Fenton Lake State Park
Set above 7500 feet elevation, this cozy tree lined picturesque lake in the Jemez Mountains is a popular camping spot in summer and is open year round for fishing.
Northwest of Albuquerque near Los Alamos, NM
If you are looking for a beautiful mellow lake nestled in the mountains above 7600 feet in elevation, Fenton Lake is the perfect spot to spend a day or weekend. I had a childhood cottage on a small Wisconsin lake and this lake gives me that woodsy nostalgic feel. I think it is the fact that the lake has a pine tree forested edge, a rare site in most lakes in New Mexico. While this most certainly isn’t the largest lake in the state, this small man-made lake is ideal for picnicking and fishing.
There are two recreation areas at this state park. They are self pay and there are day use and camping rates. The first left you will see upon entering Fenton Lake will take you to the Lake Fork Day Use Area. This rough dirt road travels one side of the lake and has picnic tables, grills, port a pottys, and a Group Shelter, all set in the wooded forest surrounding the lake. This quieter area is my favorite and has been a little less congested the times we have visited. The Hal Baxter Hiking Trail is a one mile one way route that takes you from the Lake Fork Day Use entrance thru the day use areas and over to the river. It is also a cross country ski trial in the winter. It is one mile one way to this location. You can continue across the river to which will take you to the other side of the lake. You could then do a loop back thru and across the bridge to your starting point (2 mile loop total).
The other option is to cross the bridge and take the first left into the larger part of the park that borders the lake on the other side. Here you will find a camp host, boat launch, wheelchair accessible beach, picnic tables and grills, port a pottys, and RV and tent campsites farther down. There is also a playground and group campground area on this side of the lake. I think it is great that there is easy access to fishing by wheelchair and strollers and the beach area is often lined with families fishing and picnicking.
While swimming is not permitted, you will see people canoeing and kayaking, and paddle boarding, as well. There is a boat launch and the Rio Cebollo River runs through the park, as well. Leashed pets are allowed.
Arriving from Albuquerque, there are two ways to drive to Fenton Lake. State Road 4 takes you thru Jemez Springs to NM 126 at La Cueva and up to the lake. We really enjoy arriving at Fenton Lake via NM 485 (also called Forest Service Road 376) which takes you thru the Gilman Tunnels, two spectacular rock tunnels on a narrow road perched high above the Guadalupe River Valley. The road is paved to the tunnels and then is a dirt road north. This road then continues on and intersects with NM 126 (above La Cueva), the highway that takes you to the lake. NM 485/FR 376 is accessed from State Road 4 in Jemez Pueblo. This route is approximately 35 miles (1.5 hours) from the SR 4/NM 485 junction at Jemez Pueblo to Fenton Lake.