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.
If you want to stay in a mountain retreat but close to downtown Ruidoso, NM then this is a perfect place to be. Large abundant pine trees provide lots of shade. Bathrooms with shower are NEW, CLEAN, AND PRIVATE. Also provided is laundry room, small workout facility, sauna, gathering pavilion. We felt welcomed the minute we drove in. We have seen many new updates Including water,electric, and sewer hookups.
Imagine 1.25 Ma ago an eruption blew apart the landscape of Northern New Mexico that would rival the shear volume erupted by the world famous Yellowstone hotspot! Jemez Falls and its namesake campground are the closest, largest, and most developed CG to the Valles Caldera proper and the entrance to the caldera's access roads. The Jemez Falls CG is more developed than the nearby primitive (dispersed) sites that surround the flanks of the caldera proper, this CG offers 50 single sites and 2 double sites, $10 and $50 respectively. Most of the sites can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 40' in length with good options for tent camping as well. Each site has the usual metal fire ring, along with picnic tables and a paved driveway/parking area. You can reserve sites from mid May through Mid September.
Even if you plan to stay here for a couple weeks (which is the limit) you'll have more than enough to keep you preoccupied! If you want to drive around and hike or fish in the caldera proper then you will need to go to the Valles Caldera Visitors Center and buy a pass. They typically cost $25 but when we visited during the International Balloon Fiesta the fee was waived. If they are charging when you arrive, you can also use your National Parks Pass to get entrance. Be sure to arrive early on the weekends as they restrict the # of permits they hand out.
Now with all this exposed rock you know there's going to be some amazing climbing! All of the rock in the immediate area was created by the caldera and related volcanic and magmatic activity in the area in the past few million years. This gives you the opportunity to climb on some "bulletproof" welded tuff (hardened volcanic ash) much like what exists at the world famous Smith Rock State Park in Oregon. If you want to find out more about the interesting geology of the area you can look Here
Being a Ranger for the Dyrt allows us to test and review gear from time to time! This time we got to test out the Men's Free Rein Jacket by Red Ledge.
- First thing I want to say about this jacket is that it is super cheap for a rain jacket this rugged and with this many features! It was only ~90$ after shipping and is comparable to some of my other jackets that were 2-3x as much!
- I also really liked the mesh fabric on the inner portion of the breast pockets. It added another dimension of breath ability to the jacket to prevent condensation from building up on the inside. This was a nice addition to the gusseted armpits flaps to help air out.
- The last thing I really liked about this jacket was the amount of high-vis color options you had to choose from! I went with the Hi-Vis Orange which is close to a hunters orange and came in very handy as there was active hunting while we were hiking in the Valles Caldera.
- There were only a couple of things that we thought could have been improved. The first was to have the armpit openings be meshed on the inside to prevent it from opening wide up. We really liked that feature in the breast/side pockets and wished it had been incorporated into the armpits as well.
- The other thing was the inability to zip the jacket from the top or bottom, which would have allowed you to kind of blouse the bottom of the jacket.
- While other jackets have more features, this is a great, durable rain jacket at a price point that is reasonable and affordable for most. This was a great jacket to test and I anticipate using it for many more rainstorms and windy belays in the future.
This is one of the best day use areas that we visited while on a 2 day tour in and around the Valles Caldera! It has over 250 climbing routes spread out along the East Fork of the Jemez River with something for every level of climber! The belay areas are nice and flat and the approach will at most take you an hour to get to the furthest walls. Some of the climbs even allow for setting up top ropes from the tops of the cliffs. You can access the cattle wall easily from the east parking lot but if you want to walk along the creek then use the parking lot that is to the west. If you plan on staying overnight then the closest developed campground is the Jemez Falls CG just up the road to the west.
This is a nice secluded dispersed campsite on the eastern flanks of the Valles Caldera. It's the closest CG to Sante Fe along the 4 before it enters the caldera proper. While most of the trees in this area were burnt by fires less than 10 years ago, it still provides great views of the valley below and the highest mountains in all of New Mexico! The campground has no amenities so bring everything you'll need and bring along a high clearance vehicle if you plan on heading up the road beyond the campsites that are right off the pavement to the right.
Besides exploring the caldera there are plenty of amazing things to do in nearby Sante Fe! Our favorite attraction was the MeowWolf permanent art exhibit. It's an absolutely amazing surreal piece of art that you walk through and interact. I cannot stress enough how much you should visit because in addition to being an art pillar in New Mexico they also contribute to local and soon regional art and philanthropic endeavors.
Just 15 mins from downtown Sant Fe this beautiful campsite is an easy and great escape and alternative.
For the size of the campground the sites are pretty cramped which is unfortunate but nothing too serious.
Basic campsite with picnic tables, tent mats and pit toilets.
After two days roughing it in the wilderness with no facilities, Moore’s was a great place to pitch a tent, take a shower and relax in a chair in the shade before heading to Durango. I have stayed here twice and will do so again
Quiet mountain lake with ponderosa pines surrounding it. I'd go back in a heartbeat.
I visited this magical place. It is absolutely beautiful. During the day the myriad of plants are enchanting. At night the stars and sounds otherworldly. And the healing energy of Michaela and Ernesto brought me back into light. Forever grateful.
