The Best Swimming Spots in New Mexico: Lakes, Rivers, and More

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: May 22, 2023
© Teresa Otto/Shutterstock.com
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Is the state really New Mexico if swimming isn’t involved? The Southwestern state is known for its vibrant tourism sector, with over 35 million visitors every year. The Land of Enchantment offers a range of recreational activities, delectable cuisine, and beautiful views.

Despite its reputation as a dry state, New Mexico provides incredible options for anyone seeking to enjoy the sun and the water. The summers in New Mexico are notoriously hot and dry, with highs often reaching the 90s. The thought of swimming pools on a hot desert day is enough to have you look them up. 

Although New Mexico has the least amount of surface water per square mile of any other state, there are still many locations to go swimming. If you’re looking for a spot to get a relaxing dip, there are many natural pools, beaches, lakes, and swimming holes throughout the state. 

Best Swimming Spots in New Mexico

1. Lions Beach, Elephant Butte Reservoir

Lions Beach is within the largest state park, Elephant Butte Lake State Park. The park, and by extension Lions Beach, is famous for good reasons. It offers a wide array of water sports, including boating, fishing, waterskiing, kayaking, swimming, and many more. In addition, the powdery sand along its shoreline adds to its appeal as a suitable play area for kids. 

Despite being a part of the state park, Lions Beach stands out due to its natural beauty and distinctive vistas. Visitors can enjoy the sand, sun, and stunning beachfront while at the beach.

Together with swimming, Lions Beach provides fishing in crystal-clear blue waters, kayaking, scuba diving, jet skiing, and other water sports. It also features a pool and Jacuzzi area for visitors who prefer to relax without placing their feet on the sand. You can also birdwatch, camp overnight, plan a picnic, or hike within the park. 

Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico
Elephant Butte Lake State Park is home to Lions Beach.

©Judd Irish Bradley/Shutterstock.com

2. Lea Lake Beach

With its picturesque stretch of coastline and turquoise waters, Lea Lake beach in Bottomless Lakes State Park is ideal for a summer day’s swimming. It’s a literal beauty with a gorgeous limestone backdrop and golden sand, but it’s even more special. Lea Lake beach is the only lake in Bottomless Lakes State Park with authorization for swimming.

Summer is the best season to visit this spot, but it could get pretty crowded. However, you can go on a weekday when there are far fewer people. 

If you’re going with kids, bring floaties for a full day of water splashing or play frisbee with the young ones. You may enjoy a picnic by the coast, relax in the water, or go paddle boating or scuba diving. Be careful, though, as the water can be cold and deep. There are also clean showers, restrooms, and food booths at the beach.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico
Lea Lake beach, located in Bottomless Lakes State Park, is ideal for a summer day’s swimming.

©Trina Barnes/Shutterstock.com

3. Heron Lake State Beach

The serene Heron Lake is tucked away in New Mexico’s northern mountains. Spend a private day by one of the many isolated swimming coves along the edge of the state’s magnificent lakes. It’s a retreat for those seeking a spot to explore and relax. 

Swimmable and paddle boarding waters can be found at the beach because of the calm surf. Also, the lake offers excellent chances to catch trout and kokanee salmon while fishing. Hiking, cross-country skiing, and yachting are other activities to enjoy. 

The weekends are a favorite time to go tubing, boating, and fishing here. You may enjoy a peaceful day on the water without worrying about rough waves because boats can only operate at no-wake speeds. The Heron Lake edge features campgrounds, so you can erect a tent to extend your stay. You have breathtaking surroundings and calm waters to guarantee an enjoyable stay. 

4. Lake Carlsbad Recreation Area Beach

From the railroad bridge in the south to the upper Tansil Dam, the Pecos River traverses the 125.6-acre Lake Carlsbad Recreation Area. A swimming area is accessible to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend. 

This area is renowned for fishing, boating, playgrounds, and picnics. In addition, there are various picnic tables and grills where people can have picnics shaded from the sun.

There’s something for everyone at this beach, no matter the age. The clear water is tranquil and soothing, making it ideal for kids to swim, and the smooth sand is suitable for creating sand castles. In addition, teens can participate in watersports, including pedal boating, waterskiing, and boating.

Lake Carlsbad has a pleasant, active ambiance. It is close to the city center and all its facilities, including stores, restaurants, and bars. 

5. Navajo Lake State Park Beach

Navajo Lake is a lovely area with a long seashore and plenty of sunlight. The beach is a great option for vacationers because it has beautiful surroundings and lots of fun things to do. It also has convenient parking. 

Beyond swimming, there are opportunities to hike along scenic routes, tour the area on a boat, fish, and watch wildlife. 

You can unwind on the shore and sunbathe while enjoying the gorgeous views. Wakeboarding, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, and scuba diving are other exciting activities. In addition, there’s a marina from which you can rent boats, enjoy a snack, or launch your water vehicle. 

A Navajo Lake State Park Beach trip is best enjoyed when camping on the beach. The campgrounds feature modern amenities and can accommodate both large parties and families. 

Navajo Lake in New Mexico
Navajo Lake has a long seashore with opportunities for swimming, hiking, and fishing.

©Brenda Landdeck/Shutterstock.com

6. Cochiti Lake Beach

The most beautiful scenery can be seen at Cochiti Lake near Pena Blanca, New Mexico, with its beautiful surroundings and picturesque lake vistas. The water comes from Cochiti Dam, ranked as one of the longest earth-filled dams in the world.

Two places for public use as recreational sites are Tetilla Peak on the east side and Cochiti Recreation Area on the west. Camping, fishing, picnicking, and leisurely strolls are permitted at the recreation areas, with boat ramps for launching water vessels.

