Tucked way up in the northeast corner of New Mexico is where you'll find the town of Clayton, NM, the Union County Seat. Every time we've traveled from Texas, we've come in through Clayton. We've been through a few times now, but have only had a chance to stay at Clayton Lake State Park once. Normally we like to get a bit further into the state before setting up camp, however, Clayton Lake is small and remote enough to discourage some of the more problematic recreation areas that lie right on the TX/NM border.
Yes, it is quite a long drive from the town out to the campground and lake. This is a very remote location. Clayton Lake is home to relics of the past and visions of the future - walk the dinosaur track field during the day and head to the observatory at night to take in some of the very best stargazing the southwest has to offer. Clayton Lake was the 2nd NM State Park to receive an observatory- complete with rolltop roof and a 12” Meade RCX400 computer-driven telescope. For such a small camping outpost, the payoff is well worth the trip.
We are pretty familiar with the New Mexico state park system but are still learning about how crowded parks might be, where reservations might be necessary versus where walk up is a pretty sure thing. We'd have been bummed if we took that trip out to Clayton Lake only to find it full. Well, it was full. We drove around the campground and down to the lakefront. A Ranger came out to greet us and immediately offered up a solution. He put us in the unused group site for one night at a regular rate. We remain so grateful for that accomodation!
Although the campground was full, it was extraordinarily peaceful. Patrick hiked out to see the dino tracks while Jaco and I (Kris) hiked around the hilly trail down to the lakefront. We hung out in the group picnic area and had a blast. The campground has a decent shower/bathroom facility. Unfortunately we were unable to visit the observatory as it was closed when we camped there. The naked eye and that night sky provided an incredible show of stars and milky way that stretched on forever.
Highly recommend for those of you who enjoy solitude, peace, and a gorgeous night sky.
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