The Wild Rivers Recreation Area
The Wild rivers recreation area is situated at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Red River, both designated wild and scenic rivers is a popular place for camping in New Mexico.
In this recreation area, people enjoy the view of the Rio Grande Gorge, a deep canyon sliced into volcanic flows by the Rio Grande. This area is rich in history, rugged beauty, and recreational opportunities.
Make Your Reservation At A Koa Campground In New Mexico
No matter what treasures New Mexico holds for you, KOA wants to be a part of your adventure. Call to reserve your site or book your stay online. The reservation process is quick and easy. Once you find your site, feel free to contact the campground if you have any questions. Their friendly staff is there to help.
Why Camp In New Mexico
Thanks to its semi-arid and mild climate, many of New Mexicos best pit stops can be enjoyed comfortably in late fall and even through winter. While the higher elevations enjoy snow in the winter, the low-lying desert regions can see winter temperatures well into the 60s, making it a great place to head when youre tired of the cold.
Plus, there are plenty of high elevation campsites to escape to during the summer months.
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Dispersed Camping New Mexico
Whimsically nicknamed “Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico lives up to its reputation with magical sprawling deserts, stunning mountains, and plenty of fresh air.
New Mexico offers up plenty of picturesque spots to pitch your tent or chock your camper while offering up experiences and destinations like cultural events, world-class spas, and Southwestern art galleries. To top it off, with free camping and public lands camping in New Mexico, you can enjoy all of the splendor while staying on budget.
Columbine Campground Carson National Forest
You wont find much seclusion at this popular spot, where the campground is regularly packed with tents and RVs. But even during the height of summer, you can nestle your tent in shaded pine and spruce forest and fall asleep to the gentle sounds of Columbine Creek, which flows past the campsites to the Red River. The forest floor is dotted with bright red thimbleberry flowers and the yellow columbine that gives the canyon its name. For a morning hike, hit the Columbine-Twining National Recreation Trail, which leads the few miles to the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Area. If you register in advance for a llama trek with Wild Earth Llama Adventures, a cordial camelid will carry your pack along this trail to a lunch spot in a wildflower meadow.
Getting there: 5 miles east of Questa, off NM 38. Info: Questa Ranger District, 575-586-0520. Fee: $20 per night
Note: Weather conditions and campsite availability vary, so be sure to call ahead for the latest info. Also, due to the remoteness of some of these sites, dont forget to come well equipped and ready for a wilderness experience.
The Cottonwood Campground offers a shady campsite near the cottonwoods. Photograph courtesy of New Mexico State Parks.
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Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Pull up, park, and enjoy a day of outdoor adventure at New Mexicos largest state park. In addition to the parks plentiful campsites, Elephant Butte also offers miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, an abundance of water activities, wildlife viewing, fishing, incredible views, and more. The campgrounds offer RV sites with electric hookups that can be reserved in advance. For those making last-minute plans, the park also offers a few additional RV sites that are available on a first come, first served basis with no prior reservation required.
Campgrounds Near Me: Navajo Lake State Park
Navajo Lake State Park is made up of three recreation areas, including the well-developed Pine River area, which features a visitor center with interpretive exhibits, several campgrounds, a day-use area, and a full-service marina. The Cottonwood Campground can be found in the San Juan River area below the dam, which is world-renowned for excellent trout fishing and boasts seven day-use areas and several hiking trails. The Cottonwood Campground features individual sites for RV or tent camping, full restrooms with flushing toilets and potable water, electricity, and cable hookups, and a dump station. Pets are allowed, and activities in the area include hiking, mountain biking, fishing, swimming, and kayaking on the San Juan River.
Navajo Dam, NM 87419, Phone: 505-632-2278
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Joe Skeen Dispersed Camping
The Joe Skeen Campground is located west of Albuquerque adjacent to the El Malpais National Monument on BLM land. This free campground features 10 campsites that all have picnic tables, a fire grill, and plenty of space for your tent. Although this isnt a typical dispersed campsite, it provides great access to the surrounding wilderness while also being easy to access for a variety or rigs.
This is the perfect place to camp before visiting El Malpais, but also makes a great stop for those on a longer road trip and youre just a short distance off of I-40 here.
Most of the campsites enjoy some decent privacy and all have access to a vault toilet. Overall, this is a great option for free camping in the region!
Campgrounds In New Mexico: City Of Rocks State Park
City of Rocks State Park is famous for its massive sculptured rock formations and clusters of monolithic volcanic rocks that can be found in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, some of which are over 50 feet tall. Located near Deming, the eponymously named park has 52 developed campsites with camping for tents and RVs, full restrooms with flushing toilets and potable water, and a beautiful botanical garden filled with cacti and other local fauna. The park is also renowned for being an excellent star-gazing spot with vast night skies full of stars, which can be observed at the new Star Observatory.
