Visitors to New Mexico are sometimes surprised to learn the state has a series of lakes. Cochiti Lake in Cochiti, New Mexico lies between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The dam fed lake offers a variety of recreational opportunities and is popular with travelers as well as local visitors who use the lake on a regular basis.
Cochiti is extremely popular with locals, and far easier to access than Elephant Butte which lies several hours south of Albuquerque. Cochiti offers abundant recreational opportunities, camping, a place to swim and some of the most beautiful scenery in New Mexico. The Jemez Mountains lie to the west and the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the north. In addition to the mountain views, the hoodoos at Tent Rocks National Monument create an eerie and beautiful one of a kind backdrop. The New Mexico skies top off the natural beauty of this site, especially in summer when cloud formations are at their finest.
Cochiti is easily accessible from I-25. It is about a 30-minute drive from Santa Fe and 45 minutes from Albuquerque. The lake lies within the boundaries of Cochiti Pueblo and along the Rio Grande. The Cochiti Dam was created to control flooding and sediment control along the river. Cochiti is one of the 10 largest earthfill dams in the United States.
Cochiti Lakes is about five miles from Tent Rocks National Monument. Many who visit the lake go to Tent Rocks to get in a little hiking.
The Cochiti Lake Golf Course is a few miles away and offers the Jemez Mountains as a scenic backdrop.
Cochiti is a recreational magnet for those who love boating, camping, and summer water sports. There is boating, fishing, and the opportunity for water sports. Windsurfing is popular, with access from the Tetilla Peak recreation site.
There is swimming permitted at a beach that is roped off from boaters. There are shady ramadas nearby that have picnic tables.
Windsurfing is extremely popular, and there are windsurfing lessons available.
Fishing is a popular pastime.
There are free life vests available for children.
The Visitor Center offers an interpretive center, maps and campsite information and park rangers to answer questions.
There is a playground park for children that includes a slide, swings and climbing equipment. There are restrooms and showers that are kept neat and clean. There is a gas station with a convenience mart for those last minute goods, but it is a few miles away.
A paved boat ramp provides easy access to the lake. The boat ramp is open year round and has four concrete lanes for loading and unloading. Kayaking is easy and popular in summer.
Camp at the lake with an RV or in tents. There are four loops, and the Juniper Loop campsites have electricity and some sites have water. Community water spigots are the norm at the Elk Run and Ringtail Loops, which do not have electric hookups. The Buffalo Grove Loop sites have both electric and water hookups. The campground has an attendant on duty.
Camping areas are well maintained, but the lake is in the desert, so there is little in the way of tree cover. Campsites overlook the lake. There are ramada covered picnic tables, a grill and street lamps on each site.
The camping area has a dump station, showers, pit toilets and accessible flush toilets. The flush toilet and showers are free.
Check-in is between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. All camp vehicles must be registered. Ground fires and off-road vehicles are not permitted.
Wildlife viewing is abundant. There are four osprey nesting platforms around the lake that provide nesting sites and opportunities for viewing. On the east side of the lake, you can spot deer, rabbit, and coyotes.
Cochiti Lake Recreational Area
82 Dam Crest Road
Pena Blanca, NM 87041
Phone: (505) 465-0307
Take I-25 south to exit 264. Drive west on Highway 16, then north on Highway 22 (Cochiti Highway). From Albuquerque, drive north on I-25 to exit 259. Drive northwest on Highway 22 to the lake.