607 Places You Can Use a Metal Detector in New Mexico
New Mexico has a richly woven historical fabric dating back millennia. The communities that make up the state have been inhabited and traveled by indigenous peoples, European colonists, American settlers, and countless others.
There is so much more to New Mexico than meets the eye. From pinion and juniper forests in the north, to volcanoes, to canyons and rivers, to arid deserts in the south, the state has natural beauty in spades.
Santa Fe, the state’s capital, is the oldest capital city in the United States. The Taos Pueblo, north of Santa Fe, has been continuously occupied for at least one thousand years. Twenty-two other Native American communities, each their own sovereign nation, hold centuries of life-ways, traditions, and culture.
In this article, we’ll explore the history of New Mexico through the lens of 607 places you can use a metal detector within the state.
First, we’ll provide an introduction to locating historical sites on private property to search with a metal detector. Next, we’ll investigate the rules and regulations for metal detecting in public parks throughout the major metropolitan areas in New Mexico. Then, we’ll wander through National Forests, State Parks, and BLM-managed land. Lastly, we’ll explore the places you can’t use a metal detector.
The majority of land within New Mexico is privately owned. As such, many sites of recent historical interest (within the last 200 years) are likely to be located on private property. If you’re interested in searching for coins, jewelry, and other objects that have been lost throughout the past, you’ll need to brush up on local history, architecture, and the art of asking permission to metal detect.
Knowing the local history of an area is key to identifying potential metal detecting sites. Learning where people lived, and when, lets you hone in on the cities and neighborhoods that are most likely to yield fruitful searches. Here, we’ve included resources that will help you in your historical research.
Originally created for fire insurance companies, Sanborn Maps (such as those pictured below) are detailed maps of U.S. cities and towns from 1866 until the mid-1960s. The maps contain an index of streets and addresses; businesses, schools, churches; outlines of buildings, indicating placement of windows and doors; the building’s use; and more. They are an indispensable resource.
Many Sanborn maps are available via the Library of Congress.
Another excellent resource are local historical societies, such as those listed below.
- Albuquerque Historical Society
- Cibola County Historical Society
- Doña Ana County Historical Society
- East Mountain Historical Society
- High Plains Historical Foundation
- Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico
- Lincoln County Historical Society
- Los Alamos Historical Society
- Luna County Historical Society
- Museum of New Mexico
- New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum
- New Mexico Historical Society (the State Historical Society)
- New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe
- Sandoval County Historical Society
- Sierra County Historical Society
- Silver City Museum Society
- Socorro County Historical Society
- Taos County Historical Society
- Valencia County Historical Society
- Western Heritage Museum, N.M. Junior College
Now that you have an understanding of the history of the communities you want to metal detect in, you’ll need to look at the architectural styles of homes in the area. In this section, we’ll briefly dive into some of the predominant styles of architecture found in New Mexico.
Spanish Colonial (1620 - 1800s) — When New Mexico was a territory under Spanish rule, houses were made from locally available materials like adobe (mud bricks), and included flat roofs, earthen floors, and windows with wooden bars.
Territorial (1800s) — Once New Mexico became a U.S. territory, Americans that migrated to the territory constructed Greek Revival style buildings with columns, trim, and building proportions aligned with ancient Greek architecture. Today, this style is called Territorial.
Italianate (1840s to 1890s) — Commonly found in commercial buildings and storefronts, Italianate style buildings were built from red brick or stone, and feature arched windows, intricately corniced roofs, and elaborate ornamental elements.
Romanesque Revival (1850s to 1900) — Inspired by 11th and 12th century Roman architecture, Romanesque Revival buildings tend to be massive, with thick stone walls, arched windows, and far less elaborate ornamentation than their Italianate predecessors.
Second Empire (1865 to 1890s) — This style is imposing in its size, often includes a tower, separate wings, and features a mansard roof (pictured). They were especially trendy in the 1870s during Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency.
Queen Anne (1880 to 1910) — The Queen Anne style is more of a loose collective of architectural elements than an all-encompassing set of characteristics. Houses in this style often include a wrap-around front porch, along with second-story porches or balconies; patterned wood shingles; decorative columns and spindles; bay windows; grand chimneys; wood or slate roofs; and some kind of tower.
Eastlake (1880s to 1890s) — Eastlake can be considered a simplified and (for its time) affordable iteration of the Queen Anne style. It’s ornamental features were meant to be artistically complex yet easy to clean, with intricate porch posts and railings, carved panels and lattices along rooflines, and striking color combinations.
Mission Revival (1890 to 1915) — Drawing inspiration from Spanish missions in California, the Mission Revival style buildings include arches, thick brick walls finished in stucco, exterior corridors, interior courtyards, and clay tile roofs.
Prairie School (1890s to 1920s) — Most commonly found in the midwest, Prairie School attempts to create an indigenous North American architectural style that emphasizes handcrafted elements as opposed to mass-produced ones. The style often features flat roofs with large overhangs, limited ornamentation, horizontal groups of windows, and a focus on horizontal lines that are meant to blend in with the midwestern prairie landscape.
Foursquare (1890s to 1930s) — As a reaction to the complex ornamental elements of Victorian homes, the Foursquare style is a plain, square, box-shaped house, with four large rooms on each of two floors. There is often a center dormer room above the second story, a spacious front porch with wide stairs, and many built-in cabinets.
