Cabresto Lake

cars parked in the campground
A widened parking area with a few picnic tables that at times more resembles a busy parking lot than a campground. This heavily-used campground provides hiking access to the wilderness and fishing access to the lake.

Campground data:

Controlling agency: Carson National Forest; Questa Ranger District
Official URL:Forest service web page for the campground
Region: North-central; Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
CG elevation: 9238ft; 2816m
Campsite count: 5. Depending on the acceptable density, more campsites without tables exist. The forest service says there are 9 sites here.
Visual density: 8.00. The actual density depends on how many people arrive and camp. You can see from one to all of the rest.
Fee: $0.00.
Season: May 01 to September 30.
Dogs: Yes. on leash
Horses: Unknown.
Handicapped accessible: Unknown.
General tent notes: Some campsites have flat areas for tents.
RV parking surface: dirt
RV pull-through spaces? No.
General RV notes: RVs are not recommended due to the road in. According to the forest service, "Camper trailers are not allowed due to narrow one-way road sections and steep drop offs."
General notes: No trash cans; pack everything out.

This campground gets a lot of car/truck/SUV and ATV traffic. 21 came on Labor day weekend. The parking lot was full of cars and ATVs at 11:34am.

A man came by asking if we had seen the person who stole his fishing reel from his fishing rod. Secure your belongings.

Campground facilities: vault toilet(s) (It did not smell inside, but we got whiffs of it regularly outside).
Campground attractions: hiking, wilderness access, wildlife, wildflowers, fishing, boating (non-motorized boats only), swimming, 4wd (High clearance is needed for the last two miles.), scenery, lake.

When we visited it:

Date: 2005-09-02
Cleanliness: 3. After I picked up 406 pieces of litter, our campsite was about as clean as the average forest service campsite (i.e., I got tired of picking up litter, and there was still more left).
General notes: 24 cars/trucks and 43 ATVs


Waypoint Type Description
CABRESTOCGCampgroundCabresto Lake CG


Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Carson National Forest US Forest Service 2002 1:126720 N from Amazon (purchase) Camino Real and Questa ranger districts and Valle Vidal Unit side of the map
Valle Vidal Unit, Carson National Forest US Forest Service 1999 1:63360 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Wheeler Peak BLM 2001 1:100000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the campground:

From the stoplight in Questa, go east on NM 38. After about 0.6 miles, a sign indicates a left turn on Kiowa road as the route. Stay on this road for abot 2.2 miles, where it ends at a T intersection. Turn right. From here, drive about 3.4 miles on what turns into forest road 134. You will see a sign pointing left and indicating Cabresto lake is 2 miles up the rough, narrow, and winding forest road 134A. Our odometer said 2.1 miles had passed when we arrived at the campground. The road dead-ends in the campground.

Two passenger cars made it up the road, but I would not recommend this.

The most secluded campsite is the first on the left as you enter the campground.

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About the campground:

Cabresto Lake
Obviously, the primary draw for this area is the lake.
These shy ducks found the lake a nice place to hang out.
Ducks on Cabresto Lake
parking lot of cars
This was the view from our campsite. We kept the area in front of our site open only because we stayed in the campsite and gave the evil eye to those who arrived. Eventually, we lost, and our campsite was completely parked in.
In spite of our bad experience at this campground, it does have potential.
truck and tent in a campsite
the prospecting hole that someone blasted
From the campground, you can see this prospecting hole that someone blasted in the side of the hill. In the tailings, you can find iron pyrite and goethite. You can see the trail at the bottom of the photo.

Plants we saw around the campground:

Reader comments about this campground:

On Thu Jan 26 21:26:29 2006 Phillip from Austin, Texas said:
My two best friends and I camped here for two nights in early August, 2005. We were at the beginning of our 16-day, western America road trip. We actually camped at one of the sites just off the road, before you get all the way down to the lake. About at the peak of the road, in fact. Though there were cars that went by quite frequently, we were far enough away from the Lake to hear any actual noise. We were on the edge of the cliff, looking out at the string below. Perhaps it was that it wasn't busy, but we had an extraordinary time. I spent five morning hours just sitting, reading, and looking out at the views, while my friends went on an extensive 11-mile hike to and past Heart lake and back (at least, I think it was Heart Lake). If you catch it when it's not busy, it's amazing.

On Mon Jul 14 01:28:19 2008 Anonymous from Albuquerque, NM said:
It is Heart lake, which is 7 miles up stream from cabresto. It is a beautiful spot, majestic, I think is the perfect word. Thanks for the pics.

On Thu Sep 4 12:59:14 2008 J.D from Albuquerque NM said:
we were just there this last weekend labor day my 5 year old little girl love it and so did my wife. I cut a butiful trout that i have never seen anywere befor.

the place is butiful but there is the smell problem from the restroom thing do other than that it was a good time i be going back.

On Wed Apr 8 11:10:38 2009 Tom from El Paso,Texas said:
Been there a few times! Great place to hike and fish. The fishing is good most times and the lake only has brook trout and cuttthroat trout. It is not stocked so don't keep but maybe 2 trout to help sustain natural reproduction. Don't try to walk across the inlet creek because it is very boggy and you will loose a shoe.

On Wed Jun 17 15:54:52 2009 Anonymous from Somewhere said:
I was just at this campsite this week. There was a cooking grate on the firepit and only one piece of trash that I saw at our site. For a fee-free area it was extremely well maintained in my opinion. I don't know what it's like on the weekends, but we were alone there by about 7 pm, and nobody showed up until after 8 am. The only problems we had were that it was cold, and we didn't really bring enough water, both of which were our own faults for poor planning. I really enjoyed it and would definately go again.

On Thu Sep 23 14:10:34 2010 Anonymous from Somewhere said:

On Wed Sep 28 19:38:09 2011 Steven from Lubbock, TX said:
Longtime visitor, yes, Latir lakes are not far in Rio Costilla Park. I drove the nasty dirt road to lake #3 this July, saw a giant brown bear, and landed 4 browns and 4 cutts in about an hour and a half. Lost probably twice that many. Saw maybe 4 vehicles in the park all day. Can't wait to go back.

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