Northeastern New Mexico encompasses a variety of Southwestern landscapes. The undulating grasslands of the eastern portion of the region eventually give way to the cliffs, canyons, and forests of the mighty Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which offer some of the best hiking and camping in the state. The area is drained by the Pecos and Canadian rivers and has many small streams and lakes, including Ute Lake, the second-largest in the state, that afford opportunities for bait fishing, fly-fishing, boating, swimming, and sailing in this seemingly arid region.
Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 505/425-3581), 5 miles southeast of Las Vegas, is a great place for bird-watching. Species spotted year-round include prairie falcons and hawks; during late fall and early winter, migratory birds such as sandhill cranes, snow geese, Canada geese, and bald and golden eagles frequent the refuge. In all, more than 240 species can be sighted in the area. The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 575/375-2331), near Raton, also boasts a rich population of resident and migratory birds, including raptors and bald eagles.
You'll find opportunities for boating, windsurfing, and swimming throughout this region. Two of the most popular boating areas are Storrie Lake State Park (tel. 505/425-7278), 6 miles north of Las Vegas, and Conchas Lake State Park (tel. 575/868-2270), near Tucumcari. Storrie Lake is especially popular among windsurfers, who favor its consistent winds. To find information on New Mexico state parks, go to www.nmparks.com.
Isolated and primitive Morphy Lake State Park is a favorite destination for serious anglers. The lake is regularly stocked with rainbow trout. Cimarron Canyon State Park is also popular with fishers. Lake Alice in Sugarite Canyon State Park, just north of Raton at the Colorado border, is a good spot for fly-fishing.
Duffers can get in a few holes in or near virtually every town covered in this section. I recommend the following courses: Raton Municipal Golf Course, 510 Country Club Rd., Raton NM 87740 (tel. 575/445-8113); Pendaries Village Mountain Resort, in Rociada (tel. 505/425-3561; www.pendaries.net), 13 miles south of Mora and 27 miles northwest of Las Vegas; and Tucumcari Municipal Golf Course, Route 66 Boulevard, Tucumcari, NM 88401 (tel. 575/461-1849).
Northeastern New Mexico abounds in great places to hike, including the trails at Capulin Volcano; however, the best places are in the mountains to the north of Las Vegas and west of Santa Fe and Taos. The region's premier hike takes you to the top of Hermit's Peak, a lovely but strenuous 8-mile round-trip foray onto a stunning precipice. Take NM 65 about 15 miles northwest of Las Vegas to the El Porvenir Campground. It's probably best to acquire equipment and supplies in Albuquerque before you set out.
If you'd like to try your spurs at some real ranch riding, moving cattle, and spitting on the plains and such, contact the Hartley Guest Ranch, 50 Guest Ranch Lane, Roy (tel. 800/OUR-DUDE or 575/673-2244). The ranch offers 3- and 5-night packages from April through September.
In this region, look for Montezuma Hot Springs, located on the campus of the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West, near Las Vegas. Open daily from 8am to midnight.
There couldn't possibly be scuba diving in this dry, landlocked state, could there? Yes, there is, with the best at Santa Rosa, where you'll find the Blue Hole, an 81-foot-deep artesian well that's a favorite of divers from around the world. The best place to rent equipment is at the Santa Rosa Dive Center on Blue Hole Road, open only on weekends (tel. 575/472-3370).
Swimming is best (although chilly) at Clayton, Conchas, Morphy, Storrie, and Ute lakes. In addition, though it's an indoor rather than outdoor experience, the Las Vegas Recreation Center's (tel. 505/426-1739) swimming pool, at 1751 N. Grand Ave., is an especially good place to take kids. It's Olympic-size and has a fun slide that will keep kids busy for hours. Call for more information.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.