Pueblo Revival (1900s to present) — With their earth-colored walls, flat roofs, and log-ends that jut out from the building, the Pueblo Revival style is perhaps the most synonymous with New Mexico. The original Pueblo style was historically popular out of necessity—by using readily available materials, houses could be constructed in relatively little time and provide protection from the elements and any enemies. The Pueblo Revival, on the other hand, uses modern building techniques but incorporates the design elements of original Pueblo architecture. For instance, earth-colored stucco is used to resemble adobe, along with rounded corners and flat roofs.
Bungalow (1900 to 1920s) — These single-story houses are easily recognizable, with square porch columns, low-pitched gabled roofs, and often a central dormer.
Mid Century Modern (1920s to 1970s) — With floor to ceiling windows, open floor plans, and a balance of form and function, Mid Century Modern is a style that stands out.
Mayan Revival (1910s - 1960s) — This style combines motifs and other design elements from the Maya civilization in southern Mexico and Central America with those of other native peoples. It often features intricately patterned walls, floor mosaics, and flat or terracotta roofs.
Ranch / Rambler (1945 to 1980s) — With an open floor plan, single-story structure, and plain, basic decoration, the Ranch (or Rambler) architectural style was at its peak of popularity in the 1960s. This style is most often associated with post-World War II suburban housing developments.
Contemporary Southwest (1940s to present) — Houses built in New Mexico after World War II (and outside of Santa Fe) tend to fall into this style, which is characterized by the use of modern materials that pay homage to traditional building techniques. Steel frames and concrete walls are designed to resemble adobe construction, while wood columns, trim, and courtyards blend influences from Spanish Colonial and Territorial architecture.
Once you have narrowed down where specifically you want to search, it’s time to ask permission from the property owner in order to metal-detect on their land. First, you’ll need to locate the property owner, which can involve considerable research. Then, it’s simply a matter of asking permission and seeing whether they’re open to the possibility.
Locating a Property Owner
Locating a property owner can be tricky. Many private property owners may not live on the parcels they own, or property you want to search may be undeveloped. If there is a house, it could be occupied by renters, and you’ll need to do more research to locate the owner.
To determine who owns a particular piece of land, you’ll need the property’s address and the name of the county it is located within. Search online for that county’s Tax Assessor office, and look for a Property Search form. Note that not all counties have online property search tools.
In the Property Search, enter the address information you’ve collected. The search tool will locate the assessor records for that property, but depending on the particular county, it may or may not indicate the property owner.
If it does, you now have a name to work with. From here, you can try searching publicly accessible voter records to get their contact information, or search for their name on Facebook or other social media sites. In the event that the property owner is an LLC or other organized business entity, check with your Secretary of State to search business records for contact information.
Tips for Asking Permission to Metal Detect
Our three golden rules for asking permission to metal detect on someone’s property are to be respectful, courteous, and considerate. Remember that you’re entering another person’s space, and your presence may not be welcomed, no matter how friendly you may be.
Look out for any “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” signs, and don’t attempt to go onto the property seeking permission if it is clear by the signs that they’re not interested in being solicited.
If you plan to ask permission in person, choose a day and time when the owner is likely to be home, typically a weekend during late morning or early afternoon. Approach the door without any of your metal detecting equipment, as that can be off-putting to some people.
Introduce yourself, and offer your contact information, preferably on a business card. Often, having your name, phone number, and email address can make a property owner feel somewhat more comfortable allowing a stranger to search their land.
If the property owner grants permission for you to metal detect on their land, it’s a good idea to draw up an agreement as to what you are allowed to keep, should you find anything of value.
Public Parks in New Mexico
Public parks, in cities large and small, are great places to use a metal detector. You’re likely to find dropped coins, lost rings and other jewelry, bits of aluminum foil and pull-tabs, sprinkler heads, and other items.
There are no municipalities in New Mexico that explicitly forbid metal detecting, so all city parks are fair game. That said, digging is off-limits. You can metal-detect on the surface for coins, lost rings and jewelry, toys, and anything else you may find.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of public parks for many of the cities and towns in New Mexico, organized by metropolitan area.
Park Search Tips
When using a metal detector in a public park, the most important thing to remember is that it is a public space. Be respectful and mindful of other people that may be in an area of a particular park you want to search. To have the best chance of getting the park to yourself, go during off-peak periods like early mornings, weekday afternoons in overcast weather, and late evenings.
Albuquerque Metro Area
The International Balloon Fiesta takes place in Albuquerque each year.
Albuquerque was founded in 1706 as a strategically located trading and military outpost along the historic trade route, Camino Real, which ran between Mexico City and the San Juan Pueblo in northern New Mexico. During the US Civil War, the city was occupied by Confederate troops.
In the late 19th century, the railroad arrived, leading to a rising population. Roads and interstate highways followed, bringing exponential growth to the city. Today, more than 25% of the state’s population lives in Albuquerque, making it the most populous city in New Mexico.
It is well known for the International Balloon Fiesta, the largest hot air balloon festival in the world, which is held the first week of October each year.
There are 149 parks within the Albuquerque city limits, and we’ve featured five of them below.
- Loma del Norte Park — This no-frills neighborhood park has shade trees, mountain views, and a well-trafficked playground.
- El Oso Grande Park — With a large grassy area, soccer fields, a playground, and shade trees, this park features views of the Sandia mountains and is popular with nearby families.
- Netherwood Park — A popular park for picnicking, kite-flying, food trucks in the summer, and sledding in the winter, Netherwood Park is a hidden gem north of the University of New Mexico campus.
