The campground offers a respite from the heat in a setting of aspen and mature ponderosa pine trees, approximately 6 miles south of Fort Wingate. This is the most recently renovated campground on the Mt. Taylor Ranger District. This area has a rich history of railroad logging, and the original town of McGaffey was built in the vicinity of McGaffey Lake a few miles down the road. Remember to pay attention to road conditions and your vehicle's abilities before driving off of the main road.
Densely wooded PRIMITIVE campground with trails and fishing but NO WATER. We only stayed there while driving from ABQ to the coast, which was perfect for us, but we will plan to return to explore the Cibola National Forest more. It was cool and shady in August so we quite enjoyed it as a stopover. In our little sedan we didn’t have trouble, but I think there are other forest service roads you’d want a jeep for?
We stayed at Quaking Aspen Campground for one night but thats all it took. I fell in love with the campground. The big aspen trees, how remote and quiet it was. The elevation at which the cg is at is 8000' makes for cool days and nic crisp cool nights, even in the summertime.
We used this campground as a starting point for a research trip sampling Precambrian rocks of the Zuni Mountains. I hadn't spent much time in this part of New Mexico, and assumed that the trip was going to be hot and sun-bleached, similar to the desert exposed in nearby Gallup, NM. I was surprised to drive into a beautiful forest just a few minutes off I40.
The campsite includes basic forest service amenities: pit toilets, picnic tables, and metal-rimmed fire pit/grill sites. What set this apart from other non-hosted campsites for me was the condition of the grounds. The tent camping sites had well maintained, leveled tent pads, maintained gravel roads, and clean facilities. The Sites offered a reasonable degree of privacy, although some of the sites near the middle of the loop road place you in close proximity to your neighbor. The area is moderately wooded with pine and aspen, providing shade throughout the day and easy access to the dirt road that transects the Zuni Mountains, letting you out near the Bandera volcano and ice cave, which is a wonderful drive if you have a high clearance/4x4 and time to drive through.
We saw abundant wildlife while working in the Zunis, including several brown bears, deer, and elk. While we didn't have any run ins with these guy in camp, be aware that large animals are present in the area and be sure to take necessary bear-proofing precautions.
Camp fees were $5/night, which is quite the bargain given the well-kept grounds and wonderful scenery. If you're looking for a less-traveled escape from Albuquerque, or just want the chance to explore the under-valued Zuni mountains and western New Mexico landscape (and some pretty interesting geologic features such as orbicular granite), this campground is an excellent place to spend some time on the cheap.
Photos included are from the Zunis south of the campsite, as I didn't think to take any photos while we were at camp.