Santa Rosa Lake State Park, located on the plains of New Mexico, is just seven miles north of the city of Santa Rosa. The park has an elevation near 4,800 feet. Just a short distance from the famed Route 66, it is a great location to stop in for a night or weekend while on a road trip. The state park is full of activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and fishing. Santa Rosa Lake is 3,500 acres and provides endless activities such as boating, swimming, and other water sports. Scenic trails to and around the lake are accessible from within the Rocky Point camping area.
The flood control act of 1954 authorized the construction of Santa Rosa Lake and the dam. The project was completed in 1981. As the first major dam along the Pecos River, Santa Rosa Lake provides irrigation storage, flood control, and sediment retention. The area is managed and maintained by the New Mexico State Parks department. Stop by the Visitor Center during your stay to learn more about the history of the area and the construction of the reservoir and dam.
There are two campgrounds within the state park, Rocky Point and Juniper Park. Rocky Point Campground is more popular for RVers. Many campsites in Rocky Point have water and electrical hookups, though others in that camping area, as well as the Juniper Park Campground, are dry. Some sites are available for reservation, while others are first-come, first-served. The peak season to visit is in the late spring and summer months. If visiting in the winter, be aware of seasonal closures that may impact some campgrounds or camping loops.
Santa Rosa Lake State Park is located just seven miles north of the city of Santa Rosa in the eastern portion of New Mexico. From I-40, you can take Highway 91 right on into the park. Since the park is so close to the city of Santa Rosa, supplies are nearby if you forgot to pack something, or if you just want to venture out to explore. You’ll be less than two hours from Santa Fe and Albuquerque as well.
Highway 91 does have a few twists and curves, but it should be a fairly easy drive out to the state park. There are several turnouts along the way where you can pull over and take a break from driving if you see that traffic is backing up behind you. The gate into the state park is open 24 hours a day, so if you are arriving late, you shouldn’t have any trouble accessing the campsites.
Once in the camping areas, you’ll find that there are both pull-through and back-in campsites. The sites are mostly level, but leveling your rig may still be needed at some of the gravel sites. The roads in the park are vehicle-friendly, though you may prefer to walk or take the trails for the scenery and wildlife.
The Rocky Point Campground is a pet-friendly, multi-looped campground located on the southwest corner of Santa Rosa Lake. Both loops have sites available for reservations and sites available for first-come, first-served camping. Loop A has 13 reservable sites with water hookups and 30-and 50-amp electrical hookups. These sites can accommodate RVs up to 50 feet in length. Loop B has four dry camping sites that also accommodate RVs and trailers up to 50 feet in length. In both loops, each site has a picnic table and a fire ring with a grill. Inside of the campground, campers will find water spigots, ADA-accessible modern restrooms with showers, and vault toilets. This campground is kid-friendly, and parents will love the proximity of the playground. Generators are fine as long as you don’t use them during quiet hours from 10 PM until 7 AM.
If you didn’t have a chance to make a reservation, and all of the sites are taken, don’t worry. In addition to the two main campsites, the park offers several different primitive camping areas. The shoreline has 17 camping spots where you can put up a tent or sleep under the stars. The Los Tanos Campground is an equestrian’s dream with plenty of space and two 10-foot corrals to hold your four-legged friends overnight. There are 15 tent pads to choose from with campfire rings, picnic tables, and a bunch of room for chilling out around the fire.
You’ll also find a vault toilet and a potable water spigot nearby. Get here early if you want a spot because all of these sites are first-come, first-served. Other four-legged friends are welcome as well, but you have to watch them and make sure they are restrained at all times while you are here. Take a walk on the Los Tanos Equestrian Trail, which starts at the campsite. Some of the hot spots include views of the Sandia Mountains, an abandoned windmill, and part of an old cabin.
Juniper Park Campground has 26 shaded, primitive RV sites with no hookups. The campground is first-come, first-served, and pet-friendly. If you need drinking water during your stay, there are several potable water spigots within the campground. Each of these spacious sites has a campfire grill or BBQ pit, a covered picnic table, and a huge area for playing and hanging out. The restroom is in the middle of the campground and has showers and running water. In addition, there are several more restrooms near the water’s edge.
Multiple park amenities are within walking distance of the campground. If you fancy eating outdoors, head to the picnic pavilion or the waterfront picnic tables. The Juniper Campground is closer to the lake than the Rocky Point Campground, and the boat ramp is just a short walk away. The scenery is spectacular in this campground. Take a walk along the camp road to reach the Overlook Trail, where you can see some fantastic views of the lake, dam, and the surrounding area.
Within the two loops of the Rocky Point Campground are sections reserved for first-come, first-served camping. Loop A has 12 water and electric sites available for walk-up camping, and Loop B has 23 dry camping sites. Both loops sites are large and accommodate RVs and trailers up to 50 feet in length. Since the first-come, first-served sites share the same space as the reservation sites, campers staying in the non-reservable spaces will have all of the same amenities that Rocky Point Campground provides its reservation campers.
The state park has an abundance of wild critters such as coyotes, deer, and fox. If you want to look for the wildlife, check out one of the wildlife viewing blinds are available throughout the park. If you are out on the trails or climbing around the rocky hills, you may even spot a snake. Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, especially if you disturb any rocks. Many non-venomous snakes are common in the park as well. Birdwatching is a popular activity at the state park also. It is common to spot hawks, bald eagles, and woodpeckers, along with many different types of ducks.
The Los Tanos Trail at Santa Rosa State Park is a popular equestrian trail. The trailhead is located in the equestrian camping area of the park, which has two corrals and water available for your horse. Ride the trail all day to take in the stunning views and then cool off afterward in the lake. At just over eight miles long, the typical time of traveling on this hike is about three hours, with a few stops to enjoy the scenery. Bring some water for you and your horse because it can get mighty dry out there.
During your stay, be sure to take the time to stop by the Army Corps of Engineers Visitor Center. You’ll find information about all kinds of things from the natural history of the area to the construction of the reservoir and dam. Learn about why they call Santa Rosa the city of natural lakes. Read about the Blue Hole, which is one of the natural lakes known for its crystal-clear water, as well as it's popularity for swimming and scuba diving.
You can count on excellent fishing conditions during your stay at the state park, so make sure you pack your fishing gear before you head out. Anglers commonly catch walleye, catfish, and largemouth from Santa Rosa Lake. The New Mexico Game and Fish Department keeps the lake well-stocked, so your chance at catching a fish is strong. Remember, before you head to the water, make sure to get a New Mexico fishing license, as a permit is required to fish in New Mexico Lakes. If you plan to fish from a boat, a boat ramp is available onsite.
Motorized and non-motorized boating is allowed on Santa Rosa Lake. A four-lane boat ramp is available for park guests' use. During your stay, plan to water ski, jet ski, or just putz around the lake to take in the scenery. The large lake is excellent for paddling as well, so bring along your kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. Being out on the water is a great way to spend a hot day, whether you’re on a boat, paddling, or using other watercraft.
There are 5.5 miles of hiking trails at Santa Rosa Lake State Park. Take a path down to the lake from the Rocky Point Campground. You’re sure to find beautiful views of the rocky hills and scenic overlooks of the lake. Jump into the lake to cool off before the trek back to your campsite. Along the trails, you may see some of the park’s wildlife, such as squirrels and rabbits during your hike. If climbing around rocks, be careful of disturbing rattlesnakes during the warmer months.