- Santa Fe Village Park — Adjacent to the Taylor Ranch Library branch, this park has fitness stations, a playground, picnic tables, shade trees and a dog run.
- Four Hills Park — Four Hills Park, in far southeast Albuquerque, is a fully xeriscaped park with exercise stations, a treehouse-themed playground, walking paths, and a picnic area.
Known as “The Hub City” for its central location in the state and access to rail, highways, and air travel, Belen has two public parks. Eagle Park shares space with the local skate park and the Belen Recreation center on the western side of town. Anna Becker Park, on the eastern side of Belen, has a playground, a couple picnic tables, and a block of grass where many metal things may be hidden.
Just north of Albuquerque is the town of Bernalillo NM, which is well known for its wine vineyards that date back to the 1620s. The town has two parks. Rotary Park has a playground, and is located near the town’s Recreation Center as well as the Senior Center. Loretto Park is often a site for town events, so there’s a good chance you’ll find dropped coins or lost jewelry there.
Estancia NM is the county seat of Torrance County, and is perhaps most well known for being featured in a 1779 map by Spanish cartographer Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco (a man of many talents) as a “town destroyed by enemies”. Arthur Park, on the southern edge of town, includes a lake and is adjacent to the public library.
Los Lunas NM is located south of Albuquerque. The village is named after the Luna family, who originally settled the area in the early 1700s. A large boulder with Paleo-Hebrew writing carved into it, called the Decalogue Stone, is located nearby. There are 13 parks within the village:
- Artiaga Park
- Artistic Park
- Buena Vista Park
- Chester Skinner Park
- Daniel Fernandez Memorial Park
- Heritage Park
- Huning Ranch Park
- Los Cerritos Park
- Neighborhood Park
- Main Street Memorial Park
- River Park
- San Antonio Park
- Valley View
Rio Rancho is the third-largest and fastest growing city in New Mexico. The city evolved from a housing development in the 1960s called Rio Rancho Estates. There are 39 public parks in the city, and we’ve included a select few of them below.
- Haynes Park — Sharing space with a community center, Haynes Park sits on nearly 13 acres and includes sport courts, a swimming pool, playground, picnic tables, and horseshoe pits.
- Los Milagros Park — This park has fitness stations and horseshoe pits, picnic tables and playgrounds, and meandering trails.
- Rio Vista Park — Tucked within a neighborhood, this park includes basketball and tetherball courts, a skate park, and a playground and picnic area.
- Trailhead Park — At just over two acres, Trailhead Park sits alongside the Bosque Trail, and includes picnic tables, a playground, and dog-friendly grassy areas.
While Tijeras lacks public parks, it does have a fun stretch of Route 66 that is a “musical road”. Specially-designed rumble strips in the pavement cause your tires to play the tune of America the Beautiful.
While technically located in Santa Fe County, Edgewood is geographically closer to Albuquerque, so we’re including it here. Digging is prohibited, but you are free to use a metal detector to search for lost objects in any of its four community parks.
- Bassett Park — Just east of the Dairy Queen, Bassett Park includes a playground, picnic tables, skate park, tennis courts, and a basketball court.
- Venus Park — With a large pavilion for family reunions and town events, you’re sure to turn up something at Edgewood’s Venus Park.
- Edgewood Community Park — Two separate playgrounds, a tetherball court, and sand volleyball provides a variety of terrain to search.
- E.C.H.O. Ridge Park — This park has a picnic area and nature trails.
Farmington Metro Area
Farmington lies at the junction of three highways along The Trails of the Ancients Scenic Byway. It is the commercial center of northwestern New Mexico and the Four Corners region. The area was originally settled by Pueblo people in the 7th century. There are 51 parks in the city that can be viewed on this map.
East of Farmington lies the City of Bloomfield. It is also on the Trails of the Ancients Scenic Byway. Nearby local attractions include the Salmon Ruins Pueblo and Museum, as well as the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. There are 8 public parks in Bloomfield, including those listed below.
- Bishop Park — This half-acre park has four picnic tables and a gazebo that can be rented out for weddings and other events.
- Lybertee Park — This 50-acre park, named after a local child, has hiking and biking trails, picnic sites, and breathtaking views of the city from atop a mesa in the park.
- Verde Del Rio San Juan — This river walk includes hiking trails, picnic tables, and a swim area.
- EMS Park — With a playground, picnic tables, and the Dr. Jefferson Flowers memorial, this park is one of the most frequented in town.
- Salmon Park — As a former swamp turned city park, Salmon Park is the most popular in town, with picnic areas, tennis courts, and a playground.
Aztec is located about 30 minutes northeast of Farmington. The area is well known for the nearby Aztec Ruins National Monument. The City of Aztec has 10 parks:
- Riverside Park
- Tiger Park
- Minium Park
- Hartman Park
- Cap Walls Park
- Florence Park
- Kokopelli Park
- Main Avenue Courtyard
- Swire-Townsend Refuge
- Rio Animas Park
Las Cruces Metro Area
As the second-largest city in the state, Las Cruces is a hub for the aerospace industry and the home of New Mexico State University. It has several museums, a thriving arts scene, and 41 city parks, which are listed below.
