One of the most unexpected destinations that you can find waterfalls is in the American Southwest, especially the state of New Mexico. While many people would never think of this state as a waterfall haven, the natural canyons of New Mexico form thousands of waterfalls each spring and summer.
The mountainous terrain in the north gathers snow each winter and many of these waterfalls only form for a few months at a time. However, there are also a few permanent falls that can be seen no matter what time of the year you visit.
Check out our favorite waterfalls in New Mexico and you’ll find far more water in this desert landscape than you ever thought possible. Some of these waterfalls require a hike to see, others can be overlooked from the road.
Here are among the best waterfalls in New Mexico, in no particular order:
Due to the harsh climate in much of the state, the creation of dams has been necessary to provide water supply to the more remote areas of New Mexico. One of those dams in particular was built above a spectacular waterfall called Nambe Falls. Located in the Pueblo of Nambe, these falls are a popular spot for tourists passing through the area.
The falls were named for the Tewa (Pueblo Native American) word meaning “round earth” and they are accessible via two short trails. The lower trail may soak you, so those who want to stay dry should use the upper trail to the top of the falls. Regardless of which path you take, however, Nambe is a sight that travelers passing through the area do not want to miss.
Sitting Bull Falls
If you’re taking the time to visit Carlsbad Caverns, adding in a stop to Sitting Bull Falls can help you make the most of your exploration of southern New Mexico. Sitting Bull Falls is a true desert paradise, located within an oasis in the midst of hundreds of miles of desert scrubland. This cold, gushing waterfall is a welcome respite from the hot summer days that occur deep in southern New Mexico.
Swimming is allowed in the top portion of the falls, so be sure to bring your bathing suit to this gorgeous and remote spot. The drive to the trail may not be accessible for smaller passenger vehicles, but larger vehicles and those equipped with four-wheel drive will have no problems navigating the dirt road.
A few miles north of the town of Jemez Springs you will find a mountain waterfall like none other. At 70 feet tall, Jemez Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the state, and its gushing watercourse is a sight to behold. The trail to the falls is less than a mile, making it easy for travelers to get to the top and take in the majesty of the view.
Unlike many other waterfalls in New Mexico, Jemez Falls runs throughout most of the spring and summer, making it the perfect destination for a late summer trip. Just be sure to pack supplies, as this waterfall is not located in a very populated area.
A great number of the waterfalls in New Mexico are seasonal, due to the dry and arid summers that the state experiences. This is particularly true of Travertine Falls, a seasonal waterfall located just east of Albuquerque. With only a one-mile hike to the falls, it is a perfect stop for those with young children or who cannot walk long distances.
While this may not be the fastest-moving waterfall, it is easily accessible for those who are currently in New Mexico’s capital city. After a good rainstorm or period of rapid snowmelt, the falls become a gushing watercourse. It brings waterfall hounds from miles around, so plan your trip around the weather to catch these falls at their best.
Catwalk Trail Falls
Tucked away within Whitewater Canyon is the Catwalk National Recreation Trail, home to a variety of small pools and waterfalls for visitors to explore. The trail follows the path of a steel pipe that once brought water to the ore-processing plant. Its remains are visible from the parking lot, although the original “catwalk” has been made safer through the years. Learn a bit of the history and geology in the area as you take in the beauty of these lesser-known waterfalls.
Soda Dam Falls
Soda Dam is not your typical dam. Rather than a construction built to preserve water and turn it into hydroelectric energy, Soda Dam was formed by underground soda springs that were forced through rock.
Thus Soda Dam Falls was born, but this waterfall isn’t always gushing. Sometimes the spring is dry and the fall may dry up as well, but for much of the year you’ll find this to be one of the fastest-moving waterfalls in the state.
Located just off of the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway, this natural watercourse is a must-stop for waterfall hounds. And since it is located just off of the road, it’s much easier to get to than many of the others on our list.
In the alpine canyons of northern New Mexico lies Resumidero Falls, near a popular camping spot with a number of waters visible from the trails in the area. Just a half-mile hike from the parking lot will take you to this majestic spot, but be warned that during certain times of the year the falls may be dried up.
Late April and early May are the best times to catch these falls gushing at their strongest. This is also a good waterfall to drive past for a quick look, as the falls are visible from the forest road used to access the campground. Be sure to bring your own supplies when camping here, as it is an extremely remote location that is not close to any large towns.
The highest waterfall in New Mexico is located near the northern border, convenient for travelers who are planning to visit the Four Corners area. At 2,400 feet in height, Brazos Falls are visible dropping off of the sheer cliffs of Brazos from miles away.
Like many of the waterfalls in New Mexico, the best time to visit is during the late spring and early summer in order to catch the gushing waters that the snowmelt brings. It’s a tributary to the Rio Brazos River.
This waterfall is on private land, unlike many of the others on our list. In order to access the waterfall, you must have permission from the property owners at Corkin’s Lodge, so we recommend spending the night there (affiliate link) to enjoy the view of the falls in the early morning.
Discover More in the American Southwest
If you need more than eight waterfalls to get your fill of this natural feature in New Mexico, there is a particularly good resource created by a Taos sculptor to help you. Doug Scott has taken the time to explore and catalogue many of the numerous waterfalls in his home state to make them easier for explorers to find.
Anyone looking to find waterfalls that are more off of the beaten path should take a look at his site, which features his collection of amusing essays on his journeys to each waterfall, as well as topographical maps and directions to these (often-remote) locations.
While you’re exploring the bounty of the Land of Enchantment, think about stopping by a few New Mexican hot springs for some R&R, which are especially enjoyable during the cold winter months. You can also try these ski resorts near Albuquerque for mountains within 3 hours of the capital city.
Neighbor Arizona also has hot springs as well for travelers to uncover, proving that there is far more water in the desert than anyone would’ve thought!