Northern New Mexico has a fascinating volcanic history, mostly hidden, but you can definitely see it at Fenton Lake State Park with a little bit of imagination. This relatively small 700-acre state park is located in the Jemez Mountains, 80 miles north of Albuquerque and 70 miles west of Santa Fe. The land was acquired by the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game and was quickly transformed into a state park.
Fenton Lake State Park sits at a high altitude of 7,650 feet, meaning it often sees snow in the winter. Many winter sports aficionados come to Fenton Lake in the winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. In the summer, however, Fenton Lake State Park is a gorgeous destination for fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. The lake is a small 37 acres and sits in a lush valley surrounded by orange and red bluffs, all surrounded by aspens and Ponderosa pines. You’ll have an enjoyable motorhome camping experience if you book an RV in Sandoval County and explore all of the other natural areas found in northern New Mexico.
Fenton Lake State Park has some great hiking and biking trails both within the park and in surrounding areas. The Hal Baxter Trail is an easy one-mile trail that follows the Rio Cebolla from the campground to a day-use area at the east end of the lake. There are some shorter, flat interpretive trails along both the west and east ends of the lake. Nearby trails will take you to vistas with incredible viewpoints and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Speaking of wildlife viewing, some of the animal species you’ll find in Fenton Lake State Park include deer, wild turkey, and elk. The valley glows with wildflowers in the spring, and migratory birds make Fenton Lake one of their destinations during migration seasons. The dark skies over Fenton Lake State Park are also perfect for stargazing and astrophotography.
Fenton Lake State Park is perhaps best known for its fishing and watersports opportunities. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, cutthroat, and German brown trout. The lake does freeze over during the winter, but ice fishing continues in these colder months. There is a wheelchair-accessible fishing platform on the north end of the lake, and you can also cast your line in the Rio Cebolla. Anyone 12 years and older will need a valid state fishing license. You can launch a fishing boat from a boat ramp, but only trolling motors are allowed. Kayaking is also popular in the Rio Cebolla.
Camping at Fenton Lake State Park
The Fenton Lake State Park campground is in a beautiful setting. You’ll find 30 RV sites spread out along the Rio Cebolla, giving you plenty of privacy. Tall pines also provide ample shade. One site is ADA-compliant, and five of these sites have electric and water hookups for your camper rental. There's no dump station at this campground.
The campground at Fenton Lake State Park features vault toilets, water, and a playground for the kids. Each campsite has a picnic table and a fire ring with a grill. Feel free to bring your pets along for your Fenton Lake State Park camping adventure, but be sure to keep them on a leash at all times. The largest sites can accommodate RVs up to 50 feet long.
Exploring the Area
Fenton Lake State Park is remote, and if you’re in desperate need of fuel and groceries, you won’t find much nearby. The closest gas station is 30 miles to the west in Cuba. Other than some small stores and a few Mexican restaurants, there isn’t much else in Cuba. Your closest significant shopping opportunity is in Albuquerque, just over an hour to the south. Albuquerque is home to several infamous events, such as film festivals, marathons, and the hot air balloon festival. Don’t miss Albuquerque’s other historic sites, museums, and galleries.
You have several other options for your RV camping adventure in New Mexico. Just a few miles to the east along Highway 4, you’ll pass through the collapsed volcano at Valles Caldera National Preserve and the ancient ruins at Bandelier National Monument. Los Alamos and Santa Fe aren’t too far beyond those. If you travel northwest of Fenton Lake State Park in your campervan rental, you can explore magnificently-preserved ancient ruins. Chaco Culture National Historic Park preserves a large pueblo village, and more ruins are north of that at Aztec Culture National Monument. Once you get into Colorado, you can explore the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park and Yucca House National Monument.