- Albert Johnson Park
- Apodaca Park
- Branigan Park
- Camelot Gardens Mini Park
- Camuñez Park
- Desert Trails Community Park
- El Cardon Park
- El Encanto Park
- Entrada del Sol Park
- Four Hills Park
- Frenger Park
- Girl Scouts Park
- Gomez Park and Garden
- Gus Vlachakis Park
- Hadley Park
- Hermosa Heights Park
- Hillrise Mini Park
- Jason Giron Park
- Klein Park
- La Buena Vida Park
- La Llorona Park
- Las Colinas Mini Park
- Lions Park
- Mesa Heights Park
- Mesilla Park
- North Las Cruces Park
- Northridge Park
- Pioneer Women's Park
- Plaza de Las Cruces
- Sagecrest Park
- Salopek / Stull Park
- Sam Graft Park
- Sunrise Terrace Park
- Sunset Hills Park
- Spitz Park
- Tellbrook Park
- Tortugas Park
- Unidad Park
- Valley View Park
- Veteran’s Memorial Park
- Young Park
Located along the border with Mexico and Texas, Sunland Park is situated in the southernmost part of New Mexico. The Sunland Park Sports Complex is the only public park within city limits.
The town of Anthony is south of Las Cruces on the New Mexico-Texas border. Another town named Anthony lies on the Texas side of the state line. There are no public parks on the New Mexican side of the border.
Mesilla is a small town located just southwest of Las Cruces. During the US Civil War, it was briefly the capital of the Confederate Territory of Arizona. Today, the town’s central plaza is a National Historic Landmark. There are no public parks in the town limits.
Widely recognized as the “chile capital of the world”, Hatch was founded in 1875 on the former site of a ghost town called Santa Barbara. Hatch Public Park, the community’s sole public park, is located on the west side of town.
Situated 30 miles northwest of El Paso, TX, Lanark is a ghost town that had a post office from 1905 until 1923. It is near Kilbourne Hole, a famous site for collecting rocks that resembles a meteor crater.
Santa Fe Metro Area
Santa Fe, designated as a capital city in 1610, is the oldest state capital in the United States. It’s recognized globally as an art city, as it’s home to numerous art galleries and installations from the Georgia O’Keefe museum to the Meow Wolf collective.
The areas surrounding the city have been continuously inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous peoples, including the Tanoan and other Pueblo (referring to permanent towns) communities.
In the late 1590s, European colonists began arriving, and declared the city a province of New Spain. When Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1824, Santa Fe remained the capital city of the New Mexico Territory. In 1848, New Mexico became a territory of the United States by way of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Eventually, in 1912, it became the 47th state.
The City Code of Santa Fe has no rules against metal detecting in its 68 city parks. However, you cannot deface or destroy public property, which means that digging is prohibited.
Below, we’ve included several park suggestions that include playgrounds and picnic areas, both of which are great places to search for lost items.
- Adam Gabriel Armijo
- Alto (Bicentennial)
- Barrio (John F. Griego)
- Calle Alvarado
- Calle Lorca
- Cielo Vista
- Franklin Miles #1
- Frank Ortiz
- Fort Marcy
- Gregory Lopez
- La Resolana
- Las Acequias
- Las Estancias
- Los Hermanos
- Los Milagros
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Monica Lucero
- Nava Ade (Dancing Ground)
- Patrick Smith
- Pueblos Del Sol
- Rail Yard #2
- Rancho Del Sol
- Rancho Siringo
- Salvador Perez
- Villa Linda
Espanola is located north of Santa Fe, and was founded in 1598 as the first capital of the New Mexico Territory. There are 5 parks within the city limits.
- Adi Shakti Park
- Patrick Memorial Park
- Ranchitos Park
- Valdez Park
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park
This ghost town, located southwest of Santa Fe, was founded in 1880 and abandoned in the early 1900s. North of what remains of Bonanza City is the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, which is a recreation of the city that is used as a filming location and claims to be built atop the city itself. However, the actual ruins of the community are located south of Alamo Creek.
Other Areas in New Mexico
Roswell is world-renowned for its proximity to an alleged UFO crash in 1947, and today attracts tourism from aerospace and UFO-enthusiasts. The city has 26 parks, many of which have playgrounds and sports fields.
Taos, located about 70 miles north of Santa Fe, was founded in 1795 and is known for the nearby historic pueblo, and for its role as an artist colony. The town has three parks:
- Fred Baca Park — With a half-mile loop path, sports fields, a playground, picnic tables, and a five acre wetlands area, Fred Baca Park provides many recreational opportunities for the Taos community.
- Kit Carson Park — This 19 acre park has a playground, picnic areas, sport fields, and an adjacent cemetery where the park’s namesake, Kit Carson, is buried.
- Taos Plaza — As the focal point of the town, Taos Plaza provides a place for the community to gather for celebrations, live performances, fundraising efforts, and other local events.
Known for its proximity to pistachio farms and White Sands National Park, Alamogordo has 34 city parks.
Las Vegas is a town near the Colorado border in northern New Mexico that was established in 1835. In 1847, the town was the site of the Battle of Las Vegas during the Mexican-American War. Las Vegas has 5 city parks: Central Park, Gallinas Creek Park, Melody Park, Plaza Park, and Rodriguez Park.
Los Alamos is about 45 minutes northwest of Santa Fe, and is most well-known for being where the atomic bomb was developed during the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory. There are 13 developed parks in the city, including:
- Loma Linda Park, which has shade trees and a playground.
- Barranca Mesa Park, which has a playground, picnic tables, and a pavilion.
