Travel File // Cabresto Lake, New Mexico

Welcome to the morning view from our most recent camping trip:


Yeah.  Not a bad way to wake up, huh?

Cabresto Lake NM

Once again, we had limited time to get out of town.  Matt looked up a few camping areas outside of Red River.  We packed the truck, the dog and the essentials and took off for the mountains, despite the fact that there was a 50% chance of rain.  The nearer the trees became, the darker the clouds grew.  (See this post for photos from the road)  We didn’t care.  I hadn’t been to the mountains all year and I was itching for some fresh air and starry skies.

In New Mexico, you can camp for free in the national forest.  Matt swore he found an out-of-the-way place on Forest Road 134A It was pouring rain by the time we hit Red River (and realized he forgot to pack anything with long sleeves!).  We stopped in the tiny mountain town to pick up an extra tarp and firewood, then headed for a higher elevation.

We drove into Questa and turned east on NM 38.  Directions told us to turn left on Kiowa road.  We eventually turned right onto Forest Road 134. There was a sign that marked Cabresto Lake a few miles up the road.  This drive was very windy and rocky.  If you don’t have 4 wheel drive, it will probably be OK, but we don’t recommend it if you can avoid it.  There was some funny/cool housing along the road before we turned up toward the lake:

on the way

The best campsite (as far as we could tell) was the one on the left side of the road as we entered the “campground.”  The Forest Service calls it a campground.  I call it a parking lot by a lake with a few picnic tables thrown around.  The other “sites” were basically in the parking lot. We arrived on a Thursday evening.  The grounds were deserted, with the only indication of other people being their vehicles parked in the lot. It appeared everyone was there for fishing or backpacking, so we landed the best campsite for ourselves.

campsite_2We made camp the best we could in the rain, enjoyed a fire and played Scattergories in the tent.  Sometime after we had drifted to sleep, I was awakened by a distant roar that was almost immediately followed by a gunshot.  (This is bear country people.  Take a shotgun in case you need to scare them away!)  It took me a while to get back to a slumbering state, and even then, it was a light slumber…


The next morning greeted us with clear skies and a beautiful walk around the lake.  We chatted with an early bird couple who were trying to beat the fishing crowd that appeared later that morning.

Cabresto Lake NM trail

Geranium caespitosum_New Mexico foliage

Cabresto lake New Mexico Collage

As we packed up our gear mid-morning, backpackers re-appeared from the bowels of the mountains and ATV’s swarmed the lot with families ready to catch their next dinner.  Although Cabresto Lake looks remote on the map, it seemed to be quite the happening place.  Apparently it is one of the few places in New Mexico for catching Brook Trout!

A few things to remember if you want to camp here:

  1. Take extra rain gear (tarps, ponchos, etc.);  it can rain a lot in this neck of the woods.
  2. Pack a gun for protection
  3. There aren’t any trash cans at this location, so tie it up in a tree and pack it out when you leave.
  4. There is one pit toilet in the center of the parking lot that has a lot of traffic with the fishermen.  Contemplate taking a portable toilet for your personal campsite.

If you are considering a camping trip in this area, I would suggest going mid-week to avoid the crowds.  If that isn’t possible, backpack into the wilderness or make it a day trip for fishing.  The whole loop of the enchanted circle is not to be missed.  Years ago we stayed at Columbine Canyon Campground and it still remains one of my favorite camping memories (but maybe that’s because we were on our honeymoon?!)  Here’s a great blog with an in-depth review of Columbine. 

Do you have a favorite New Mexico camp spot?  We are always looking for new places and would love to include it in our next adventure!

If you’re interested in other New Mexico camp spots, here are a few we’ve been to:

Cloudcroft Area

Ruidoso Area

Mills Canyon

The next part of this adventure is our time spent wandering around Taos. Read about it here. (Hot springs, good beer and a farmer’s market)


4 thoughts on “Travel File // Cabresto Lake, New Mexico

  1. Wow, this brought back memories, however vague and incomplete. I must have been between 8-10 maybe. My folks had friends who had a cabin right on a stream near Cabresta Lake and Questa. I remember getting up in the mornings; the guys would be catching trout and the moms would be frying them for breakfast in an iron skillet. Yum!!!! There was probably 5 of us kids. Loved hiking on the roads near the cabin and pretending we were hearing mountain lions even when we didn’t! And picking up rocks, I had a great collection. The adults, (the men probably) used to tell us about the crater lake and how there was no bottom to it. Very scary!!!!! They cautioned us over and over about being careful not to fall in. Yikes. I loved your pictures and narrative. Great camp site. Thanks

  2. I was very happy to stumble upon your post. I found it by clicking on your Cabresto Lake photo which was presented at the bottom of the campground “page” on Google Maps I’m not sure how Google finds those.

    I was looking around on their map to find interesting places to explore and camp for my upcoming trip at the end of June, 2016. I will be doing some trail building with NM Volunteers For the Outdoors down near Tres Rios and after that I want to explore some of the areas of Carson NF that I had not visited before. I believe I’ll add Cabresto Lake based upon your post.

    If you are interested, you might find something of interest in my camper/travel blog:


    1. Thanks Bill! I think you’ll really enjoy it! I will DEFINITELY check out your site as well. We love finding new places. Thanks too, for telling me how you stumbled upon my page. Interesting to know!

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