Major Lakes in New Mexico

We have major lakes in New Mexico to suggest for you to check into.

What is a major lake? Some feel it means the biggest lakes. But the word major also means significant, consequential or important.

Even though some of the lakes here aren't the biggest of all, these major New Mexico lakes you'll want to get to know because they are fundamental to your lake knowledge.

Or they may be somewhere you'll likely want to know about. The lake we bring to you we've discovered is truly exceptional, for one reason or another. And we feel you should know of it!

We think you'll be glad we pointed it out. Because they are...

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Major New Mexico Lakes You'll Love

We think you, your kids and/or your pets, too, will love these major New Mexico lakes.

We believe you will enjoy them. They are wonderful lakes to visit, for their serene surroundings. Plus you'll have lots of things to do in the area!

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New Mexico Lake Parks

Navajo Lake State Park1 - Adjacent to Navajo Dam, NM. A very small zip coded town. Per its name, located near the dam that created 15,600-acre Navajo lake from Los Pinos River.

Average elevation: 6000 ft. The lake is NM's 2nd largest. All kinds of boating craft & water sports.

From US64 forty miles East of  Farmington, then NM511 to NM539.

  • Two marinas (505-632-3245), three docks & 3 boats ramps.
  • Fishing, includes accessible piers.
  • 7 Multiple Facility Campgrounds. Choose from primitive, boat-in, just electric, electric & water, to full hook-ups
  • Playground, visitor center, multiple day-use areas for picnicking
  • It's a large lake area, with room for having one of the most popular NM State Parks on its shores.

Lake Roberts2 - Named for this small town in Southwest NM (Or is it vice-versa!), less than 100 population. Day usage open 8am-10pm.

  • Non-motorized & electric craft. Making for a nice calm NM Boating Lake.
  • Lakeside trails. Dogs must always be leashed anywhere in the Recreation Area. 
  • Two Forest Service first-come/first-serve campgrounds: electric/water or no-facilities, fire-rings, picnic tables. 
  • From I-25 Exit 63. Take 152W, 35N at San Lorenzo about 25 miles.
sign by the entrance to Roberts Lake showing the facility's mapWelcome to Lake Roberts

Grindstone Lake - Managed by the City of Ruidoso Parks and Recreation,3 this Rec Area has tons of thing to do. Ideal for family fun, couples fun, or relaxation & fun for anyone. What can you do there?

  • Visit in high season (approx. Memorial-Labor Day), parking fee. Free in "low season."
  • Camping: 1st-come/1st-served
  1. Tenting or RVs: no hook-ups, basic sites. No campfires allowed. Restroom/showers.  Call to ensure they're open: 575-257-5030
  • Lake boating/watercraft. All nonmotorized craft allowed year-round. But boating permit needed: $5-daily or $20-yearly (self-pay stations at lake). Rentals available in high season at Mountain Concessions.
talking what does a major lake mean? With a lake surrounded by trees in the background.Can You Add to the Definition of a Major Lake?
  • Fishing all year. Rainbow trout stocked consistently, sometimes catfish & smallmouth bass also stocked.
  • Disk golf open year-round. 27-hole, 81-par wooded site. Have fun testing your skill at this championship course.
  • Hiking: 2 trails accessed directly from lakeside. 
  1. One easy, Fisherman's Trail, encircles half the lake, looping back for about 3 miles. 
  2. The other, moderate, Grindstone Lake Trail has multiple routes, many Connector Options.
  • Bring your picnic. Or visit the food concession, open daily. Or low season, Fri.-Sun., 10am-5pm.
  • Lake Swimming in high season. Any under age 12 in your group? Must wear life vest. 

Lake Maloya - In the Northeast section of Sugarite Canyon State Park, it barely also crosses over into Colorado.

The lake waters were created by damming Chicorica Creek. There's a 2nd smaller lake in this park, Lake Alice. 

  • Two trails border two lakeshore areas. 
  1. The Segerstrom, which then veers off following the creek of the same name. 
  2. And the Lake Maloya Trail, traveling its North border. 
  • Hwy. 526 traverses the park, as well as the east side of the lake, accessing picnic area & boat ramp. 
  • Camping is available, including equestrian sites & reservable. Only two full hook-up sites.
  • Plus lots more to do in the state park, altogether!

Natural Major Lakes in New Mexico

Lake Van - The lakes, including this major one of the area, are so important to this primarily desert area in Dexter. 

map outlining lakes and ponds in the Dexter New Mexico areaPointing out Lake Van + Arrow Pointing Entrance to Fish & Wildlife Research Facility

Lake Van was noted as a natural lake as early as the 1950s.

