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Jemez Adventures Newsletter March 2021

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

Jemez Mountains in General – The western Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF)

was open in March except for the opening of forest roads. SFNF roads generally

open around April 15, but a few have opened early. The drought situation is still

dire, with fire danger recently raised to HIGH. Please take care with campfires,

cigarettes, etc. as the Jemez are still quite dry. Stream levels are below normal for

this time of year, but quite fishable.

Recent and coming highlights in the Jemez outdoors:

  • Trout fishing in the Jemez is good for stocked trout in the Jemez River, the Rio Cebolla, Rio de Las Vacas and Fenton Lake, and this should continue through April. Brown trout fishing has been getting better every week and barring bad weather will do so again in April. It is still early for cutthroats, but they should shine by late April.

  • Dry camping is allowed along FR-376 and FR-20, but in general organized Jemez campgrounds have yet to open. A few campsites are available by reservation at Fenton Lake State Park, but the full campground will not open until May 15. Riana campground at Abiquiu Lake is taking reservations starting April 15. Cochiti Lake campgrounds remain closed due to Covid.

  • The East Fork and Cerro Grande trails are open (accessed via NM 4), and short trails in lower San Diego Canyon are open. Most other hiking trails are closed until the forest roads open in mid-April. VCNP trails should clear of snow in April.

  • The only scenic drives open until mid-April are NM 4, the paved portions of NM 126, FR 376, and FR 20. Once the FRs open all famous Jemez drives will be open, but take care, some post-winter road conditions can be rough and late melting snows or seasonal springs can cause water hazards.

  • The Table below summarizes access to popular Jemez public lands destinations:

Regarding the Covid-19 Pandemic please respect New Mexico's outdoor guidance

and wear a mask, don't congregate in groups, keep a 6+ ft. personal distance, and

carry and use hand sanitizer. Crowds in the Jemez are beginning to grow as spring

weather begins in earnest. If you can make your trip during the week and/or early

in the day do so – you will be amazed by the quiet.

If I had to pick a Jemez adventure for April it would include either be a Cerro

Grande hike and a fishing trip to Battleship Rock or Fenton Lake. Toward the end

of April, the Las Conchas Recreation area has a beautiful hike with 5 bridges

crossing the East Fork Jemez River, and the fishing for brown trout is excellent

(but they can be picky).

Hiking – Early in the month trails may be wet from snowmelt but will dry soon

unless we get some rain. This is a great time to hike in the Jemez as daytime

temperatures begin to warm. Fun short hikes in the day use areas on NM 4 abound

– my favorites would include Battleship Rock Park, Dark Canyon Fishing Access,

La Cueva Picnic Area, and San Diego Overlook – all with great hikes of about 1-

mile round trip (RT).

Hot Springs – Are open:

  • Commercial – The Bath House and Jemez Hot Springs are both open in the village of Jemez Springs.

  • Spence Hot Springs is open. This spring has good parking off NM 4 and a maintained, but steep, trail of about 0.6 miles one way.

  • Mc Cauley Warm Springs can only be reached by hiking the East Fork Trail from Battleship Park until Jemez Falls Park opens in May. (One can hike into Jemez Falls by parking outside and walking in, but it is a long trip).

  • San Antonio Hot Springs – can only be reached with a 4 ½+mile hike along FR-376 (north of NM 126) until July 1st. when that section of road opens and one can drive all but the last ½ mile.

Scenic Drives – With the exception the early openings of FR-376 south of NM

126 and FR-20 along the Rio de Las Vacas coming from Cuba, most forest roads

will open April 15 which starts the scenic drive season. FR-376 and FR-20 are

great drives which I highly recommend. FR-376 can be reached from the NM 4

and NM 485 intersection near Cañon. FR-20 is reached from NM 126 which is

paved from Cuba. Both drives are 2WD in dry weather, and both are beautiful.


Triploid Rainbow trout were stocked in the Jemez River, Rio Cebolla,

and Fenton Lake in March and this will continue in April. The Rio San Antonio

should get stocked in late April, and the Rio de Las Vacas was stocked in early


Fishing for stockers at Battleship Park has been very good, with a few fish in the

13 - 15-inch category, but mostly 9 – 12 inchers. Crowds are low during the week and the water is clear to cloudy depending on the day. Fishing litter (bait boxes, soda cans, etc.) is starting to build up in and below the Park – please do not litter the Jemez! My best luck has been with double nymph rigs under an indicator. My best combo has been a Squirmy Wormy on top with an egg below fished on the bottom with a bit of split shot. When the egg action slows, I go to a #14 Hare’s Ear dropper. Stockers acclimate quickly and see a lot of pressure, so staying with 4X or 5X fluorocarbon tippet helps.

Brown trout fishing options will expand once the forest roads are open. The Jemez

River produced ½ dozen browns for me in 3 trips while fishing for stockers - one a

nice 12 incher with shoulders. The Guadalupe and Rio de Las Vacas should turn

on in April – and roads are open to reach them now. A late April favorite of mine

is the upper Rio San Antonio above NM 126, it is a perfect dry/dropper stream.

Fenton Lake is open to fishing and the ice is out. It has been stocked regularly in

March this will continue through April. Some notes:

Open to fishing, primarily day-use until May 15 when the CG opens.

  • The upper parking lot is closed.

  • Masks required – they are not kidding!

  • Rangers patrol for masks using bull horns for warnings - if unmasked after a warning you may be asked to leave.

  • I have not fished it yet, but reports have been good. If you plan to use a belly boat, be sure to wear long-johns – the water temp is still near 40 F.


As always have a great day in the Jemez Mountains – you deserve it!

Newsletter March 2021
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