Spend an unforgettable weekend in Northeastern New Mexico. Visit historic ruins, relax on the southwest's most scenic lakes and pay your respects to a legendary outlaw (who's still imprisoned, even after death). With its shortgrass plains and hidden lakes, northeastern New Mexico is a region of many hidden gems. It’s home to a plethora of ranches, trails, and even portions of the famed Route 66. Get ready to explore this enchanting part of the country!
Located right along the Santa Fe Trail, Fort Union National Monument features the ruins of three different Civil War-era forts. Take a two-hour self-guided tour that lets you see all parts of the ruins, or go on a guided candlelight tour of the sight (make sure to call ahead to reserve your spot). If you’re traveling with children, make sure to stop at the park’s visitor center—it offers a Junior Ranger program, during which kids can earn their very own ranger badge!
Storrie Lake State Park is a great place to park your camper for the night. In addition to providing RV hookups and a modern shower facility, the park offers bird watching, fishing, and even windsurfing on the lake. It’s also conveniently located right outside of Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada… you won’t find slot machines and showgirls here!), but it’s far enough from the hustle and bustle of the city to provide some peace and quiet. Make sure to stop at the visitor center to see its interesting display of photos of the historic Santa Fe Trail!
Located just a few miles away from Santa Rosa Lake State Park is the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa, a popular scuba diving and swimming destination that earned its name from its incredibly clear blue water. At 80 feet wide and more than 80 feet deep, the Blue Hole is considered one of the best places to scuba dive in the United States. Even if you aren’t certified to dive, it’s worth a visit just to see the stunning blue water.
In the middle of the dry desert sits the oasis of Sumner Lake State Park, a prime spot for water sports, camping, and fishing. The lake’s reservoir is home to a large variety of fish species such as catfish, walleye, and largemouth bass, so you’ll really be reeling ’em in! Make sure to take a dip in the lake if you feel the need to cool off.
The Old Fort Sumner Museum, located outside of Fort Sumner proper, is where Billy the Kid is buried with two of his buddies. The cemetery is free to enter, but be warned that Billy’s grave is behind metal bars to deter thieves and vandals… even in death, the notorious outlaw couldn’t escape a prison cell!
Another gem located on Route 66, Del’s Restaurant is a quirky eatery known for the giant cow sitting on top of its neon sign. The restaurant offers both American and Mexican fare, and is famous for its large portions. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so you’re covered all day. Make sure to check out their kitschy gift shop to collect even more souvenirs on your journey.
Northeastern New Mexico has more lakes than you can shake a stick at, but Conchas Lake State Park is a great place to wrap up your trip. This park is a hidden paradise, with sand beaches, beautiful canyons, and secluded coves, and it’s a perfect place for fishing, hiking, birding, and even waterskiing. The lake also offers nine public launch sites, so you will have no problem finding a place to put your boat in the water.
Northeastern New Mexico has plenty to offer—whether you’re interested in Civil War monuments, abundant wildlife, or refreshing lakes, you’ll have a great time exploring all the region has to offer. So, what’s stopping you? Hit the road and set up camp!