Truly fantastic view go along with this campsite. The sites are fairly primitive but the location is one of the greatest around. It’s a decent drive up here from Taos but you won’t be disappointed once you get here. The trail down to the confluence of the Red River and the Rio Grand is steep and gravel.
We stopped here for a night on a week long NM road trip - probably not a destination in itself for us, but the campground had the amenities we were looking for and there was only one other group at the entire campground on a weeknight in late September.
No views of the water or hookups here, but a variety of spots to pull or back into, clean restrooms, campfire rings, and a friendly host. There was trash service. Think it was around $12 a night.
We spent a week road trip camping around New Mexico and this was our favorite campsite, despite the lack of upkeep on the restrooms and the trash strewn around which we attempted to clean up. Even with all that, the confluence of the east, west and middle forks of the Gila River at Grapevine Campground made for a magical experience.
In late September there were only a couple of other groups at the campground, which doesn't have designated sites per se, but fire rings are clearly established. There is also a JEEP road whose trail cuts across the river which looked really fun.
We fell asleep to the sounds of the river and woke the next morning to the sun filtered through the giant trees. This campground is a real gem, really hope that people start taking care of it better!
Pro tip: There is no water at the campground, but up at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument we were able to fill up our 10 gallon tank free-of-charge.
Beautiful drive on Highway 82 west towards Cloudcroft. Stop at the roadside petting zoo!
Apache appeared to be the only campground of the three open in late September. Super nice hosts and well maintained - there were even trash cans and hand sanitizer in the restroom which was a nice touch.
The sites were relatively far apart and backed up into a nice wooded area.
Hardly anyone else there on a weeknight in September.
Strange animal noises at night!
This is not a campground.
We had Bottomless Lakes on our radar to stop for the night as we left Santa Fe to head to Carlsbad Caverns. Looked like a nice enough place, but no campfires were allowed due to a burn ban (didn't even look to be rings) so we opted to continue heading south to see what we could find. Turns out not a lot as we ended up at the Carlsbad KOA, but it was an hour closer to the park the following morning AND they allowed campfires!
After learning that Bottomless Lakes State Parks do not allow campfires, and striking out at Lake Van (also no campfires and didn't look to be open in late September), we settled on the Carlsbad KOA to be closer to the Caverns the following morning - and they had campfire rings!
The owners were very friendly and even showed us to our spot in their golf cart.
Your typical KOA with lots of camping amenities. Enjoyed a long hot shower and clean restrooms. We appeared to be the only folks outside their camper in the evening.
Was a bit windy, but the landscape allowed for beautiful views all around and a gorgeous sunset.
We camped here on a Monday night in late September and had no trouble finding an open site without a reservation. The spots were a little close together, but thick foliage in between provided some nice shade and privacy. There was also a nice stone wall at our site to help with erosion control. Good fire pit too.
Toilets were clean and stocked.
The Black Canyon Loop trail at the north end of the campground is a great jaunt up to a view of the Santa Fe watershed and the Pecos Wilderness. It's 1.3 miles long and does a lollipop loop allowing for different views on the way up and back - would highly recommend.
My wife and I just spend two days at this RV resort. Its attached to the Ojo Caliente Spa Resort. The spaces only had eletric and water. The eletric and water outlets where placed in an odd location for the site and a dumb station is available for extra $20. One thing we both noticed about the RV park was how quite it was at night. No campfires in the RV park but the spa area had a big fire pit lit every night and where there so many of the RV community hung out there. It gave us a chance to meet our neighbors and talk traveling. We spent one whole day at the spa and was given a discount on its entrance price while staying at the RV park. There is also a great restaurant on site. We where traveling in a 34 foot 5th wheel. Cell service is spotty.
This was our first time camping in the Manzanos. The campsites are well made with a picnic table and fire ring. There isn’t a tent pad but all of the spots have a nice section of relatively flat ground. There are several vault toilets spread through the site. Cost is $7 per night. There is no water source at or near the campsites so make sure to bring enough for your stay. The campground is clean and well maintained. The sites are relatively close together but the campsite wasn’t crowded. The road in is a forest road. SUV’s will be fine but starting to push it for cars. You can walk from the sites to the Fourth of July trail
All sites sit have excellent access to the Red River. The vault bathrooms were adequate. Each site I saw had multiple tent options. Even if your pad does not have shade, each site has ample shade to the back of the site along the Creek. It is a bit exposed to the highway and road noise. The noise is not horrible but certainly noticeable.
All sites sit on a beautifully shaded Creek (Columbine Creek) that feeds the Red River. The vault bathrooms were extremely clean and even pleasant smelling. Pads are well maintained and each site I saw had multiple tent options. Even if your pad does not have shade, each site has ample shade to the back of the site along the Creek. Each site has more than expected space and offset to adjacent sites. Camp Host are doing an excellent job.
There are 4 different loops, from the oldest (30 amps) water nearby, the the newest section. Dry camping with a view. We are in the Buffalo section. 50 / 30 amps along with water. Very nice shade structure with table.
Sites range from very good to ok. Washrooms are clean.
Nights are quite along with stars. Can be winding but this makes it cool in the daytime.
Lots of places to walk, from 1 to 5 miles.
I would rate this 5 stars, but the CampGround host should be out cleaning up the weeds on the sites. But I have never seen them.