From the vast Chihuahuan Desert to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico has a wealth of opportunities to get outside and explore. For outdoor adventurers, there’s skiing in Taos, whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande, and plenty of hiking, from the Southern Rockies to dusty desert canyons. That’s what makes camping in New Mexico such a varied and fulfilling experience.
Carlsbad Caverns provides ample opportunities to hike, explore, learn about desert wildlife, even appreciate a few thousand Mexican free-tail bats take flight. They swarm out of the cave every night at dust for an audience that often numbers in the hundreds. It’s a perfect excuse to stick around the park after dark and do some camping in New Mexico.
Of course, the only camping available within Carlsbad Caverns National Park is backcountry camping, so come prepared to Leave No Trace. Keep in mind that the desert landscape is often dry, so fire bans, even some backcountry cooking bans, are frequently in effect in the drier months. On the upside, backcountry camping permits are free and you can grab one at the visitor center when you arrive.
Visit White Sands National Monument for an unmatched, natural experience. Acres upon acres of white gypsum dunes stretch into the distance, offering hours of diversion, be it hiking across the dunes or sledding down them. If you forgot your sled, don’t worry, you can pick one up in the gift shop. Just be sure to enjoy these activities early in the morning or late in the evening during the summer months; it gets hot in the desert during midday!
As for camping in White Sands, it’s backcountry camping or nothing and sites require a short hike through the dunes. You’ll be camping on the gypsum, surrounded by shifting white hills, dark night skies up above, and no other campers in sight. It’s definitely a unique experience. Permits are $3.00 per person and can be picked up at the visitor center.
Wherever your adventures take you in the Land of Enchantment, get out there and let The Dyrt help you locate the best camping in New Mexico.
While staying at this site I spent most of my time at the petroglyph site down the road playing amongst the igneous rocks. There are over 21,000 petroglyphs to be found. It is a beautiful view of Mt. Blanca and the White Sands in the distance. The hosts are very sweet and full of amazing information. The sites were comfortable and secluded (at least when we were there). It takes a drive to get to but you really feel like you are away for major civilization which is very nice.
There are tent platforms that are a bit small and bathrooms. No showers or additional facilities but there is a general store on the main road to the campground.
The camp host was fantastic. I got here after hours (not knowing that they lock the gates at 9 pm) and she let me in and gave me a space to crash. I was only there for a few hours and it was easy to get in and out without waking everyone else up.
Drove in here late in the day (about 9:30pm) to find the bathrooms locked and sites full of RVs. Turns out their policy is that you get a key to the bathroom if you check in, and the office closes at 4:30pm, so if you haven't arrived by then you are going to be looking for a place to squat, and good luck finding one that's not in sight of at least 8 other campers.
Unpowered sites are $10 and powered are $20. The rock in the area is pretty, but that's about it. Otherwise this is an unpleasant, muddy city park with little to offer. Keep on driving, if you ask me!
10-15 down 60 west of Socorro you'll find "the box" climbing area. This is on BLM land, and there is no trash pick-up or other managed facilities here, so camping is at your own discretion and you MUST leave the area as you found it (or better). There is a vault toilet at the main parking lot as you drive in, and if you drive further up the road there is a small pull-off with a couple of simple fire-pits where you will likely find a couple other climbers camping. Please be responsible about your food, trash and making a fire. There is loads of good climbing in the area and it's a great place to set up camp for a few days, but don't ruin that privilege for everyone by mistreating the area. Follow pack-in, pack-out, LNT and common sense rules.
Have to agree with an earlier review of this site--the place is great, everything you'd want in a campground, but we encountered some strange visitors as well. We almost didn't stay because of the seemingly sketchy activity going on here, but it ended up being alright, and the campground itself is great. Nice area, picnic tables, firepits, vault toilets, trash and best of all, free.