As the gateway to Carlsbad Caverns, the City of Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico has 33 parks.
Gallup is located along I-40 near the eastern border of New Mexico. The city has 13 city parks, ranging from the Playground of Dreams, a castle-themed playground park, to We The People Park, with interactive metal sculptures and walking paths.
Clovis is near the Texas border in southeastern New Mexico. It’s a community of about 40,000 people with 15 city parks that are all open to metal detecting. A few of these parks include:
- Hillcrest Park — There are playing fields for baseball, softball, soccer, and football, as well as courts for tennis, basketball, and volleyball. Hillcrest Park also has playgrounds and picnic areas.
- Ned Houk Park — From playgrounds to picnic areas to a model airplane flying area and a herd of bison, Ned Houk Park has something for everyone. Pat Sandoval Park has a playground, tennis courts, basketball court, and picnic shelters.
Throughout the state, there are 632 public parks where you can use a metal detector. Next, we’ll explore the national forests and grasslands in New Mexico.
National Forests and Grasslands
New Mexico is home to five national forests (containing 16 wilderness areas) and one national grassland that is managed by the United States Forest Service. Within land managed by the National Forest Service, metal detecting is typically allowed at campsites and in picnic areas, but the rules may be different at each forest property.
Carson National Forest
Located in northern New Mexico, the Carson National Forest was established in 1908 when parts of the Taos and Jemez national forests were merged. It contains six wilderness areas, four hundred miles of streams, and is home to Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in New Mexico.
Wilderness areas within the Carson National Forest include:
Chama River Canyon Wilderness
Covering about 50,000 acres, the Chama River Canyon Wilderness is located within the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests, and consists of multicolored sandstone canyon walls, forests, and the scenic Rio Chama.
Cruces Basin Wilderness
Containing forests, meadows, creeks, and peaks, this nearly 19,000 acre wilderness lies just south of the Colorado border in northern New Mexico.
Latir Peak Wilderness
Four of New Mexico’s twenty highest peaks—Venado Peak, Latir Peak, Latir Mesa, and Virsylvia Peak—call the 20,000+ acres of the Latir Peak Wilderness home.
Partly situated in both the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests, the Pecos Wilderness is the second largest in the state at nearly a quarter million acres. It encompasses the southernmost end of the Rocky Mountains in the Sangre de Cristo Range, and contains one of the highest concentrations of 12,000’ and 13,000’ mountain peaks in the state.
Pueblo and Anasazi artifacts dating back to 6000 - 7000 BCE have been found within the Pecos Wilderness, and the area was first occupied by Spanish colonists in the 1590s. Prospecting and homesteading began in the mid 1870s.
Wheeler Peak Wilderness
This wilderness contains the highest mountain peak in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak.
Cibola National Forest
The Cibola National Forest is spread across north-central New Mexico, western Texas, and Oklahoma. The name is derived from the original Zuni word for their tribal lands, which was later interpreted by the Spanish colonists as meaning “buffalo”. The forest includes some of the most-visited mountains in the state, and biomes ranging from desert to prairie to piñon to spruce forests.
Apache Kid Wilderness
Named after a former U.S. Cavalry scout with a colorful history, the Apache Kid Wilderness is located in the San Mateo Mountains of west-central New Mexico. It contains 68 miles of trails winding through forests and 10,000’ peaks.
Manzano Mountain Wilderness
In the early 1700s, Spanish explorers discovered old apple trees on the eastern edge of the mountains in this wilderness. As a result, it was named after the Spanish word for “apple”. Each spring and fall, thousands of raptors migrate through the Manzano Mountain Wilderness between Canada and Mexico.
Sandia Mountain Wilderness
With nearly 120 miles of trails, the Sandia Mountain Wilderness is one of the most-visited in the Cibola National Forest. The Sandia Peak tramway, the longest in the United States, transports people across the wilderness from the northeastern edge of Albuquerque to the crest of Sandia Peak.
Situated in the northernmost edge of the San Mateo Mountains, the Withington Wilderness consists of conifer forest, pinon and juniper woodlands, and steep-walled canyons. The Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope is located in the plains at the base of Mount Withington.
Kiowa National Grassland
Located in northeastern New Mexico, the Kiowa National Grassland is a patchwork of public and private land that consists of shortgrass prairie, pinyon-juniper forests, and shallow lakes.
Gila National Forest
The Gila National Forest is the sixth largest in the United States, at more than 2.7 million acres. The forest lies in southwestern New Mexico, and consists of mountains, canyons, mesas, and desert biomes. There are several hot springs located within the forest boundaries.
The Gila Wilderness is both the first designated wilderness area in the world, and the largest in New Mexico. It contains several hot springs.
Aldo Leopold Wilderness
This wilderness is often referred to as New Mexico’s “wildest wilderness”, as its remote terrain and scarcity of water make human visitors few and far between. It was named after Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac.
Blue Range Wilderness
Located on the southwestern border of New Mexico, the Blue Range Wilderness was designated in 1980, and consists of more than 29,000 acres of rugged and remote terrain.
Lincoln National Forest
The Lincoln National Forest is located in southern New Mexico and was established in 1902. It contains two wilderness areas, six historic fire lookout structures, a historic 320’ railroad trestle, and a rich cultural history dating back to pre-Columbian times.
Capitan Mountains Wilderness
This wilderness area protects a rugged east-west mountain range. The area is considered the birthplace of Smokey the Bear.