Swimming, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, and other water sports are all perfect in its crystal-clear waters. It’s a family-friendly beach with an expansive front for different activities. A playground is available for children near the shore.

7. Park Lake Beach

The Park Lake in Santa Rosa is a dream come true for every outdoor enthusiast. It’s one of the city’s most frequented tourist destinations, and deservedly so.

It’s accessible year-long, but most activities and lifeguard supervision are typically available between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Fishing, boating, water slides, and swimming are available at the beach. In addition, rentals are available for various water sports gear. The beach’s main attraction is a massive inflatable obstacle course, affectionately dubbed Wibit, with a climbing wall and bouncing house. 

You can find shaded picnic areas and food trucks after a good time in the water. 

Swimming Holes in New Mexico

As the temperature rises during summer, New Mexico has a number of swimming holes you can go to escape the heat on a scorching desert day. 

The Blue Hole

This is a bell-shaped oasis on the state’s eastern edge in Santa Rosa which swimmers and scuba divers find enjoyable. The water is extraordinarily pristine due to the natural underground spring’s 3,000 gallons of water per minute flow rate, resulting in a freshwater supply every six hours.

Jump off the rocks into this 81 foot-deep body of crystal-clear water that typically stays between 61 to 62 °F without worrying about striking the bottom. Divers on the pool’s bottom may see the faces of onlookers who are 81 feet above them and peeking over the surface. You may be lucky enough to see fish and aquatic vegetation. 

Sitting Bull Falls

A swimming hole and two minor waterfalls can be found at Sitting Bull Falls, a desert oasis in the Lincoln National Forest. The falls are considered perennial waterfalls since they are spring-fed. This implies there is water year-round. Parking is $5 per vehicle; however, there are no additional entry costs.

Sitting Bull Falls is a popular tourist spot in the area, so get there early on weekends to avoid parking issues. The park is only open for daytime use. Remember to go with sunscreen and swim gear. 

Jemez Falls Area

The Jemez Falls are the highest waterfalls within the Jemez Mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest in Sandoval County. The falls are situated in a region with many Ponderosa Pine forests on the East Fork of the Jemez River. 

The smaller falls above the main falls are well-liked for swimming. Summertime enjoyment is possible in these natural pools because the temperature is often warm rather than scorching. McCauley Hot Springs is another destination that can be reached from here. 

The Jemez Falls campground and day-use area serve as the trailhead for access to the falls.

Blue hole in New Mexico
The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa has extraordinarily pristine water.

©iStock.com/Martince2

Lakes for Swimming in New Mexico

Nothing is more tranquil than watching a rippling lake beneath a deep blue New Mexico sky. The lakes and reservoirs in New Mexico are even more alluring during the sweltering summer months.

Some of the best lakes around the state include Sumner Lake, El Vado Lake, Fenton Lake, Caballo Lake, Eagle Nest Lake, Lake Farmington, and Storrie Lake. So many options for swimming in New Mexico! These lakes also offer scenic hiking, fishing, biking, and windsurfing opportunities. All you have to do is visit. 

Rivers for Floating

Rafting, kayaking, and tubing are some activities that come to mind when you consider exploring the rivers in New Mexico. The Chama River, or Rio Chama, should top your list. It’s one of the most beautiful rivers in America and a major tributary of the Rio Grande. The 120 mile-long river begins from the southern San Juan Mountains in South-Central Colorado and joins the Rio Grande at Espanola, New Mexico.

A multicolored sandstone canyon with 1,500-foot-high cliffs is where the River Chama flows through Northern New Mexico. Rafting down this river is a unique experience; the densely forested side canyons, historical sites, and soaring cliffs make it more appealing to floaters and anglers. The nice weather and leisurely pace are perfect for families and newbies. 

You can raft the Rio Chama in a single day or over 2-3 days. Then, float through breathtaking southwestern scenery and tranquil nature as the Rio Chama flows south to meet the Rio Grande.

The Chama River, a major tributary of the Rio Grande, is 120 miles long.

©designwithval/Shutterstock.com

Beaches

New Mexico may not be well-known for its countless idyllic, breathtaking, soft-sand beaches, but there are still enough beaches for locals and tourists to enjoy outdoor activities. 

From the popular Elephant Butte to the secluded coves at Conchas Lake, the bulk of New Mexico’s beaches are next to lakes and ponds, heightening the appeal of a beach vacation.

Water Parks

Nothing compares to spending time at a water park on a hot summer day. Kids, teens, and adults can all easily have a fantastic day at a water park.

The Cliff’s Amusement Park combines amusement and water parks to provide fun seekers with games, food, thrilling rides, and a water attraction called WaterMania. 

WaterMania opens on Memorial Day weekend and till Labour Day weekend. While younger children can participate in the fun in their own area of the park, known as Li’l Squirts, older children enjoy Mega Water Monkeys and the opportunity to get wet.

As you might have guessed, this location is usually bustling during the season, but the crowds thin out by the late afternoon.

Summary of Best Swimming Spots in New Mexico

Here’s a recap of New Mexico’s top places to swim:

NumberSwimming Spot
1Lions Beach
2Lea Lake Beach
3Heron Lake State Beach
4Lake Carlsbad Recreation Area Beach
5Navajo Lake State Park Beach
6Cochiti Lake Beach
7Park Lake Beach
8The Blue Hole
9Sitting Bull Falls
10Jemez Falls Area

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The Blue Hole Santa Rosa New Mexico
© Teresa Otto/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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