Sugarite Canyon State Park is located next to historic Raton, New Mexico. This State Park is a nice day trip destination that offers plenty to see and do. Overnight camping, RV slips and boating are options in this park and the lake fishing is supposed to be pretty good. There are plenty of shade trees in Sugarite Canyon, so finding a cozy spot for an afternoon picnic is easy to do. The hiking trail system is extensive and there are a wide variety of terrains that can be experienced. As can be imagined, Sugarite Canyon certainly fits the description of a perfect spring and summer vacation destination!
Sugarite Canyon State Park is a successful coal mine reclamation project that took many years and plenty of taxpayer dollars to accomplish. This majestic canyon in the Rocky Mountain Front Range has been restored to its natural state and a few modern features were added. The main feature is a dam that was designed to protect Raton from seasonal floods. The dam also feeds a river that flows downhill through the forest.
As always, the visitor center is the best place to start a venture and a couple of trailheads can be found nearby. Trail maps, a museum and memorabilia are available in the visitors center. The rangers provide plenty of good information about the history of this park and tips for what to look for along the trails. Relics from the old coal mine camp can be seen along the river and there are trails that weave through the remnants of this old ghost town.
The Riverwalk Trail is by far the easiest hike in this region and it is one of the best to do in the morning hours. This trail is a short round trip loop that is less than a mile long, so it is a good warm up for the more strenuous treks. The bright morning sunlight glistening on the shallow river rapids is a beautiful sight to see in this forested area, which is a perfect spot for doing some bird watching.
During the spring season, turkeys can be heard everywhere in the brush along the Riverwalk Trail, but they are seldom seen. Part of the reason why is because these big birds seek refuge in this place. The Colorado border is only a couple miles away and spring is turkey hunting season in that state, so the turkeys flock to the safer surroundings in the neighboring Sugarite Canyon State Park on the New Mexico side of the line. The clucks and gobble noises coming from the brush do have a way of livening up a leisurely stroll in this peaceful park!
After enjoying the Riverwalk Trail scenery, the hike ends at the starting point back at the visitors center. From there it is easy to catch the hiking trail that heads north through the old coal camp ghost town and onward to Lake Alice, where some serious marsh bird watching can be done. The Riverwalk Trail may be short and sweet, but this scenic hike certainly is a great way to start the day when exploring Sugarite Canyon!
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