The last best place
Tucked inside the heart of Moreno Valley’s lowest point, where snow-capped mountains and a 2,400-acre alpine lake meet, is the cozy confines of the village of Eagle Nest, just 30 miles east of Taos in the Moreno Valley.
Soaring Sangre de Cristo Mountain vistas, plus the forests and rolling pastures of Eagle Nest Lake and Cimarrón Canyon state parks all provide some of the best wildlife viewing along the 85-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway.
Situated in a glacial valley on the slopes of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest peak (13,159 feet elevation), Eagle Nest is rich in wildlife such as elk, mule deer, turkeys, mountain lions, birds of prey, coyotes, bears, raccoons and the golden eagles for which the town and lake are named.
The valley’s elk herd is the star of the area’s wintertime show. Several thousand elk inhabit the mountain skirt forests on both sides of the valley year-round.
The area around Eagle Nest Lake is also prime habitat for birds. Besides golden eagles, visitors will likely see ducks, geese, pelicans, ravens, magpies, heron and osprey.
In the winter, the native flocks thin with migration. The numbers of overwintering species vary each year, however, depending on the severity of the season. These species are either residents who never leave the area or they fly in from the north for a milder Moreno Valley winter.
Songbirds appear all year-round, including juncos, sparrows and chickadees. Blue grouse winter under the cover of conifer forests, particularly on the slopes of Touch-Me-Not Mountain.
Every day and night, be it the big or small, four-legged or winged, the ebb and flow of the wild presents itself around Eagle Nest.
Don’t let the smallness of Eagle Nest village fool you – there are plenty of shops to browse and places to grab a bite to eat, and where endless naturescapes beckon the beauty-bound.
For more information, see eaglenestchamber.org.
Events and activities
Due to coronavirus precautions, at press time the lake and events are only open to New Mexico residents at Eagle Nest State Park Visitor Center, 43 Marina Way, in Eagle Nest. Call before you go for updates (see contacts below):
Polar Bear Stomp and Plunge: Wednesday (Jan. 1, 2021), the town hosts the annual Polar Bear Stomp along Eagle Nest Lake Trail, followed by the unnerving Polar Bear Plunge into the icy Eagle Nest Lake on New Year’s Day. Registration starts at 9 a.m., followed by the Stomp at 10 a.m. and the Plunge at 11 a.m. Note: Polar plungers must wear shoes. Call (575) 377-1594.
Ice Fishing Tournament: Saturday (Jan. 30, 2021). sponsored by Friends of Eagle Nest Lake and Cimarrón Canyon state parks, it includes four categories: 1. trout/salmon, 2. perch, 3. pike and 4. creel (points for total fish in the creel category are based on entry into one or more of the species categories). Fee is $10 for each category – at least one of the species categories must be entered to enter the creel category – no refunds.
Registration is 6-11 a.m. Submit winning fish to tournament judges by 2 p.m. to be eligible for prizes (contact judge JB at 337-485-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Cash prizes, raffle items and goodie bags available. New Mexico Game and Fish and State Park regulations will be enforced.
For more information, see friendsofeaglenestlake.org.
Average annual snowfall: 106 inches
Average days of sunshine: 277 +
Base elevation: 8,238 feet
Summit elevation: Baldy Peak, 13,159 feet
Acreage: 5.2 square miles, 550 acres of water
Village distance to Taos: 31.3 miles
Grocery/package stores: 6