We were climbing in the Socorro area for a few days and this site is about 20 minutes further down the road from the climbing area and about 30-35 minutes from Socorro. We stayed our first night here, and the next couple nights we just camped out at the climbing area, which proved much more pleasant (and equally free).
Free, pack-in pack-out site with vault toilets, picnic tables and fire pits. The Rim campground is perfectly nice, but if you can manage it roll on down the rocky, rough dirt road to the canyon campsite. We wanted to stay at the bottom, but decided not to risk getting stuck down there given that snow was coming in overnight (my 2wd is not snow-proficient, especially on steep roads).
Seemed to be mostly other climbers at the site, and lots of dog-friends. Really beautiful, quiet place, though beware you likely won't have cell service at the camp or anywhere near (including in the town of Roy).
It is hard to get an electric site here with a reservation. Boondock for a day and quickly move over to an unreserved electric site once someone leaves. Fun hiking on a volcanic mountain. You can find geodes and thunder eggs. Clean bathrooms. Excellent wifi (verizon and at&t) with booster. No limit on # of pets. Close to Mexico for dental care and shopping.
Pets are allowed, everyone is friendly. I work on the road, so internet is important to me. Great Verizon and AT&T coverage. I love walking on the beach here. One loop is getting a new bathroom, so doesn't have one right now
This is by far one of my favorite places to camp. We got here late at night and the people were so nice, even willing to help set up our camp. The lake was absolutely beautiful the water was perfect we got to see a lot of wildlife and our campsite was really close to the water. The weather was perfect and we were only about 15 minutes outside of Roswell. Can't wait to do it again.
Spent one night at Las Cruces KOA. This place is on the side of a mountain, but they did a good job of leveling spaces. Like most KOAs, this place loves gravel, and placing sites close together. But, the shower house was clean and there was plenty of hot water. They had a nice dog park for exercising our travel companions. The office guy was very friendly and helpful with directions.
Amazing little gem located half an hour from White Sands. Recommend reservations if looking for electric sites. Plenty to do and see. Close drive into town for just about anything you could need but far enough to get the high desert. Clean bathrooms and showers. We only used electric site. Used the air conditioner for the hot mid days and heat in the early mornings. One evening we could hear what we think to be artillery explosions from the White Sands missile range by the Air Force Base. Nothing alarming if you have heard artillery before. Short lived and did not interrupt our experience.
This very popular state park, on the edge of the Elephant Butte reservoir, is a great wintertime get away. We spent the winter solstice here and woke up at sunrise to see the moon setting in the west and the sun rising in the east. Spectacular!
The campground offers many reservable spots, as well as first-come, first-served sites. Each site has water, electric, picnic table (with sunshade) and a fire ring. The bathrooms are either vault toilets or full service with showers. There are no trees for privacy, but the sites are nicely spaced apart so you don't feel like you are on top of your neighbors.
Now, we don’t normally get critical of other reviews on this site. But some were very negative about the bathrooms, and we simply cannot understand why. The bathrooms were heated, the toilets were clean, as were the showers. The water was warm! Yes, these showers are the push-button type which only gives you a minute or so of water before you push it again. However, the showers were free with the campsite, which only costs $14 (2018) and is in the desert! Water is a precious resource here, so you can’t get your nose out of joint over decisions made by management to limit water consumption when you’re only paying this little.
During the summer months when the reservoir is up to recreational levels, boating and fishing are the most popular activities. Judging by the size of the boat-launch parking lot, you’re going to have to get up early in the morning to grab a spot. There is a great hiking and mountain biking trail right out of the campground which winds between all the other park roads, picnic areas and amenities on the western side of the lake. The trail is relatively new and in most areas is graveled. However, rainstorms have washed a lot of sand across the trail in areas and it can be pretty soft. Further south along the trail we encountered many more arroyos which upped the challenge. The nice thing is that you can always hop back on the pavement to return to the campground.
