Located just a few miles north of the town of Truth or Consequences, Elephant Butte Lake State Park is New Mexico’s largest state park. With a 40,000 surface-acre lake at its center, this sprawling New Mexico state park has plenty of recreation options for your next RV vacation, both on water and on land.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park’s central feature, Elephant Butte Lake, was formed by a dam created in 1916 on the Rio Grande, and today offers nearly endless opportunities for boating: boaters can enjoy the lake from a sailboat, jet ski, pontoon, cruiser, houseboat, kayak, or canoe, and make use of the park’s four boat ramps, five docks, and three marinas. The lake also offers great opportunities for fishing and swimming, with fishing piers and miles of sandy beaches. On land, visitors can meanwhile enjoy 15 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as great opportunities for birding, with species ranging from American white pelicans to loons to longspurs.
Guests who plan to stay overnight at Elephant Butte Lake State Park can take advantage of the park’s 144 water and electric sites, and eight full-hookup sites. The park’s southern New Mexico location and desert climate allow it to be open year-round, though there are seasonal closures of particular boat ramps and campground comfort stations, so visitors should review the park’s announcements when planning a trip. Those eager to experience the park’s central feature will be happy to learn that motor and sail boating are enjoyed year-round on Elephant Butte Lake.
RV Rentals in Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Transportation in Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Elephant Butte Lake State Park is situated in a fairly remote spot, sitting about two hours south of Albuquerque and two hours north of El Paso. Despite its distance from larger cities, the park is easy to access by car or RV, as it is located just a few miles off of Interstate 25.
Once inside the park, visitors can plan to park at their campsite or in various designated areas located throughout the park. Despite its large size, Elephant Butte Lake State Park has an elaborate system of roads within it that makes the park reasonably easy to navigate—NM-181, NM-195, NM-171, and NM-51 all wind through parts of the park. Inside the campgrounds, visitors can make use of sites that accommodate rigs of up to nearly 90 feet long, with a mix of pull-through and back-in options.
Visitors can take advantage of boat rentals within the park, but for more extensive supply needs, visitors can venture just outside the park to the town of Elephant Butte for restaurants and gas stations, or head to the nearby town of Truth or Consequences just a few miles away for even more restaurant, gas, grocery, and shopping options.
Campgrounds and parking in Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Campsites in Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Desert Cove Campground
Elephant Butte Lake State Park has plenty of campsites to offer guests, with 173 developed campsites, 144 water and electric sites, and eight full-hookup sites spread across four campgrounds and multiple primitive camping areas. Desert Cove Campground is in the southern half of the park, just north of the Visitor Center, and offers 16 reservable sites with water and 50-amp electric hookups. These sites are all back-in access, and can accommodate rigs of up to 50 feet in length.
Just northwest of the campground, visitors can find three additional reservable campsites on Lower Ridge Road, which offer very easy access to the lake, 30-amp electric hookups, water in-site, pull-through access, and restrooms with showers. Guests in these campgrounds can make use of the dump station located in Desert Cove Campground. Some of these sites can be reserved ahead of time, while some are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Lions Beach Campground
Located north of Desert Cove Campground, Lions Beach Campground offers 25 additional reservable sites, which feature water and 30-amp electric hookups. Many of these sites offer stunning views of the lake, and most offer a table, canopy, and fire ring. These sites are all back-in access and can accommodate rigs of up to 70 feet in length. Visitors can also make use of the dump station and restrooms located in the campground. Guests staying at Lions Beach Campground can enjoy very easy access to the lake, and nearby access to hiking trails. Some of the sites at Lions Beach Campground can be reserved ahead of time, while others are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Quail Run Campground
Quail Run Campground is located next to Desert Cove Campground and has an additional set of RV campsites, two of which can be reserved ahead of time. These sites offer 20/30-amp electric hookups and can accommodate rigs of up to 73 feet in length. Some of the sites offer pull-through access and stunning lake views, depending on water level. Each site has a table, canopy, and fire ring. Visitors can also make use of the restrooms located in the campground and the dump station located at Desert Cove Campground. Guests staying at Quail Run Campground will be about one mile away from the lake, and a half mile from a playground. Guests can also enjoy easy access to nearby Luchimi Trail.
South Monticello Campground
For additional RV sites, visitors can also check out South Monticello Campground, which is home to 15 additional reservable sites, and even more first-come first-serve sites. The campground is located in the far northern area of the park, past many of the primitive camping areas. These sites can accommodate vehicles of up 87 feet in length, and offer water in-site, electric hookups, a table, canopy, and fire ring. Some of these sites also offer views of the lake. Guests at South Monticello Campground can also make use of the dump station located near the entrance to the campground, the restrooms and showers located in the campground, and easy access to both hiking trails and a boat ramp.
Seasonal activities in Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Boating is one of the biggest draws of Elephant Butte Lake State Park, due to its 40,000 surface-acre lake on the Rio Grande that stretches up to 40 miles long with an average width of about one and a half miles. Visitors have a wide range of boating opportunities in this New Mexico state park: the park boasts four boat ramps, five courtesy docks, three marinas, and boat rentals. Boaters can enjoy motorized and non-motorized boating, paddling, and more: motor and sail boating are popular year-round; water skiing and jet skiing are popular in the summer months; and kayaking and canoeing are especially popular in the fall.
With miles upon miles of shoreline, Elephant Butte Lake also offers stellar opportunities for swimming. Visitors eager to escape the summer heat and cool off in the refreshing waters of Elephant Butte Lake can take advantage of the park’s sandy beaches. Visitors can soak up the sun on the beach while taking in the park’s stunning scenery, play a game of volleyball, enjoy a picnic by the water, and then take a dip in the sprawling lake, to get the full experience of this New Mexico state park.
Visitors who want to take their experience of the lake a step further and try their luck at catching some of the many fish species who call the lake home can enjoy the stellar fishing opportunities at Elephant Butte Lake. Anglers can enjoy this designated warm water fishery by fishing from a boat or from the fishing pier, trying to catch largemouth bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill, smallmouth bass, striped bass, flathead catfish, channel catfish, and more in the park’s massive lake.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park is also rich with opportunities for wildlife viewing, and for birding in particular. While birds of various species can be spotted all throughout the park, some of the best birding spots are at the marinas at Long Point, Three Sisters Point, and South Monticello Point. At the lake, birders can look out for thousands of western and Clark’s grebes, American white pelicans, terns, gulls, waders, shorebirds, and loons. On land, one of the best birding spots is Rock Canyon south, where visitors might be able to glimpse birds attracted by the tall scrub and by the feeders in nearby houses.
As New Mexico’s largest state park, Elephant Butte Lake State also has plenty of trails to offer visitors. Those eager to stretch their legs and explore this massive state park on land and by foot can take advantage of the park’s 15 miles of hiking trails. The longest trail in the park, West Lakeshore Trail, stretches for over ten miles one way and winds through the desert hills above the lake, offering panoramic views and encounters with jackrabbits, lizards, and colorful wildflowers.
Visitors who would prefer to explore the state’s largest park on two wheels can instead gear up their mountain bike and plan to bike through the winding trails at Elephant Butte Lake State Park. West Lakeshore Trail, the park’s longest trail, is open to mountain bikers, and offers a trail that is typically about six feet wide with a gravel surface, though there are some sections of uneven surfaces and deep sand. While West Lakeshore Trail is classified as an easy trail, mountain bikers should be prepared to tackle several very steep, but short, sections.