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.
The desert was pretty hot and I was wishing I'd set up camp near Cloudcroft. After passing white sands I saw the sign and thought, "check it out". Glad I did. Nice windy road climbs up to a great campground with plenty of trees and views of the peaks above and desert below.
There is no water in the CG, but its available at the entrance, so take a gallon or two in with you.
I stayed on a Saturday night and it was loud. Kids and dogs.
When it doesnt snow on us anyway.. but the weather was good for long soaks in the awesome hot springs. Camping area was nice, large spots, in close proximity to the springs. We had a great time, the facilities are great, and everything was awesome besides the weather. But you cant win em all. Photos show us waking up to snow one morning. Still - We cant wait to go back and visit again!
We prefer to disperse camp along the North Shore of the lake, basically directly North, across the lake from the marina, in the small coves that have 4×4 and dirt road access. Dispersed camping allowed all around the lake with certain restrictions - need to check local info online for more info. No water. No toilets. No trash. And do the right thing folks. Pack it in, pack it out. Portaloo and deposits included.
Getting to the lake from the North is a very long, sometimes confusing and difficult, maze of 4x4 and dirt access roads for Natural Gas wells. If it rains, especially a good amount, the roads can be impassable. Huge ruts can form and high clearance necessary on some routes. But….
Once you get to the lake, find your own paradise. So many places to choose from. Roads all over in loops, some can get into sand- again caution. Do not get stuck. You are basically secluded and out on your own. Some folks know the area, had times with multiple neighbors. Also had days with 0.
Water is usually beautiful. Great temps. Love to fish and SUP. Much success and stories from both.
Winds can be high, strong, and ferocious. Beware. Keep an eye on clouds and weather forecast. Use natural wind breaks instead of setting up right next to lake-
Trails can be fun for mountain biking and exploring. Or 4x4 and off roading. Razors, side by sides, quads, anything fun will be useful. Jet skis, boats, water floating devices. Also, bring GPS. Phone service can be spotty.
Remember your dispersed camping. Miles from town, help, useful things may be hours away. Make sure to over pack if anything. Be kind to one another while there. And please, most importantly - dont trash these areas. Noone wants to see leftover junk at such a beautiful place.
We did the backcountry hike and the spots are nice and secluded, while not too too far from the parking. It was summer so it was super hot until sundown, but the night sky is one of the prettiest I've ever seen. We also had some fun sledding down the dunes (as evidenced in the video)!
Mother Bosque Gardens is a little retreat in an urban Albuquerque neighborhood. I’ll admit, for me, it was a first for camping in a backyard (that wasn’t my own). Ernesto and Michaela, our hosts, were immediately welcoming and kind. They feel like we could have known them for a lifetime, even though we’ve only met for minutes. Upon arrival, they gave us the tour, and even offered to share a bowl of the aromatic soup simmering upon their stove.
Campsite and Amenities
The campsites (I believe there are two tent sites) are located on the two opposite sides of the house. They are both very private and remarkably quiet. The quiet was surprising being in a city, but it was quieter than many campgrounds we’ve stayed where other groups of campers may be playing music or chatting (loudly) by the fires. The campsite has a private entrance through a gate; parking is off the street. Our campsite space in the side yard, had a table, a couch, and a grill. As stated on the website, and in the Dyrt details, there are no campfires allowed. Michaela and Ernesto welcomed us to use their kitchen, although we preferred some mother and daughter time outdoors during our stay. The tranquil backyard is towered over by old growth trees, and the gardening is exquisite. We shared the space with hummingbirds and roses. The clean bathroom is inside the home where there is a shower available. Michaela and Ernesto even offered the use of their towels. My daughter quickly pointed out that there is Wi-Fi.
The location is very near to the Rio Grande River and the Bosque, which is the natural forest that runs along the Rio Grande. My daughter and I left early in the morning to explore the banks of the flooded Rio Grande (May), and noted the many remarkable birds: violet green swallows swooping along the river exposing their vibrant colors, ducks, egrets, herons, a red-tailed hawk, and several Canadian Geese. We sadly missed the wily roadrunner with three babies in tow. The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park was an excellent starting point for the Bosque.
Mother Bosque Gardens is also located only a few miles from the heart of old Albuquerque, including Old Town, the zoo, the botanical gardens, and the excitement of Central Avenue.
As noted on the website, the camp space can only accommodate an 8X8 tent; it may accommodate two smaller tents. We’ve shared a photo of a standard 2-person backpacking tent set up in the space. I believe the website lists a maximum of three campers in the site. A family with children exceeding a total of 3, who can manage to sleep in tents that meet the size restriction, might consider contacting Michaela and Ernesto for permission to bring more than three. Finally, there is a small walk from the parking at the front of the house to the campsite, so plan to make sure your gear is portable enough to carry it the 75-ish feet (I’m not a good judge of distance so it may be anywhere from 40 feet to 100).
