only 775 feet.
New Mexico doesn't have much water to boast of. So wherever it does appear, expect everyone to flock - even the birds. The state boasts over five hundred species of local and migrating birds that can be seen at different parts of the year. The areas around the river are well forested and provide great cover for bird watchers near the water. Spring and Fall see huge populations of migrating birds and you'll give your field guide a proper "breaking-in".
Elk and Deer Hunting
Cimmaron Canyon is right in the middle of the Colin Neblett Wildlife Management Area, which are prime hunting grounds for some of the biggest game in New Mexico. Camping at one of the sites in the State Park and hiking into CNWMA is a good option as long as you're in great shape. The terrain is steep and hilly, but that can also make it a very rewarding and challenging hunt. Check with NMDFW for licenses and permits.
Fly Fishing Cimmaron River
This very popular stream emanating from Eagles Nest Lake in the park beckons fly fishermen in late spring from all over New Mexico. Brown trout run in great numbers through the narrow Cimmaron River and go wild for caddis and stone dry flies in the spring to early summer. The setting and scenery are as lovely and peaceful as you could hope for. There is also lake fishing available at the Maverick campground.