Above: About 500 dinosaur footprint and tail prints can be found at Clayton Lake State Park and Dinosaur Trackways. Photograph courtesy of New Mexico Tourism Department. 

THE GREAT SLOPING BACK of Ursa Major and the teapot-shaped beacons of the Sagittarius constellation glitter in an inky summer sky. Clayton Lake State Park and Dinosaur Trackways is one of the best places in the nation to spot them. The state park, in the grassy northeast corner, earned New Mexico’s first International Dark Sky Park designation in 2010—a hat tip to its clear skies, unimpeded by light pollution, along with locals’ efforts to preserve them. “It’s so dark here, you can hardly see your hand in front of you,” says Park Manager Mark Funk. 

With a newly installed Meade LX200 12-inch telescope, the park plans to offer stargazing parties around other park festivities, including over the weekends of Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day. During daylight hours, take time to walk along wooden boardwalks to see some of the 500 or so footprints and tail prints left by dinosaurs millions of years ago. Fish for one of their descendants—some of the biggest walleye in the state—during the park’s annual fishing derby, June 13–14.  

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Clayton Lake State Park and Dinosaur Trackways  |  575-374-8808  |  nmmag.us/claytonstatepark