White Mountain Wilderness
The White Mountain Wilderness contains mountains, canyons, streams, forests, and striking rugged terrain.
Santa Fe National Forest
Located in northern New Mexico, the Santa Fe National Forest consists of more than 1.5 million acres of mesas, canyons, and peaks; more than 1000 miles of trails, 23 campgrounds, and 13 picnic areas.
Chama River Canyon Wilderness
See Chama River Canyon Wilderness in the Carson National Forest section.
The Dome Wilderness is the smallest in the Santa Fe National Forest. In the 1990s, wildfires burned the majority of the wilderness area. Then, in 2011, another wildfire completely scorched what remained of the Dome Wilderness. Since then, the area has been closed for regrowth and restoration.
See Pecos Wilderness in the Carson National Forest section.
San Pedro Parks Wilderness
Meadows, mountaintops, and mixed spruce and aspen forests make up much of the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. Streams meander through the forests and large grassy “parks” that the wilderness gets its name from. There are nine well-traveled trails and many backpacking campsites.
New Mexico has 35 state parks scattered across the state. We’ve listed a selection of parks below that have picnic areas, playgrounds, campsites, or beaches. These can often be great places to use a metal detector to search for dropped coins, lost jewelry, and other misplaced items.
As written in the New Mexico State Parks Visitor Provisions, Section 24, “Metal detecting within a state park is prohibited unless a visitor obtains the superintendent’s permission to use metal detectors for scientific activities such as projects permitted through the New Mexico cultural properties review committee or to retrieve lost items.” So before you go, you’ll need to get permission from the park’s manager to use a metal detector in any particular New Mexico state park.
Bluewater Lake State Park has opportunities for camping, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, picnicking, and horseback riding.
Park Manager: Mark Brown
The “bottomless lakes” at this state park are actually sinkholes ranging from 17’ to 90’ deep. Bottomless Lakes State Park offers opportunities for camping, fishing, swimming, picnicking, hiking, and scuba-diving.
Park Manager: Joseph Desjardines
Located near Carlsbad Caverns, Brantley Lake State Park offers boating, fishing, hiking, bird watching, picnicking and camping, along with incredible night skies.
Park Manager: Leila Haver
Just off the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway in northern New Mexico, Cimarron Canyon State Park is situated in a forested canyon that offers camping, river fishing, intriguing geologic features, and wildlife viewing.
Park Manager: Lee Ferguson
City of Rocks
This state park is one of the most intriguing in New Mexico. The “city” consists of towering columns of volcanic rock that rise up to 40’ above the surface, and paths that wind between them. The park has hiking trails, mountain biking, picnic areas, a botanical garden, campsites, and excellent stargazing opportunities.
Park Manager: Gabriel Medrano
Coyote Creek State Park is approximately one hour southeast of Taos, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There’s fishing, campsites, and a playground.
Park Manager: Christopher Vigil
Elephant Butte Lake
Elephant Butte Lake is New Mexico’s largest state park. With a lake big enough for nearly any kind of lake-faring boat, sandy beaches, playgrounds, picnic areas, and campsites, this park has something for almost everyone.
Park Manager: Saul Baquera
Fenton Lake State Park is situated in the pine forests of the Jemez Mountains in north-central New Mexico. The lake offers fishing and canoeing opportunities, while the rest of the part has hiking trails, campsites, and a playground.
Park Manager: Joshua Herron
Situated among the pine forests of northern New Mexico, Heron Lake State Park offers sailing, hiking, fishing, and camping in a designated “quiet lake”.
Park Manager: David Ford
As its name suggests, this state park is nestled in the Manzano Mountains, and offers hiking and camping.
Park Manager: Dylan Frentzel
Navajo Lake State Park contains the second-largest lake in New Mexico. It’s ideal for motorized boating, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, water skiing, and fishing. There are multiple campgrounds within the park.
Park Manager: Chris Smith
Oasis State Park, in southeastern New Mexico, is a small fishing lake surrounded by shady cottonwood trees and shifting sand dunes. There are several hiking trails and a relatively peaceful campground.
Park Manager: Valerie Russ
Along the Mexican border, Pancho Villa State Park explores the history of the Pancho Villa Raid in 1916 that escalated into what is known as the Battle of Columbus. The park includes a large campground as well as a playground.
Park Manager: Jonathin Horsley
This state park, located near Deming in the southwestern edge of New Mexico, is named for the abundance of gems and minerals found in the area. It has hiking trails, a campground, picnic sites, and a visitor’s center with exhibits.
Park Manager: Robert Apodaca
Santa Rosa Lake
Santa Rosa Lake State Park is a reservoir in eastern New Mexico that offers boating, fishing, hiking, bird watching and camping.
Park Manager: Stefan Conkle
Situated in a sandstone canyon along the Pecos River, Villanueva State Park offers shaded picnic areas and camping, as well as fishing, bird watching, and hiking trails.
Park Manager: John Villanueva
Bureau of Land Management Property
Metal detecting is allowed on the public properties in New Mexico owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). You can keep modern coins and other objects that are newer than 100 years old. However, historic sites such as abandoned towns, cabins, graves, ranches, railroads, and mining areas are off-limits to metal detector use.
We’ve listed nine of these properties below.
Pecos River Corridor Recreation Area
Spanning from Loving, NM to the Texas border, the Pecos River Corridor Recreation area encompasses 6000 acres of land that provides access to the Pecos River and the Red Bluff Reservoir (in Texas). There are opportunities for boating and camping.
