Eagle Nest Lake State Park sits on a beautiful piece of New Mexico high-country property. The park wraps around the northern and western shores of the gorgeous, 2,400 acre Eagle Nest Lake, which offers ample opportunities for boating, fishing in the summer and snowmobiling and ice-fishing in the winter.
Jagged cliff lines and steep talus slopes dive dramatically into the far shores of the lake, while the park’s campground sits on a mellow shoreline near the picturesque mountain town of Eagle Nest. Surrounding the park are the foothills and mountains of the southern Sangre De Cristo Range; just a few miles to the the west is Wheeler Peak, with an imposing ice-capped summit that lords over the nearby valley and stands as the highest point in New Mexico.
Eagle Nest State Park sports several boat launches, a marina, a visitor center with exhibits, multiple hiking trailheads and a small but lovely shoreline campground. Whether you’re wanting to pull a huge trout from the lake, go for an invigorating mountain-hike, or just relax by the water, Eagle Nest can provide.
The park’s campground has just 19 spots, and only six of these are reservable. If you think you’ll be coming through on a weekend or during the busy summer season, try to snag one of the reservable sites!
Eagle Nest State Park is located just off of US-64 and is to the south of the small town of (you guessed it) Eagle Nest, New Mexico. The town of Eagle Nest has amenities including grocery stores, restaurants, general and supply stores, atms and more.
US-64 swings past the north and west sides of the lake, and there are clearly marked turn-offs for the Moreno Day Use Area, the Visitor Center (which is near the campground and boat launch) and the Six Mile Day Use Area. All roads are paved and well-maintained. Travelers should remember, of course, that this is mountain country - snow storms can occur throughout much of the year, and July and August bring monsoons with heavy rainstorms.
The campground can be found just to the south of the visitor center. It is a simple, single loop and should not pose any significant parking challenges. Additional parking is available at each of the day use areas, as well as the visitor center, where the picnic area and a trailhead are also located.
The park’s campground sits right on the west shore of Eagle Nest Lake, offering a spectacular view of the water, the valley and the surrounding mountains. Though the park and the lake may be large, the campground is quite small. A simple loop consists of just 19 RV-suitable sites. These sites are all primitive, having no electric, water or sewage hookups. The park also lacks a sanitary dump station, though you can find one to use (for a fee) in the town of Eagle Nest. Sites are mixed back-in and pull-though, and all are quite spacious, with site lengths ranging from 50 ft to over 100 ft. Sites each have fire rings, and a vault toilet is located in the center of the camping loop.
Just six of the park’s sites are reservable. The rest are first-come first-served. Reservations can be made for the reservable sites through the park’s website up to six months in advance.
For those wanting to stretch their legs and take in the lake or explore Moreno Creek, the park offers several miles of hiking trails. Trailheads can be found at the visitor center and at the Moreno Day use area. Additional trails, which offer great views of sheer canyons walls and rugged, pine-clad mountains, can be found at nearby Cimarron Canyon State Park. If you are seeking a truly stunning vista (and if you don’t mind working up a sweat) take a short drive west to Carson National Forest and take the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail (#67). This calf-and-quad- shredding trek gains nearly 3,000 ft in just over two miles and rewards hikers with a marvelous panorama from atop New Mexico’s highest point.
Kayaks, motorboats and even sailboats are a common site on Eagle Nest Lake in the dog days of summer. The lake’s high elevation (it sits at about 8000’) means that temperatures are rarely sweltering, even in July and August. Paddlers and sailors can explore over 2,400 acres of pristine alpine water, taking in the dramatic views of nearby mountains and rocky, tree-covered slopes that dip into the lake. The park’s boat launch is conveniently located right by the campground, and there is a marina and boat rental concessionaire on site as well.
Anglers won’t be disappointed by the fishing or the views at Eagle Nest. Whether you’re casting from a boat in the middle of the water or from a spot you’ve hiked to along the shoreline, you can soak up some Rocky Mountain sun and enjoy some high country tranquility. Konakee salmon, rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, yellow perch and smallmouth bass are just some of the species anglers can pull from the water. If you pull a norther pike, do the lake a favor and keep it! The pike were introduced accidentally and have a detrimental effect on many of the other stocked species.
Snowmobilers can buzz around and even onto Eagle Nest Lake once winter snows blanket the area. Though it’s in New Mexico, Eagle Nest’s northerly location and high elevation makes its climate similar to much of the Colorado Rockies. The park receives an average of 62 inches of snow per year, and that snowfall is spread out over several months, meaning the snowmobiling window is a long one. And if you’ve thoroughly explored Eagle Nest, Carson National Forest and its many miles of snowmobiling trails is right nearby.
Anglers need not put away their reels once the weather turns frosty. Extremely cold nights at 8000’ means Eagle Nest Lake usually accumulates a healthy layer of ice on its surface by the end of December. Ice fishing is a popular winter pastime in the area, and there is even an annual ice-fishing tournament on the lake. Ice-fishers should note that the opening of the lake to ice-fishing varies seasonally (depending on the ice’s thickness); you can check with the State Parks Division of New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources department to get up-to-date conditions.
Eagle Nest Lake and the surrounding mountains and forests are prime, montane habitats home to a wide variety of wildlife species. Bear, elk, deer, fox, coyote and marmot are all common to the area, and cougars and bighorn sheep can be occasionally seen too. The lake’s waters attract both seasonal migrants and permanent residents. Take a pair of binoculars and look out for osprey, hawks, herons, pelicans, and, of course, bald eagles, who frequently nest along the shore.