Fenton Lake State Park is a great jumping-off point to explore everything that the Land of Enchantment has to offer. It’s also an outstanding place to park your rig for a weekend or even longer.
The fragile deserts, growing urban centers, snow-covered peaks, and other aspects of New Mexico are just a short drive away from Fenton Lake State Park. The park itself is tucked away in one of the most scenic parts of the state. Winding mountain roads take you to a sheet-of-glass lake that’s surrounded by towering mountains. Park visitors enjoy hiking, fishing, boating and more in a quiet and serene atmosphere that allows your family to unplug.
This combination of serenity and adventure is just outside the door of your motorhome. Fenton Lake State Park has over two dozen level RV campsites. Many of them have electrical and water hookups, while others are more rustic. Since a variety of experiences await you here, now is a good time to pack up your rig and hit the road.
It’s not easy to reach Fenton Lake State Park, and that’s one of the best reasons to go there this weekend.
This park, which is near the western edge of the vast Valles Caldera National Preserve, is roughly 50 miles from the nearest interstate, so there’s very little traffic to disrupt your camping experience. Access roads go through the mountains, but for the most part, they are wide and well-maintained, even in winter. It gets cold in these mountains, but the weather usually does not get too bad. RVers can see the forests get thicker and the mountains get a little higher as the approach Fenton Lake State Park.
Fenton Lake State Park is basically laid out in a line which follows Rio Cebolla to the lake. Large vehicle parking is available in the six camping and picnic area loops strung out along this line, as well as the park’s Lake Fork Day Use area.
Fenton Lake State Park has 35 RV parking spots arranged in five loops. The five Loop D spots, which is the closest loop to the lake, have electrical and water hookups. Each spot has a barbecue grill or fire ring along with a picnic table, so you can enjoy the outdoors twelve months a year. The further you go down the camp road, the more rustic the campsites become. Some loops have modern flush toilets, and others have vault toilets. In other words, campers of all stripes can find a home here.
Fenton Lake may be the most trout-filled 30 acres of water in the Southwest. Officials heavily stock the water with rainbow trout. There’s a very strong native brown trout population as well. As a result, many people catch the five-fish limit in less than an hour. After that, it’s catch-and-release. The nearby Seven Springs Fish Hatchery often supplements the trout population with Rio Grande Cutthroats. During the winter, much of the lake is frozen over sufficiently to allow ice fishing. Since the weather is not Siberia cold, it’s a good time to drill a hole in the ice and see what happens. Fenton Lake is one of the few New Mexico lakes where ice fishing is allowed. A fish cleaning station, which is normally closed during the winter, is near the boat launch.
This boat launch accommodates all kinds of unpowered craft, like rowboats, canoes, and kayaks. Paddleboarding is pretty popular here as well. Just be sure and dodge the fish which come near the surface. A few sailboats are out and about as well, but the high mountains mean that this park is not very windy. Fenton Lake is roughly rectangular. Most boaters like to hug the long-sided shorelines as they are more scenic. But some boaters go out to the middle of the lake as well.
The one-mile Hal Baxter Memorial Trail starts at the far edge of the campground and ends at the Day Use area on the lakeshore. The moderate trail basically hugs the treeline parallel to the river. One side of the trail is a meadow and the other side is a forest, so it’s quite scenic. Two other trails are around the lake. One goes over the dam, which is also a pretty good trout fly-fishing spot. The other lake trail is on the much more remote opposite shore. It includes a picturesque footbridge.
Backcountry horseback riding is allowed in designated areas. Light snowfalls, which are plentiful here during this time of year, are a great time to explore the park on horseback. Limited cross-country skiing is available as well. Additionally, when it gets really cold, park officials transform part of the main camp road into a prepared snowmobile trail. The relatively flat Hal Baxter Memorial Trail is outstanding for snowshoeing, and we’ve already mentioned the ice fishing opportunities.
The weather rarely gets bad in this mountain valley, so picnicking is basically a year-round activity. There are four picnic loops around the lake. Two of them are at the water’s edge, one is in the trees, and one is in the Day Use area. There’s also a group shelter near the dam and an incredibly remote picnic area near the lake hiking trail. So, you can have some alone time or a lot of fun with a large group.
During fall and spring, the skies above Fenton Lake State Park are filled with migratory birds. Much like RV campers, these animals come here for the quiet setting, ample trees, and clear water. Native songbirds are plentiful here as well, as are the occasional larger predatory birds. On land, look for deer, turkeys, muskrats, and elk. The occasional mountain lion or bobcat wanders into the park from the mountains or the nearby Valles Caldera National Preserve.