It's one of the largest natural, major lakes in New Mexico, covering about 60 acres.

Essentially fed from the artesian water supply, as sub-surface ground-water. It's been historically used as a community recreation & swimming lake.4

Yet it's always been stocked for fishing.4 Historically from a local facility, originally called Dexter National Fish Hatchery & Technology Center. But transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 1932.5

Fish & Wildlife uses several smaller lakes and ponds, adjacent to Lake Van. These are also fed with artesian waters. 

  • Here is the Southwestern Native Aquatic Resources and Recovery Service. This facility works with 14 threatened/endangered fish species. They work on fish health, physiology, pathobiology, & molecular ecology. They aim for species reintroduction into native habitats.5
  • They normally welcome visitors. But ask an advance phone call to ensure your visit timing. 7116 Hatchery Rd, Dexter. 575-734-5910

Pecos Baldy Lake - Pristine natural mountain waters in the Pecos Wilderness Northeast of Santa Fe.

This is a major lake in New Mexico because going there will be the reward for the work you put into arriving! It's one of the few untouched, wilderness, natural lakes in the state.

To keep it that way, there's no camping at lakeside. Try areas north or southwest of the lake.6 At least 200 feet out of the basin, into trees where campsites have already been used.6,7

A long trail, not for beginners, with over 3000' elevation gain. Still, its usage is heavy in summer. This rewarding 10+ mile hike to the lake, gives you amazing views for your final reward!

  • You'll travel Jack's Creek Trail 257. Trailhead out of Terrero. 
  • Ideal time begins in June (May can still have snow covering trail areas), going through Oct.8

Less Well-Known New Mexico Lakes

Yes, these are major lakes in New Mexico, to our way of thinking. Yet, they're not quite as well-known or highly visited. But we think they're worth a look or a visit. We sure like them! Why not see if you agree.

Bentley Lake - With about 46 acres on the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge for the benefit of birds and other wildlife. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains as your backdrop, you can get some wonderful wildlife photography here.

  • The refuge has multiple biomes: prairies merging toward mountainsides, canyons abutting mesa tablelands, and of course the wetlands with spring-fed ponds, lakes and riparian washes.9 
  • The Gallinas River forms the refuge's Southeast border. 
  • It may intrigue you to visit McAllister Lake, managed by NM Fish & Game, within refuge boundaries.
  1. Free to enter. Trails open daily, sunrise to sunset.
  2. I-25 Exit 345, turn East 1-1/2 miles on Hwy.104. Turn right on Rt.281, about 4 miles watch for Refuge directional signs. Call ahead: 505-425-3581

Ramah Lake - If you like to go "where no [wo]man has gone before," you may find this one interesting. Southeast of Gallup it's named for the town it's in.

Hiking trails encircle the lake. The accessible trail is from the northeast side, as the reservoir is private property. But they allow you to hike on the trails, in cooperation with the county.

Look for the Welcome sign for "Raman Mormon Pioneer Trail" - then you know you're at the right place. Hiking there is at your own risk.

  • The lake is 100 acres, and is used by locals who own property there. It may have been publicly open At One Time, but seems no longer so. 
  • But they appreciate your cooperation in treating The Trail responsibly, so they'll keep it open for public use. 

Alpine Lakes - These two wilderness lakes take a trek on miles of trail through the Pecos Wilderness. But the scenery rewards you all the way, 'til the final prize at these glacial lakesides. Have a look:

Lake Katherine - Many backpack to the lake (no camping within 200'),11 because of the distance + the experience.

It's among the highest major lakes in New Mexico, at 11,700' elevation. And the largest of the alpine lakes.

Very deep, it's home to cutthroat & rainbow trout. Licensed fishing allowed & popular10 for those wanting a campfire fry!

If you desire to try, recommend a trail map. 

Trail 242 + 254 to the lake & back totals about 13-1/2 miles. That's from Hwy.63 out of Terrero to Cowles, turn left onto narrow road to trailhead parking.

  • Or take Trail 242 from Ski Santa Fe trailhead. 
  • From there this whole major New Mexico lake round-trip is about 15 miles.13 

Stewart Lake - Amidst the high peaks of the Pecos Wilderness is this ancient natural lake carved out by glacial action. Left behind by their retreat.

The shortest route is a 10 mile hike. 

  • Access it from Pecos River Canyon, Winsor Trailhead 271. 
  • You can also go via the Ski Santa Fe trailhead, but that's a longer hike, at 18 miles.12

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