Angel Peak Scenic Area
Located off of Highway 550 south of Bloomfield, the Angel Peak Scenic Area has three picnic areas, a nine-site campground for tent camping, and nature trails.
Aden Hills Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area
The Aden Hills Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area is about 20 miles southwest of Las Cruces, and encompasses nearly 9000 acres of desert.
Gila Lower Box Canyon
Northwest of Lordsburg near the border with Arizona, the Gila Lower Box Canyon is a lush landscape of cottonwood and willow trees, and other native river vegetation. The area has one of the greatest diversities in bird species in the state (around 200), making it one of the best birdwatching destinations in New Mexico. The Gila River offers opportunities for rafting, fishing, and camping.
Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area
At the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Santa Cruz Lake offers opportunities for fishing, boating, camping, and hiking. The man-made lake, built in 1929, brings together waters from the Rio del Medio and Rio Frijoles.
Mescalero Sands North Dune Off-Highway Vehicle Area
The towering sand dunes of the Mescalero Sands North Dune Off-Highway Vehicle Area are made of quartz, and are constantly shifting (moving about one foot per year) due to the winds. Cottonwood trees thrive in the dunes, providing much-needed shade in the arid desert environment. The dunes provide opportunities for camping and picnicking, in addition to dune exploration.
Valley of Fires
North of Alamogordo is the Valley of Fires recreation area. Around 5000 years ago, lava erupted from Little Black Peak. The lava flowed 44 miles into the Tularosa Basin, filling it with molten rock that is 160-feet thick and covers 125 square miles. It’s considered one of the most recent lava flows in the continental United States. With opportunities for birdwatching, camping, picnicking, and hiking, Valley of Fires provides something of interest for everyone that visits.
Datil Well Recreation Area
This recreation area, situated between Pie Town and Magdalena in west-central New Mexico, is named after one of 15 water wells along the former Magdalena Livestock Driveway, a cattle trail established in the 1800s. There are three miles of hiking trails surrounding a developed campground and picnic area.
San Lorenzo Canyon
This scenic canyon provides opportunities for primitive camping, hiking, and landscape photography. Sandstone cliffs, arches, and hoodoos make up the canyon, while cottonwood trees and remnants of old ranches and homesteads tell stories of days long lost to time. High clearance 4WD vehicles are recommended.
Places You Can’t Use a Metal Detector
Now that we’ve gotten through all the places you can go metal detecting in New Mexico, let’s move on to the places you can’t use a metal detector—reservations and pueblos, national parks, preserves, and monuments; national historical parks; and national historic trails.
Reservations and Pueblos
There are four Native American reservations and 19 Pueblos within the boundaries of the state, each of which are a sovereign nation with their own laws and governments.
Acoma Pueblo and Reservation
At the heart of the Acoma Reservation, Acoma Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the United States. The Pueblo sits on a 365-ft mesa about an hour west of Albuquerque, and dates back to the 1100s.
The Cochiti (People from the Mountains) Pueblo is located southwest of Santa Fe, and is most well known for the pottery work of one of its members, Helen Cordero. She created storyteller pottery figurines.
Pueblo of Isleta
Established in the 1300s, the Pueblo of Isleta (named by Spanish explorers in the late 1500s) is located south of Albuquerque.
Pueblo of Jemez
The Pueblo of Jemez is located about an hour north of Albuquerque and dates back to the 1200s.
Located west of Albuquerque along the San Juan river, the Laguna Pueblo has been inhabited since around 6500 BCE. The Pueblo has one of the most well-established tribal law systems among Native American lands.
Mescalero Apache Reservation
Located in south-central New Mexico, the Mescalero Apache Reservation lies between Las Cruces and Roswell. Hundreds of years before Spanish explorers arrived, the Mescalero Apache (named for the mescal plant they ate) were nomadic hunters and warriors. They moved freely throughout what is now Texas, Arizona, Chihuahua, and Sonora, Mexico.
As Spanish (and later American and Mexican) settlers moved into the territory, the Apache were known as guerilla fighters that raided the homes and settlements of the newcomers to the land.
This pueblo has existed since at least the 14th century, and is adjacent to the Pueblo of Pojoacque, both located north of Santa Fe.
Previously known as the San Juan Pueblo, Ohkay Owingeh is located just north of Española. The pueblo’s name means “place of the strong people,” and was founded around 1200 CE.
The Picuris Pueblo, situated in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico, has been inhabited since around 1250 CE.
Pueblo of Pojoaque
Located north of Santa Fe and west of the Nambe Pueblo, the Pueblo of Pojoaque (meaning “water gathering place”) was initially settled around 500 CE.
Situated north of Albuquerque and east of Rio Rancho along the Rio Grande, Sandia Pueblo has been inhabited since the 1400s.
The San Felipe Pueblo is situated between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Today, the pueblo operates the Black Mesa Casino.
The San Ildefonso Pueblo is located northwest of Santa Fe along the Rio Grande. The pueblo dates back to 1300 CE, when its people migrated from Mesa Verde in southern Colorado. Today, the pueblo is known for its traditional blackware and redware pottery.
Santa Ana Pueblo
The Santa Ana Pueblo is located north of Albuquerque in the Rio Grande Valley. The original location of the pueblo was isolated from common trade routes, making it one of the least-visited pueblos by Spanish explorers.
