Monday, October 3, 2016

Cochiti Lake Recreational Area

Okay.  Finally, I think we found the perfect campsite for us.  Maybe.  But before we get there, lets stop at Hyde Memorial Park on the outskirts of Santa Fe for a night.  Are you with me?  Then let’s go!

It was suppose to be for at the very least a full week at Hyde, but one night was certainly enough.  The park sits up a narrow canyon on the way to the local ski resort.  There are two campgrounds; one on the left side with full hookups and one on the right side with no hookups.  We dumped our tanks, chose the campsites on the right side, found a place we could back into, parked and leveled the rig.  It was okay I guess, but we had two major issues with this park.  The big one was that all the sites that we could fit into were along the main road which meant lots of traffic noise.  Everything from Jeeps to school busses rolled up and down that mountain road.  The second issue is more of a personal taste.  After camping at Eagle Nest and Storrie Lake, we felt “boxed in” at Hyde where the only view out of our window was the hillside, tree trunks and the road.  That was enough for us to hit the highway the day after we arrived.  Now, this is a good tip for those of you who are thinking of RVing around, even if it’s for a short vacation.  DO NOT PAY for more than a few nights until you’re sure that that’s where ya want to stay plopped for a while.  It’s not happened to us that I can recall, but it would feel pretty discouraging to have to stay in a place just because you didn’t want to lose your camping fees.

Anyway, we packed up the very next day and headed out to find the perfect campground.  Just south of Santa Fe, about 10-15 miles, is Cochiti (COE - shih - tee) Lake Recreational Area.  It sits on the Cochiti Pueblo Indian Reservation and was built and is operated by The Corps of Engineers.  Very very nice place.  Huge vistas with glowing sunsets, paved roads and paved, level campsites with nice covered picnic shelters.  There isn’t much around there as far as shopping is concerned, just a local mini-mart/laundry/gas station and a golf course that has a restaurant.  But like I said, Santa Fe is just 25 minutes up the road, is easily accessible and has everything one could desire.  Even two awesome thrift stores!  :-)  Also, Albuquerque is just 40 minutes or so south. 

Our very first night there we were getting ready to go out for an evening stroll when the Park Ranger stopped his truck just past our RV.  He told us to stay back because there was a rattlesnake in the road.  He and his assistant caught the snake, put it in a container and would eventually release it elsewhere.  He said that made number 4 for the night so be sure to carry a flashlight while walking after dusk.  Good advice.  We never did see another one though!

The Sunsets were Fiery Awesome!

There is also another campground that is on the other side of the lake which is called Tetilla. Its an older campground with gravel roads and sites but that’s where the main boat ramp is so gets a lot of use.

In-between the park entrance and the RAM Mini-Mart lies the Town of Cochiti Lake.  This is a small community of mostly retirees from all walks of life; physicists, authors, artists, etc.  It’s a very eclectic and interesting place.  Not much there other than the library and volunteer fire department but the homes are all very nice, mostly modest, adobes.  We visited with a local who lived there and she gave us the run-down on it. It seems that it, too, sits on the Cochiti Pueblo Reservation, but the land was leased to the city for the purpose of building.  She said it is a 150 year lease at which time in all likely hood the lease would be renewed.  They seem to have a very good relation with the Pueblo people.  I also got to speak with the mayor of the city (he was volunteering at the library desk) who ran down a list of the famous, the smart and the creative people who either live there or had lived there but also assured me that anyone of any status and background would be welcome and he encouraged me to consider Cochiti as a possible place to eventually settle.  Not real sure what that says about me.  Hum.  Barbara and I took in a craft show that was held in the fire station’s bays one Saturday and we both were impressed by the variety of art as well as the quality.  Everything from paintings to stain glass, photography and jewelry.  Nice!

Just south of the lake is the Kasha-Katuwe (White Cliff) Tent Rocks.  

