Once a booming coal mining camp, Sugarite Canyon State Park is now home to more wildlife than people. Two small campgrounds and eighteen miles of hiking trails provide access through this lush canyon, filled with oaks, aspens, and evergreens right against the Colorado border.
After the coal mines shut down in the 1940's, there was almost no human activity in the canyon, except for the efforts to clean up and restore the land. The restoration was very successful, and apart from the building foundations and a few pieces of heavy equipment left behind as historical markers, there is almost no sign of activity.
The old mining camp is one of the main attractions in the park and is explained in the park Visitor Center. A short hike to the site is lined with interpretive signs and historical markers. The camp is the subject of several history books and a significant part of New Mexico's cultural history, since most of the miners were foreigners.
The other main features in the canyon are Lake Maloya, a man made 120 acre fishing lake stocked with rainbow and brown trout, and Little Horse Mesa, a huge exposed cliff of basaltic columns which draw rock climbers.
Visitors rarely leave Sugarite without seeing many kinds of wildlife. The canyon is home to deer, black bears, raccoons, porcupines, weasels, squirrels, skunks, rabbits, and little brown bats. The hills are also covered in a variety of wildflowers in the spring and summer, to the delight of photographers.
The two campgrounds are very small, and in spite of a few reservable RV hook-up sites they are really geared toward tent campers. The Lake Alice campground is open year round and is often used by visitors ice fishing on the small lake.
With elevations well above 6,000 feet it never gets much hotter than 85 in the middle of summer, so many visitors consider Sugarite Canyon as a place to beat the heat rather than soak it up.
RV Rentals in Sugarite Canyon State Park
Transportation in Sugarite Canyon State Park
The campground is very compact and most of the spaces have just enough room for small trailers and class C motorhomes. It's comfortable enough to enjoy without air conditioning, so don't count out the basic sites if you're capable of dry camping. It's very easy access from Raton on I-25.
Campgrounds and parking in Sugarite Canyon State Park
Campsites in Sugarite Canyon State Park
The Raton KOA campground is conveniently located between Colorado and New Mexico. While at the campground, guests can easily visit the Capulin Volcano National Monument, Sugarite Canyon State Park, the Boy Scout Museum, the Santa Fe Trail, the NRA Whittington Center and the Downtown Historic District. The campground itself features Wi-Fi and cable, restrooms and showers, laundry facilities, ice, a gift shop, a game room, recreational facilities, and planned activities including ice cream socials, pancake breakfasts and holiday celebrations.
Lake Alice Campground
There are not many camp sites in Sugarite Canyon SP, and even less with RV hook-ups, so you'll want to make reservations for sure. There are 40 total sites in the park. The Alice Lake Campground offers 8 with water and electric, and 2 with full hook ups. Most of the standard sites have enough room for up to 30ft trailers and RVs, but they are not reservable. There is water, showers, full restrooms, and a dump station. There are picnic tables and fire rings in each site.
Seasonal activities in Sugarite Canyon State Park
Little Horse Mesa exposes a large face of basaltic columns in the park called "caprock". This ancient volcanic geology creates a distinct and very fun climbable crack about every ten feet. Because the face is only about 50 feet tall, top rope climbing is possible on nearly every climb. The rock is in very good condition and allows for traditional and sport climbs. The high altitude makes this cooler climbing even in summer, but the cliffs do face south, so be careful mid day.
The 120 acre Lake Maloya is open to non-motorized boating in Sugarite Canyon SP. The abundant scenery, peacefulness, and well stocked fishing, make this a rewarding place to paddle. This is a classic canoeing and kayaking lake with abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. You might even spot a beaver around the lake. No boats are allowed on the much smaller Lake Alice.
Lake Maloya Fishing
The New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish has been stocking Lake Maloya for decades. The result is some very large rainbow and brown trout hiding in the lake. There are numerous reports of three pound fish over 25". The lake is restricted to non-motorized boats, but once you feel the quiet in Sugarite Canyon State Park you'll want to preserve it too. Check with the NMDGF for regulations.
Coal Mining History
The coal mining camp of Sugarite once housed over a thousand workers. Closed in 1941, the mines were sealed up and most of the equipment and buildings relocated, but the remnants of the mining camp in Sugarite are a popular attraction for history buffs. Many relics are left for explorers such as building foundations and train carts. Interpretive signs mark the old mines and several key structures. A short hiking trail takes visitors on a tour of the camp.
Ice Fishing Lake Alice
At around 7,000 feet, winters are cold enough to thicken the ice on Lake Alice for ice fishing. With rainbow and brown trout stocked in the park known to often be two to three pounds, it's a big opportunity for a small lake. The Lake Alice Campground is open in winter to welcome frosty adventures. Check with NMDGF for regulations.
New Mexico has some of the most diverse bird populations in the country. Over five hundred species of local and migratory birds can be seen at different times of the year in Sugarite Canyon State Park. Check with the Visitor Center for special events such as the World Migratory Bird Day Festival. Boaters will have the best opportunity to get up close views during the spring and fall.
Master of the Mountains Relay Race
This September event brings together a 20 mile cycle, 10k trail run, three mile paddling course, and shotgun shoot all into one. Northern New Mexico is an active population and ready for adventure. The normally quiet Sugarite Canyon buzzes with excitement for this weekend in September. Check with the Visitor Center for registration info and entry fees.