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.
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This camp ground has been a beautiful place for us to stay. My wife and I came for a weeks stay. We stayed in spot #59 which puts you along the river that is running through the property. The sound is so peaceful. The camp ground also has it's own stocked pond. Guest are aloud to fish for two fish per day for each guest in your party. Wifi has been pretty good and no problem with cell service (we have Verizon)
This was my introduction to a BLM campground and what a great introduction. Situated on an old lava flow, Valley of Fires campsites offer an introduction to a desert landscape. There's a small nature hike and a slight rise in the middle of the campground that offers a nice view.
Site have a grill, trash, water, and a shelter; with no natural shade, you'll appreciate the sun shelter in the heat! There are vault toilets throughout the campground, but there is a central bathroom that offers flush toilets and showers. A couple of the sites are accessible with a concrete pad extending from the parking area to the shelter/picnic table/grill. The tent sites have a raised gravel pad.
If I were choosing a campsite, I'd see if the RV site on the back side of the hill is available. It is separate and therefore quieter than the others and offers a broad view of the monument and the tent loop below.
If you're here in the winter, I'd recommend a trip to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (1hr away) to see the sandhill cranes. 90 minutes south you'll reach White Sands National Park. Both are worth your time, though for White Sands, check before you go; it is sometimes closed in the morning for missile testing.
This city-operated campground is bordered by highway on one side and red rocks on the other. There are events at the open arena, featuring rodeos, Native American celebrations, and an annual balloon festival in early December. It's beautiful to watch the balloons float about the red rocks in the park and there are a lot of places to scramble on the rocks yourself.
The campground itself is dusty and relatively open; you will hear road traffic. I was there in early December and most of the campground was reserved for the balloon festival. There are electric and water hook-ups, but not sewer. Arrive before 4:30 to obtain the key to the rest room if needed.
They don't provide much information at all on the website, you need to call to get it or just stop by. If you need a place to park overnight, this is a reasonable option. The Petrified Forest is another 90 minutes down the road; El Morro National Monument, Acoma Pueblo, and El Malpais National Monument are a few of the interesting places to visit. We enjoyed dinner/take-out at Dickey's BBQ just 4 miles away. And Jerry's Cafe is popular Mexican restaurant, may require a wait, but it's the sort of place where the locals eat and the waitresses know them by name.
Before I visited here in December I had not heard of Bandelier NM; it's a wonderful place for exploring outside Santa Fe and Juniper Campground provides rustic sites without hookups (dump station and water available, though the dump station is closed in winter). Because it was December, we could drive into the park; in peak season there are shuttle buses that take you to the visitors center. There are no reservations except for the group sites. You'll need to pay with a credit card at the campground or pay cash at the visitor's center. You'll also need to pay an entrance fee for Bandelier NM unless you have or purchase a National Parks Pass. With a senior or an Access pass, you'll get a 50% discount on the already low fees.
Sites are sunny and open with scrub trees providing an element of privacy between sites. Parking pads have been recently paved. Bearboxes are provided. Bathrooms provide flush toilets, sinks, and hand dryers, but no showers. Although pets are allowed, if you plan to do any hiking, you'll want to leave them home. High elevation, so it's cold in winter and may have snow.
I would stock up on supplies on my way out of Santa Fe (about an hour away) or Albuquerque; or in Los Alamos from the North. There are a number of other national monuments in the area and Santa Fe is a nice small city to explore.
Nice undeveloped spot we found Had picnic table and fire pit. There were a few sites with pits. Beautiful view and very peaceful.
The 2 nights we stayed got very windy but we were camping in a site with few trees for wind barrier. They were several standalone pit toilets.
We stayed in site # #9 for 5 nights with the National park pass it was $40.00 with water & electric & a view of the lake. The best site is #1. There is NO alcohol allowed in the park so don't get caught with any they will pour it out. 2 Older men were having a beer in their site & they made them pour out 2 cases of beer. Be smart put it in a cup & hide the cans. The camp host were great people suggested a place to eat called El Farolitos (bring your own booze they don't sell it but let you drink), a little drive to get there & nothing near it but a Mars polar landing sculpture.
Beautiful view of the Flat top Mountains nice cool lake to take a dip or kayak. We found a lot of fishing lures wrapped around small bushes that were underwater before the lake dropped 20 some feet.
The fishing was good from the kayak lots of crappie.
The ghost ranch is not far & worth checking out it's got a great museum of paleontology, Dinosaurs and Indians. There is an echo theater close by neat little walk to it the sound carry's & echos.
We called ahead because we knew we were going to be pulling into the campground really late as our trip didn’t get started as soon as we wanted. Rick gladly accommodated us, giving us directions and site numbers we would use, then just pay in the morning. The campground is clean, quiet, and friendly! All sites are leveled pull thru’s and hookups are conveniently located. If we are going through the area, we will definitely be back!