My daughter and I planned to spend a day in Albuquerque for some quality time. In honor of new experiences, we tried something new for us by staying at Mother Bosque Gardens. We were both incredibly happy that we did. We had a wonderful experience not only camping in a beautiful garden, but from the opportunity to meet Michaela and Ernesto. We were welcomed strangers, but I couldn’t help but feel like we departed from friends.
Fine print about my ratings
When I use a star rating system, I truly do consider 3 out of 5 to be average and expected. Anything above three stars is superb and awe-inspiring. I save 5 out of 5 for what I feel is the most enchanted locations. After all, dishing out a 5 for every spot I like wouldn’t help other campers (as it doesn’t help me in return). I consider it rather difficult to provide a star rating for Mother Bosque Gardens because it was such a unique experience for me. As hosts, I would absolutely give Ernesto and Michaela a 5 out of 5. The campsite has some natural limitations as compared to a traditional site, so while the campsite was very comfortable, when compared with large campsites surrounded Giant Sequoias or a serene alpine lake, well…that’s just hard to beat. So, I’ve settled on a 4 out of 5.
Booking with The Dyrt
I had the honor and pleasure of booking this trip through The Dyrt even as they were still rolling out the bookings. I found the process to be simple and effective.
Great place! Many options for camping. We chose a secluded site and the only people we saw were kayakers. There are hiking spots, the echo amphitheater, and a monastery to visit. We even made objects from the clay in the river. Then fired them in the camp fire.
This campsite is perfect. There’s about 6-8 spots at this particular site. It’s first come first serve so, get there early because it fills up fast. There are toilets in the parking lot and they are constantly stocked with toilet paper. Each campsite has a fire pit in the middle and some have picnic tables. Most of the sites are close to the parking lot so you don’t have haul your stuff very far. Also, it’s the site closest to the Cliff Dwellings Monument (about 1/4 mile away). We’ve camped here twice and every time it is perfect. Nights in the spring do get a bit chilly so bring warm clothes.
Exactly what we needed!
Great spots to camp right on the lake, beautiful scenery and water.
Only issue was the amount of trash everywhere. In the water and all around the shore. Pretty disgusting that people can do that to the nature they are pretending to enjoy.
Marina was open for an ice refill, but did not have any firewood in stock. Seemed to be just opening for the season. Friendly, nice folks, lots of lake to get away for yourself too.
In direct contrast to the White Sands backcountry camping which offers absolutely zero thrills and access to luxuries, the White Sand KOA is a great place to stay for those wanting some of the comforts of home. Located about 10 minutes from White Sands this campground is in a great location for a run to the store, a meal at one of the great local restaurants or a trip to some of the other area attractions.
While visiting here I noticed there were plenty of options for RV campers, something lacking at the White Sands itself. But RV camping is not all created equal, and this one by far surpasses other area options. Sites were latge enough even for the largest of rigs but also offered smaller sites for someone traveling a bit lighter like myself.
Tent row seemed to be a very popular options and while the sites here were a bit closer together there was still plenty of room to move around.
The hosts were extremely friendly and welcoming. The restrooms were private and very well throught creating a feeling of being at home while on the road. There was even a small store located on property with goodies and merchandise to commemorate your trip to the area.
This place really has the family in mind with a pool, playground and game room which will leave a smile on the faces of even the smallest guests.
- Go check out the New Mexico Space Museum where you can find the first primate launched into space's memorial, some awesome space rockets and tons of information that will leave your head in space.
- Take a trip out to the White Sands only a short 10 minute drive from camp and spend the day sledding down the cool white dunes.
We've stayed here a couple times as a stopping over point on the way to things in AZ but we always talk about how we would like to spend more time. The monument is really cool and the campground is very nice. Clean, quiet, beautiful, everything you would want in a campsite!
I will say a trip here is worth more than one trip! For this reason I found myself back in the midst of the soft white sands in March of this year. Taking a few notes from my last trip I planned a bit smarter for the journey.
Packed a face shield - This is imperative to keep your mouth free of loose winds when the weather quickly decides it wants to kick up a big mess.
Remembered a hat - Being out in the white sands you can quickly forget how damaging the sun can be. The sand remains cool and though you are in the midst of all the reflections of light and and you often can forget that your head is unprotected. I made sure to bring a cap to wear for the extended stay of anything over 20 minutes.
