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Top 5 Places to Paddle Board in New Mexico

New Mexico, often known for its deserts and vibrant culture, may not be the first place you think of for paddle boarding. However, this state is home to some incredible water bodies that offer unique and breathtaking paddle boarding experiences. Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a beginner, New Mexico’s diverse landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for your next adventure on the water.

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Paddle boarding in New Mexico might sound unusual, but this enchanting state offers some hidden gems perfect for paddling. Picture yourself gliding over serene waters, surrounded by dramatic landscapes and a sky so vast it feels like you’re paddling under an endless canvas. Let’s explore the top 5 places in New Mexico where you can experience this magic.

1. Abiquiu Lake

Abiquiu Lake, located in northern New Mexico, is a stunning reservoir surrounded by red rock formations and open skies. This lake offers a perfect mix of calm waters and beautiful scenery, making it an ideal spot for paddle boarding.

Why Abiquiu Lake?

Abiquiu Lake is known for its picturesque views and tranquil environment. The lake’s calm waters are perfect for beginners, while more experienced paddlers can enjoy exploring the lake’s nooks and crannies. The surrounding landscape, characterized by its unique red rock formations, adds a dramatic backdrop to your paddling adventure.

Activities Around Abiquiu Lake

In addition to paddle boarding, Abiquiu Lake offers opportunities for camping, fishing, and hiking. You can set up camp by the lakeside and enjoy a night under the stars, or hike the nearby trails for more stunning views of the area.

2. Cochiti Lake

Cochiti Lake is a hidden gem located within the Cochiti Pueblo. This reservoir is a peaceful and scenic destination, offering a serene environment perfect for paddle boarding.

The Beauty of Cochiti Lake

Cochiti Lake’s clear waters and surrounding natural beauty make it a prime location for paddle boarding. The lake is surrounded by rolling hills and offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes. It’s a quiet spot, ideal for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Wildlife and Nature

One of the highlights of paddling at Cochiti Lake is the chance to spot various wildlife. Keep an eye out for birds, fish, and other local fauna as you paddle through the calm waters.

3. Elephant Butte Lake

Elephant Butte Lake is the largest and most popular lake in New Mexico, offering a wide range of water activities, including paddle boarding. This vast reservoir provides plenty of space to explore and enjoy.

A Paddler’s Paradise

Elephant Butte Lake is perfect for those who love to explore. With its extensive shoreline and numerous coves, there’s always something new to discover. The lake’s size and variety of scenery make it an exciting location for paddle boarders of all skill levels.

Recreation and Amenities

In addition to paddle boarding, Elephant Butte Lake offers numerous amenities such as boat rentals, fishing, and camping facilities. The nearby town of Elephant Butte provides additional conveniences, making it a great destination for a weekend getaway.

4. Navajo Lake

Straddling the border between New Mexico and Colorado, Navajo Lake is another top destination for paddle boarding. This large reservoir is known for its stunning scenery and diverse recreational opportunities.

Exploring Navajo Lake

Navajo Lake offers a diverse range of paddling experiences. Whether you want to paddle along the open waters or explore the hidden coves and inlets, Navajo Lake has it all. The clear, blue waters are inviting and perfect for a day of paddling.

Additional Activities

Besides paddle boarding, Navajo Lake is popular for fishing, boating, and camping. The surrounding state parks provide excellent facilities and opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

5. Heron Lake

Heron Lake is a peaceful reservoir located in northern New Mexico. Known for its “no-wake” policy, Heron Lake is ideal for paddle boarders looking for a quiet and serene paddling experience.

Serenity at Heron Lake

Heron Lake’s calm waters and tranquil environment make it a perfect spot for paddle boarding. The no-wake policy ensures that the waters remain calm, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for all paddlers.

Nature and Wildlife

The lake is surrounded by lush forests and is home to a variety of wildlife. As you paddle, you might spot deer, birds, and other animals that inhabit the area, adding to the natural beauty and serenity of the lake.

Paddle Boarding Safety Tips

When paddle boarding in New Mexico, safety should always be a priority. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear a life jacket: Always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD).
  • Check the weather: Before heading out, check the weather conditions to ensure it’s safe to paddle.
  • Stay hydrated: Bring plenty of water and stay hydrated, especially in the hot New Mexico sun.
  • Know your limits: Paddle within your skill level and avoid areas with strong currents or rough waters.
  • Stay with a buddy: Whenever possible, paddle with a friend for added safety.

For more safety tips, check out this guide on stand up paddle board basics.

Best Time to Paddle Board in New Mexico

The best time to paddle board in New Mexico is during the warmer months, from late spring to early fall. During this time, the weather is generally warm and pleasant, making it ideal for water activities. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times of day to paddle, as temperatures are cooler and the water is often calmer.

Equipment Essentials

Having the right equipment is crucial for an enjoyable paddle boarding experience. Here are some essentials you’ll need:

  • Paddle board: Choose a board that’s appropriate for your skill level and the type of water you’ll be paddling in.
  • Paddle: A lightweight, adjustable paddle is ideal.
  • Life jacket: A must-have for safety.
  • Leash: Keeps your board close if you fall off.
  • Dry bag: For keeping your belongings dry.
  • Sunscreen: Protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Hat and sunglasses: Additional protection from the sun.

For a detailed guide on paddle boarding gear, visit this stand up paddle board basics page.

Planning Your Paddle Boarding Trip

Planning ahead can make your paddle boarding trip more enjoyable. Here are some tips:

  • Research your destination: Know the best launch points and any regulations or permits required.
  • Pack essentials: Bring water, snacks, a first aid kit, and any other necessities.
  • Check the weather: Ensure the conditions are safe for paddling.
  • Tell someone: Let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return.

To ensure you’re well-prepared, learn how to correctly measure your SUP paddle.


Paddle boarding in New Mexico offers a unique and unforgettable experience. From the dramatic red rocks of Abiquiu Lake to the serene waters of Heron Lake, there’s something for every paddler to enjoy. So grab your board, head out to one of these top spots, and discover the beauty and tranquility of paddle boarding in New Mexico.


1. Do I need a permit to paddle board in New Mexico?

In most cases, you do not need a permit to paddle board on New Mexico’s lakes. However, it’s always a good idea to check with local authorities or the specific lake’s regulations.

2. Can beginners paddle board at these lakes?

Yes, many of these lakes have calm waters that are suitable for beginners. Always check the conditions and choose a spot that matches your skill level.

3. What should I bring on a paddle boarding trip?

Essential items include a paddle board, paddle, life jacket, leash, dry bag, water, snacks, sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses.

4. Is paddle boarding safe for children?

Yes, paddle boarding can be safe for children, provided they wear a life jacket and are supervised by an adult.

5. Are there rental facilities at these lakes?

Many of the larger lakes, such as Elephant Butte Lake and Navajo Lake, offer rental facilities for paddle boards and other watercraft. Check ahead to ensure availability.

By following these tips and choosing the right locations, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying an incredible paddle boarding experience in New Mexico. Happy paddling!

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.