The town of Elephant Butte is nearby which offers a few restaurants, a general store, and gas. But just 15 miles south is the larger town of Truth or Consequences (interesting story about the name). This town has everything you might need, grocery, gas, food and other lodging….and hot springs! Check out our blog for more details about the latter.
This adorable little campground just 3 miles south of the village of Jemez Springs, NM is situated in the in a wide canyon with expansive views of the mesas to the east and west. Some of the sites have a full shelter over the fire ring and picnic table. Many of the sites can accommodate larger RVs or motorhomes, but do not have water or electricity hook-ups. Potable water is available as well. The vault toilets were very clean, and well maintained. This campground had the best recycling and trash containers we’ve seen in months. We were able to recycle just about everything!
This area is perfect for anyone who loves to do any of the following: hike, bike, climb, snowshoe, ski, view wildlife, fly fish, soak in hot springs, gallery shop, or just hang out at your beautiful campsite. The town is within 30 minutes of Valles Caldera National Preserve and just a few more miles to Bandelier National Monument and Los Alamos Skiing area. The town of Jemez Springs has just a few restaurants, be sure to try Olga's Famous Chile Rellenos at Los Ojos, the quirky and quaint little bar that looks like it came from a movie set.
The campground is open all year round and typically has a camp host. The sites are non-reservable, and are very inexpensive for the beautiful views you get!
Note: Despite how beautiful this place was and how much we enjoyed it, we had a scary incident happen that we reported to both the county sheriff and forest service office. If you want to know more, visit our blog. They told us that they had never had a report like this before, so this could have been a random incident, as we were there when there was no camp host. So, stay alert, especially if you are the only camper in the campground.
Finding this little park on the banks of the Rio Grande just outside of town in the dark would have been unlikely without the very specific directions given to us at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center. “From the blinking light go east for 0.7 miles and turn left on the dirt road between the canal and the river.” Sure enough, there it is.
This small campground has about 5 sites, with picnic tables, but offers no other services—no water, fire rings or even toilets. But as the directions say, it’s close to town and it’s FREE. So, on a day where we spent most of the afternoon and watched the sunset while in the National Wildlife Refuge, this campsite served us well. We even planned to get up before sunrise to watch the birds take to the sky from their night-time roosting areas, so we weren’t there long.
The wildlife refuge is a birder’s paradise during the late fall and winter. Species of Sand Hill Cranes, Snow Geese, Canada Geese, and a multitude of ducks winter here feeding on grain grown in nearby fields and roosting overnight in the shallow wetlands. The numbers of birds are overwhelming, and awe-inspiring. But when we learned that the Sand Hill Cranes have been making this journey for nearly 10 million years, we were simply blown away.
There are plenty of opportunities for other recreation in the area, road cycling, mountain biking, hiking and motor-sports. As we pulled out of the campground, we noticed a beach buggy cruising by which looked as cool as it was retro – total ‘70s style. There are other free, “dry camps” in the area, BLM land, etc. as well as a few other RV parks offering shorter or longer stays.
We went up here for Memorial Day weekend several years ago and stayed at site #26, without reservations. Great shaded site with water flowing behind it, which made for great sleeping. Campground was full by the afternoon with lots of families but it didn’t seem crowded. Vault toilets were incredibly clean and the whole campground was well-maintained. We hiked a little bit of the Columbine Twining hiking trail - can’t wait to go back to be able to hike more!
The state park boasts several lakes, a mountain bike trail, views, playgrounds in the day use area, and many campsites. There is a RV area at Lea Lake, which is half reserved and half first come. There are tent pads in that area also, showers and flushing toilets are there also. If you are tent camping you are missing out if you stay at lea lake, camp in the primitive areas around the smaller lakes. They are isolated, and have abundant wildlife. Vault toilets are nearby, nasty venomous spiders hide in the vaults but like all unpleasant creatures they dont like the light, so take a flashlight. If you come with pops you should consider footwear for them, the goat heads prevent them from going off road otherwise.