Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area

Quick Facts

Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area

New Mexico

(505) 758-8851

Map Directions

Things To Do


Thirty miles north of Santa Fe, NM , 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.

Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area is located on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Santa Cruz Irrigation District regulates water releases for agricultural use in the Santa Cruz Valley. The lake normally contains water year-round and may vary in depth as much as 30 feet.

The local terrain is comprised of rugged, rolling foothills, with wide open mesas and chiseled steep canyons. The elevation at the lake is 6,285 feet and rises to 6,600 feet at the Overlook Campground. The eastern shoreline is fringed with juniper and pinon pine, cottonwood, and a filigree of mountain mahogany. The west side is dominated by a large buttress of granite.

Map of Santa Cruz Lake Rec. Area

Latitude, Longitude: 35.974116, -105.917130



  • Boating

    Boating is allowed in Santa Cruz Lake. All boats are restricted to trolling speed throughout the lake. A "No Wake, five MPH" restriction is in place for all boats using the lake. There is a boat ramp area for loading and unloading, and a separate parking area.

  • Camping

    Santa Cruz Lake offers two campgrounds, the North Lake Campground and the Overlook Campground, each with picnic shelters, grills, and overnight camping facilities including restrooms. Drinking water is available at the North Lake Campground.

  • Fishing

    Fishing at Santa Cruz is a popular pastime for many locals. Santa Cruz Lake is periodically stocked with rainbow trout by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. German brown trout and other species are occasionally caught.

  • Hiking

    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 La Caja, Laguna Vista, and the Debris Basin Trail.

  • Historic Sites

    Sites and artifacts dating back centuries have been found within the recreation area.

  • Picnicking

    The campgrounds offer picnic tables and grills.

  • Water Sports

    Santa Cruz Lake is great for boating. Swimming is not allowed at Santa Cruz Lake due to dangerous underwater currents. Wading is allowed in knee-deep water.


The climate at Santa Cruz Lake is semi-arid. Rainfall generally occurs from May through October with the bulk in July and August. Wind is primarily from the northeast during the winter, and southwest during the spring, summer, and fall. Summer temperatures range from 54-92 degrees and in the winter from 5-45 degrees.



Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area is located 20 miles northeast of Santa Fe via NM 4.

Phone Numbers


(505) 758-8851