First day we hit the Slot Canyon Trail, taking us through the canyon and way up on top of the mesa.
A week later we went back to take in the other two sections of the area; the Veteran’s Memorial and the Cave Loop Trail.  I really enjoyed the Veteran’s Memorial area.  It was further into the canyon and then up on top of a mesa.  It had awesome panoramic views, an easy handicap accessible trail loop and plenty of interesting plants to look at.  We noticed three varieties of cacti along our walk.

The Cave Loop started back at the Slot Canyon area and was a bit of a disappointment for us.  One we arrived at the cave, it wasn’t accessible for tourists so all we got to do was take a photo of some hole in the wall.  You could notice smoke stains on the ceiling of the cave and that was kind of cool, imagining Native Americans camping up in there.

There’s a huge mountain road loop that is basically a full day excursion.  We ventured out on it, found the two tunnels that had been blasted through the mountain for logging purposes, several scenic overlooks, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, Los Alamos (where we had our IDs checked before we could enter), Abiquiu Lake,  and finally Espanolla where we stopped to eat.  Oh, we also stopped at Fenton Lake for a snack and I fished for about 5 minutes, missing one trout but catching another one.  Gave it to the guy next to me.  :-)

During our stay at Cochiti, Barbara flew out of Albuquerque to go visit her family in Washington for week so I was left to fend for myself.  Wasn’t hard to do!  Made several trips back to Santa Fe to hit the thrift stores, did a couple of road trips to check out the area and did a lot of power-walking though all of the loops in the campground.  That’s where I met my first tarantula!  Pretty cool spiders.

While she was gone, I tried fishing with no luck at all and tried using the metal detector on the swim “beach”.  I say “beach” because only the first half inch was sand. Everything else was ROCK.  Needless to say, no luck there either.

Even with those two things being somewhat of a negative, we rank Cochiti Lake Recreational Area at the top of our list.  It’s a very clean park, the roads and campsites are paved, it had decent shower facilities, water, a dump station, great cell service and even electric if we wanted it.  Those things, plus being fairly close to grocery stores, restaurants, etc. make it a Five-Star campground for us.  We’ll definitely be going back there come next year!

Well, that ends this installment of our adventures on the road. We’re already a week into our next move, so be checking back for that report.  Thanks for reading and following us. We’d love to hear from you about our travels and about what you’re doing as well, so please comment!

Bud & Barbara


  1. LOVE the photos - and uh, NO to the tarantula!!! (((shudders))) LOVE YOU!!

  2. Thanks. Glad you love the photos! Love you too!!

  3. Hi Bud, Your picture composition is really great. Are you using your camera or do you use your phone? Love the sunset picture, the colors were amazing. It would be nice to enlarge it and make a nice picture for the wall. Good advice about not paying too far in advance if you are unfamiliar with the camp site. Have you planned out your route or do you drive a little and then look for where you want to go. I can't help but think you really are missing your bike. What a great place for riding! Are you going to capture a tarantula and make it a pet? I'm sure that would make Barbara happy.
    Take care and keep enjoying your adventure, Bill

    1. Hello Bill!

      Thanks for the nice note and compliments! I use both my camera and the phone. The sunset was done on the phone as well as any panoramic photos. I am not sure what the enlargement quality would be like but feel free to give it a try if you like. ☺

      We usually plan about 4 weeks out because most places that we stay at have a 2 week maximum. But in this lifestyle nothing is set in stone. For example: We left Cochiti and drove down here to Elephant Butte for 2 weeks and had planned to continue on south to Caballo Lake, but in the last few days we have decided to return this Wednesday to Cochiti for another week or possibly even two weeks. Then we'll come back to Elephant Butte for another week (or two) and then move on. So As you can tell.... we're open to change!

      Motorcycles. Yep.... one out here would be awesome and we still have them of course, just in case we need them. We really want to get a full year of RVing in without other distractions. Just really need to get this life change down before we make it more complicated with more vehicles to tow around.

      Nope..... no pet tarantulas! As cool as they are, having one in the RV would freak us both out! LOL

      Thanks for writing my friend. Hope you all are well and doing fine.