Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area
December 1, 2023 update: Santa Cruz Lake closes annually for the winter Dec.1 - March 1.
Thirty miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the snow-fed waters of the Rio del Medio and the Rio Frijoles begin a 2,000-mile journey and a 7,000-foot descent to the Gulf of Mexico. For a time they gather at Santa Cruz Lake at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Chimayo, behind the 125-foot Santa Cruz Dam.
Built in 1929 by the Santa Cruz Irrigation District, the dam is 535 feet across and 90 feet deep at the overflowing spillway. The lake covers 121 surface acres with water in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, providing recreational opportunities for anglers, picnickers, campers, and boat lovers alike. The scenic lake at base of Sangre de Cristo mountains offers boating, fishing, hiking and camping.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Fall season hours: Santa Cruz Lake will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Monday.
- Closes annually for the winter Dec.1 - March 1. The Overlook Campground will remain open 24/7 until the winter closure
- Closed Thanksgiving Day
- Closed December 22-26 and New Years Day.
- Closed when the lake freezes over
- All boats MUST be out of the water 30 minutes before closing time.
- All visitors MUST be out of the recreation at closing time.
- Gates will be locked when recreation area is closed.
- Fee station (self-service) is located at the entrance of the North Shore area, and a self-service pay station is located at the Overlook Campground. Exact change is required and should be deposited into fee tubes; entrance station will not handle cash.
- Day Use (first come first-served for parking and day-use sites)
- $5 per vehicle
- Camping (first come first-served)
- $9 per night
- Annual Day Use Pass
- $20 per vehicle; good for all Taos Field Office recreation areas (Santa Cruz Lake, Orilla Verde, Wild Rivers). This pass is good for 1 year from the date of purchase. Inquire at North Shore pay station or call the Taos Field Office 575-758-8851. Day use passes are not applicable to overnight camping fees.
- Overlook Campground
- The Overlook Campground is located above at the top of the escarpment on the South end of the lake (5.5 miles south on NM 503 of the North Shore & boat ramp area). The campground provides 1 vault toilet, campsites with picnic shelters and campfire rings/grills and access to the Overlook Trail.
- North Shore Campground
- Closed due to construction. No public access to this area.
- No RV dump station
- No Swimming at Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area due to safety concerns involving motorized boating and fishing activities.
- Dangerous underwater currents occur near the dam.
- Wading is allowed in knee-deep water only. Please wear water shoes to help protect your feet from broken glass and other sharp objects.
- Public nudity is not allowed in the recreation area.
- Allowable watercraft includes canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and motorboats.
- The lake is a “No-wake, 5 MPH” zone.
- The boat Ramp is for loading and unloading only; no Parking allowed.
- The public must comply with State of New Mexico and BLM regulations for boating safety, equipment, and registration.
- A U.S. Coastguard-approved personal floatation device (PFD) is required for each person in the boat.
- All children 12 years old and younger must wear the PFD while on the lake.
- Santa Cruz Lake is periodically stocked with rainbow trout by the New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish. German brown trout and other species are occasionally caught.
- All anglers must have a valid New Mexico fishing license and a Wildlife Habitat Improvement validation or stamp in their possession.
- Daily limits, bag and possession limits are 5 fish per license holder.
- Children 11 years old or younger do not need a license, but must abide by these limit restrictions.
- No ice fishing is allowed due to unstable ice conditions.
- New Mexico Department of Game and Fish stocking reports
- The Santa Cruz Lake trail system includes 6.4 miles of trail. The trails are moderate to difficult. Please bring water and wear sturdy shoes for hiking.
- Trails include Laguna Vista, Debris Basin, La Caja, and Overlook.
- BEWARE OF COUGAR, BOBCAT & RATTLESNAKES which have been sighted; don’t hike alone & protect small dogs.
- Dogs must be on a leash (6 feet or less) and their waste must be picked up.
- Quiet hours apply to pets
- Equestrian use is prohibited
- Please be considerate of other visitors and pick up after your pets
For additional information or questions, please contact the BLM Santa Cruz Lake contact station at 505-351-1438.
North Shore/boat ramp area- picnic tables & shelters with fire rings/grills and 3 vault toilets. North Shore/fishing pier area- no picnic tables or shelters, and 2 vault toilets. One campground at Overlook area (not accessible from lake) with picnic shelters, grills and 1 vault toilet. Drinking water is available at the North Shore area ONLY.
Cultural Resources -- Sites and artifacts dating back centuries have been found within the recreation area. Please protect these valuable resources of the past. Removal or disturbance of these artifacts destroys valuable information and is a serious crime punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.
Campfires -- Campfires are allowed in designated fire rings/grills ONLY. Campfires are allowed in grills or firepans only. Camp stoves and charcoal fires are recommended. Firewood collection is not allowed - please bring your own campfire fuel. Please do not leave your fire unattended and make sure it's completely out before you leave; don't add dirt to fire rings.
Parking -- Please have respect for others when parking vehicles. Pay attention to parking designations. Blue areas are Handicapped Parking Only. Yellow areas are No Parking at any time. Park in designated parking spaces only; No Parking in the boat ramp area.
ATV's, Dirt Bikes, Horses -- NOT allowed at the developed areas of the North Shore or Overlook.
Fireworks & Firearms -- Discharging firearms and fireworks or any other implement capable of causing injury or damage to property is prohibited anywhere within the boundaries of the recreation area.
Trash Receptacles -- located at the North Shore & Overlook areas; please use them.
Washing -- For public health and safety, bathing, washing clothes, or washing dishes is not allowed at water spigots. Please do not hook RVs up to water spigots.
About 30 miles northeast of Santa Fe. From Santa Fe: take US 84/285 N to NM 503 in Pojoaque. Turn right onto NM 503 and continue on the scenic 'High Road' towards Chimayo. Pass CR 98 which turns left to Chimayo and continue on NM 503; first you will see the Overlook Campground turnoff on the left, then continue 5.5 miles towards and past Cundiyo to Santa Cruz Lake Rd (CR 98A).
There is no Recreation Area entrance sign at Santa Cruz Lake Rd off NM 503 from the South. From the North: Take NM 76 east from Espanola for 9.7 miles, turn right onto NM 503 and follow 1.4 miles to Santa Cruz Lake Rd (CR 98A); turn right.
Please NO RVs or vehicles with trailers longer than 30' on Santa Cruz Lake Rd; tight turns on entrance road and in parking areas.
Santa Cruz Lake Rd (98A) dead ends at the boat ramp & fishing pier areas; No through road.