Camp overnight at one of these three family-friendly sites. Illustration by Ryan Johnson.
Clayton Lake State Park and Dinosaur Tracks
Travel back in time to when dinosaurs ruled the eastern plains of New Mexico with a visit to Clayton Lake State Park and Dinosaur Trackways. Your dino-obsessed youngster will delight in walking the boardwalk, which circles 500 dinosaur footprints. “The best times to view the tracks are in the early morning or early evening before sundown, when the shadows make the tracks look more visible,” says Park Manager Mark Funk. Stay overnight at one of the 27 campsites and stargaze through the park’s telescope in the Star Point Observatory under some of the darkest skies in the nation. Fee: $10–$14 per night.
Kids like options, and the Questa–Red River area dishes them up. Set up base camp at the 27-site Columbine Campground, where the Red River provides hours of water play for little ones. Head up the mountain to fish for brook trout at Cabresto Lake in the morning. Play for the afternoon at Red River Ski & Summer Area’s high ropes adventures and summer tubing runs. Then finish with a sunset horseback ride through the sage flats outside Questa. The ride so inspired my seven-year-old, he announced he would grow up to be a cowboy. (I didn’t tell him he was actually riding a mule.) Fee: $20 per night.
Navajo Lake State Park
Join the water party on New Mexico’s second-largest lake by reserving one of Navajo Lake State Park’s 228 campsites. “Many people don’t realize the sheer amount of water Navajo Lake holds,” says Park Superintendent Caleb Bellah, citing depths that reach 400 feet. “We are never subject to the water shortages other lakes suffer.” Explore 150 miles of shoreline with rentals of kayaks, paddleboards, or hydrobikes from the marina. Below the dam, the serenity of the San Juan River means you’ll likely share your fishing hole with bald eagles and ospreys. Fee: $10–$45 per night.