Used a shade shelter/sand shelter - When camping sure you remember this, but when playing you should also have it on hand. Many come out recreationally and find themselves into midst of a harsh wind storm which can create white out sand conditions. This can be scary, dangerous and overall just very frantic. Winds often will reach these conditions making it impossible to drive or hike, so a quick shade shelter/ sand shelter is the way to go for protection.
Lots of water -Over the past few years I have learned more and more how continually improve my campaign experience at various locations. With no two locations being the same it can be a learning curve to say the least. Because of the location I improved my packing for this trip adding additional water to my gear. While you might not realize your body is in need, all the trudging around in the dunes can quickly dehydrate you without you realizing it.
Checked the weather- While you can't predict the sand you can get a good handle on when it for sure will not be manageable. Usually in Alamogordo the news will share if there is a wind advisory. If you ever see one of these, just DON'T try to get out on the sands. From the first trip here to the second I will say there is a massive difference between a gentle breeze and a lightly windy day. Now just imagine straight line winds… NOPE!!
Checklist aside, the White Sands is a place you need to remember to educate yourself about before taking on one of the backcountry sites. I advise visiting the visitor center and taking in the entire experience to emerge yourself in the surroundings, the why, the what and the how. Then make sure you talk to a ranger before attempting any kind of camping in this location. Unlike a mountain camp or even a regular desert camp, this location comes with its own unique set of rules that you will want to be aware of.
Probably the nicest state camp group designed with full RV sites I’ve seen. We have just a pop up so mix it up between hook ups and primitive spots when we are traveling. The is a heavily occupied camp group with some reserved sites and some one night FCFS sites. End of April every site was full. Nice shower facilities, but u like KOA there are natural and manmade barriers very strategically placed. Good jumping off point to Lincoln forest day hikes and white sands area. Really beautifully landscaped. Our site backed up right to the mountains. Gorgeous at dusk/dawn.
My first backpacking adventure in Northern New Mexico took me from Iron Gate Campground to Mora Flats. BEAUTIFUL!
A quick 4-5 mile hike in, we crossed the Pecos River and found a nice, shady spot in valley. It was peaceful, quiet and surprisingly cool for late-July. It rained each afternoon, but we had everything we needed to stay dry and cozy.
The river provided plenty of trout for a nice rice and fish dinner. The sky provided plenty of stars for gazing.
We took four teenage girls for a weekend of camping and fishing. We pulled right in and grabbed the last spot in the area; the challenge was finding enough flat land for three tents. We managed and created quite a nice little spot.
We spent most of our time on the water in kayaks, canoes and floating on inflatable flamingos. There were a lot of people fishing, so we tried to maintain a low noise level.
The area was absolutely gorgeous. The water was so clear, you could see to the bottom in most parts of the tiny lake. The marsh on the east end provided plenty of bugs and worms for bait. The lake provided enough trout for a dinner.
We spent one night in Iron Gate before embarking on a three-day backpacking/camping adventure. Campground was well maintained, had plenty of clean restrooms and parking. Agree with the other reviewer… a low-profile vehicle will have a tough time making it up the hill to the campground, especially in rainy/snowy weather.
This is an awe inspiring and unique camping experience. It is not a place to relax all day, make a fire, and hang out camping experience. White Sands IS a place to experience at night, preferably during a full moon.
There are 10 spots and the office opens at 9:00, be EARLY (I always get there an hour before).
Once you get your spot do some local stuff, Alamogordo is 20 minutes to the east, not great but you can also head up to Cloudcroft which is nice and has great hiking. Or you can go to Los Cruces which is nicer and bigger and also has some hiking in the Organ MNTs.
Head back to camp 2 hours before sundown. You’ll have to hike about a mile in sand to your campsite. Set up and prepare to enjoy the night!
I’m usually set up an hour before sunset and then stay up till midnight or so. It’s amazing and no words or pictures can really do it justice (at night especially). In the morning it gets hot pretty quick so be prepared to leave early.
Enjoy, I’ve hit this every 6 months, three times in a row and it never gets old!
This campground is run by the BLM and honors Senior Passes for National Parks. The campsites are well spaced and some back right up against the lava fields in Valley of Fires. There is water available and vault toilets. The sites have tables with a shelter, fire rings, grills, lots of space. There is electricity and showers in the RV sites.
Awesome hill/mountain side campsites, close to the lakes and creeks. Look out for wild turkeys, deer, elk, bears, and even wild horses! Drive up the mountain to SkiApache, there are awesome overlooks on the drive. We went in the summer, but rode the gondolas to the top of the mountain, then hiked to the summit where you could see the next mountain over which is sacred land to the Apache, you could see an old lava flow, and even another mountain range. The only issue we had was deer flies, but they would loose interest pretty quickly and then your good to go.
GRAND PRIZE $150 to AfterShokz
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