Santa Clara Pueblo and Reservation
Santa Clara Pueblo is located on the Rio Grande river in north-central New Mexico, with Ohkay Owingeh to the north and San Ildefonso Pueblo to the south. It is well known for producing hand-crafted blackware and redware pottery.
Formerly known as Santo Domingo Pueblo, the Kewa Pueblo is located along the Rio Grande between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The pueblo is located near ancient turquoise mines, and the Kewa people have historically made jewelry from stones found in the mines.
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the United States. The pueblo's most prominent feature is a multi-storied adobe residential complex built between 1000 and 1450 CE.
Located north of Santa Fe in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Tesuque Pueblo has existed since 1200 CE.
Ute Mountain Ute Reservation
Spanning southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico and small sections of Utah, the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation consists of more than half a million acres in the four corners region.
Pueblo of Zuni
This pueblo is located south of Gallup in western New Mexico and is on the Trails of the Ancients scenic byway.
The Zia Pueblo is located north of Albuquerque. The Zia regard the sun as sacred, and their symbol for the sun has become representative of Puebloan and New Mexico culture. The symbol is featured on the New Mexico state flag.
National Parks and Monuments, Historic Sites, and Recreation Areas
National Parks and lands managed by the National Park Service are off-limits to metal detecting. Even having a metal detector in your car can get you into legal trouble. We’ve included a list below of all of the national parks, monuments, national historic parks, recreation areas, historic trails, wildlife refuges, and NPS-managed wilderness areas for your reference.
White Sands National Park in New Mexico
Hidden beneath the canyons and cacti of the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park contains more than 119 limestone caves of all shapes and sizes.
The glittering gypsum sand of White Sands National Park is one of the world’s natural wonders. 275 square miles of sand dunes create the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, much of which is preserved within the boundaries of the park.
Aztec Ruins National Monument preserves a 900-year old Great House constructed by the Pueblo people. It contains more than 400 rooms.
Bandelier National Monument preserves more than 33,000 acres of canyons and mesas, and the remains of human settlement from 11,000+ years of history. There are petroglyphs, masonry walls, and other remnants of early Native American culture.
Capulin Volcano National Monument illustrates the volcanic geologic features of northeastern New Mexico. With views of four states from the volcanic rim, and one of the darkest night skies in the United States, the sights are equally breathtaking during the day or at night.
From cinder cones to lava tubes, the volcanic features of El Malpais National Monument showcase the diversity of this region’s landscape.
For centuries, El Morro National Monument was a popular campsite for desert travelers, as it contains a reliable source of water hidden at the bottom of a sandstone bluff. At this site, Native Americans, US and European travelers carved petroglyphs, messages, and more than 2000 signatures into the rock.
The adobe remains of Fort Union, the largest military fort in New Mexico during the 1800s, are protected within Fort Union National Monument. From 1851 to 1891, the fort fostered political and cultural changes in the region.
Gila Cliff Dwellings
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument was home to the people of the Mogollon in the late 1200s. They built rooms, formed pottery, and raised their families for a couple of decades, then moved on, leaving their dwellings behind.
This monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America. Petroglyphs are designs and symbols that were carved into rocks by Native Americans and European settlers between the 1300s and 1600s.
Salinas Pueblo Missions
The three sites of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, located in the middle of New Mexico, explore the conflicts and cross-cultural conversations that took place during the first interactions between the Spanish and Pueblo communities.
National Historical Parks
The Chaco Culture National Historical Park, located between Albuquerque and Farmington in northwestern New Mexico, preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian areas in the United States. Within the park are the remains of massive pueblos, including one with more than 650 rooms and multiple floors.
This site, located in Los Alamos, is one of three that make up the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The park tells the stories of the people, events, and scientific advancements that made up the Manhattan Project, which led to the creation of the atomic bomb.
Nestled among the pine forests in the mountains southeast of Santa Fe is Pecos National Historical Park. From the remains of Native American pueblos dating to the 1100s, to 19th century ranches and a battlefield from the US Civil War, the park explores the rich cultural history of the Pecos Valley.
National Historic Trails
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro
Learn about the complex history of conflicts, cooperation, and exchange between European and Native American cultures as you travel along this National Historic Trail.
The Old Spanish National Historic Trail, between Santa Fe and Los Angeles, traces the route of mule pack trains across the American Southwest. The trail allowed New Mexican merchants to trade their goods for horses, mules, and other pack animals.
The Santa Fe National Historic Trail winds through five states, leading from Missouri to Santa Fe.
As the newest national preserve in the United States, Valles Caldera preserves the area’s rich ranching history and the ancestral homeland of native peoples. Since the 1860s, the mountain meadows and meandering streams of the Valles Caldera were used for homesteading and large-scale sheep and cattle ranching.
Metal Detecting Organizations / Clubs in New Mexico
Albuquerque Metal Detector Association
Based in Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Metal Detector Association is a collective of people that are passionate about recovering relics and artifacts, finding lost coins and jewelry, and compiling and preserving local historical information. They provide both a recreational and social outlet for their members, and frequently serve their communities by recovering lost objects.
Gold Prospectors Association of New Mexico
Based in Albuquerque, the Gold Prospectors Association of New Mexico is the oldest gold prospecting organization in the state. They meet monthly, organize group outings to mining claims, and promote education through presentations and demonstrations of prospecting techniques
About the Author
Gary Iverson is a staff writer at Metro Metal Detectors covering all things metal and metal-adjacent.