327 New Mexico 61, Faywood, NM 88034, Phone: 575-536-2800
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Last Chance Canyon Near Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area
Season: Spring and Fall
Sitting Bull Falls is a popular favorite in Carlsbad, and no wonder. The day-use areas marquee attraction is a 150-foot cascade that tumbles down fern-covered cliffs into shallow pools. Madrone trees, with their rust-colored bark, add pops of color to the landscape. Although theres no camping at the falls, dispersed camping is possible just outside the gates. Half a mile before the recreation area, in Last Chance Canyon, campers have established sites and fire rings. Youll be close enough to beat the crowds to the fallssome visitors line up as early as 6 a.m. to ensure they can get their favorite picnic sites, as the area is popular for family reunions and birthday parties. In the years since a wildfire damaged the vicinity in 2011, the trails and viewing plat- form have been completely rebuilt and new deciduous trees have been planted. A half-mile-long wheelchair-accessible trail leads to the pools a longer hike ascends to the spring that feeds the falls.
Getting there: 42 miles south of Carlsbad, via NM 137 to CR 409. Info: Guadalupe District, 575-885-4181. Fee: $5 for Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area
Morphy Lake State Park is perfect for tent camping. Photograph courtesy of New Mexico State Parks/James Foley.
Bottomless Lakes State Park
- Top Activities: Canoeing, camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, scuba diving
- Pit Stops Nearby: Roswell UFO Museum
- Top Hikes Nearby: The Bluff Trail
Located 14 miles south of Roswell, New Mexico, Bottomless Lake State Park is a cluster of 9 lakes that were once deemed bottomless by early cowboy explorers. The lakes are not actually lakes at all, but rather sinkholes ranging from 17 to 90 feet deep.
Many of the lakes are completely surrounded by red rock cliffs and the lakes appear bottomless thanks to underwater plants that give off a greenish-blue color.
The Lea Lake Campground is situated along the shores of Lea Lake and features 32 campsites suitable for both tents and RVs. Each site is equipped with electricity, and 6 sites also provide water and sewer hook-ups.
The Lea Lake Campground is packed with amenities, including a large sandy beach, warm showers, free Wi-Fi, and paddleboard rentals.
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Santa Fe National Forest
I mentioned this national park earlier, but it needs special mention because of its breathtaking beauty.
One of the famous Five national forests of New Mexico, a 20-minute drive from Santa Fe, brings you to Santa Fe National Forest, a campers paradise with 200,000 acres of canyon wilderness. Santa Fe national forest lies in the heart of North Central New Mexico.
Why is it so famous? Within the forest borders, there are lush meadows, miles of conifer trees, and a dormant volcano which adds to its beauty. The alpine forests and fly fishing streams welcome hikers and anglers of all skill levels.
The highest point in the forest is the summit of Truchas Peak, located in the Pecos wilderness.
Each year visitors coming from different parts of the world enjoy different activities such as camping, fishing, hiking. Even residents have access to use the natural forest products.
Can You Camp For Free In The New Mexico National Forests
Home to millions of acres of forestland, from pinyon pine deserts to tall ponderosa pines, the US Forest Service provides enough campgrounds and wild camping locations to fill a lifetimes worth of adventures.
Carson National Forest
RV camping in Carson National Forest puts you in the heart of the mountains north of Santa Fe. Carson National Forest is home to Wheeler Peak, a 13,000-foot behemoth surrounded by several companions over 12,000 feet themselves. These silver faced, snow-capped ridges and dense pine forests ready you for the transition from the Land of Enchantment to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to the north.
At the center of the three major landscapes that make up Carson National Forest is Taos, New Mexico, an artsy little villa that beckons everyone from bikers to bodhisattvas to explore whatever mystical nature the town seems to hold.
Gila National Forest
Though the Gila National Forest is wild and beautiful in its own right, it is best known for being the home to the Gila Wilderness. The Gila Wilderness is the United States’ first designated Wilderness, established way back in 1924. Together with its surrounding national forest, the Gila complex is rugged, remote, and stunningly gorgeous.
Gila National Forest is reached via roads that wind through juniper forests, and while they are passable to any vehicle, their twists and turns aren’t for the faint of heart. Keep an eye out for creatures such as the roadrunner and the elusive Gila monster.
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Can You Camp Anywhere In New Mexico
No. Like most places, campers in New Mexico can not simply settle in for the night anywhere that they choose. The state has a mix of private land, national public lands, and state public lands. If you want to find free camping in New Mexico, you’ll need to pay attention to what type of land you’re on, and any rules or regulations for its use.
Navajo Lake State Park
- Top Activities: Boating, fly fishing, camping, hiking
- Pit Stops Nearby: Shiprock, Chaco Canyon
- Top Hikes Nearby: Simon Canyon Trail, South San Juan River Trail
Located on the shores of New Mexicos second-largest lake, Navajo Lake State Park is a watersports playground in the middle of the desert.
The park is very popular with boaters. Meanwhile, fly fishermen will find world-class trout fishing in the San Juan River just downstream from the Navajo Dam.
Hiking trails wind along the shoreline on both sides of the river and the Simon Canyon Trail leads to an ancient defensive structure. 7 different campgrounds offer an array of camping options, with both reservable and first-come, first-served sites.
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Campgrounds In New Mexico: June Bug Campground
Red River, NM 87558, Phone: 575-586-0520
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Reasons To Stay At A Koa Campground In New Mexico
KOA believes that every camping trip should be a memorable one. From fun activities for the kids to outstanding customer service and cleanliness, KOA provides you with all of these, plus a few additional amenities, such as:
- KOA stores
- Clean bathrooms with hot water
- And more
So, whether you’ve got a day of historical site seeing or taking in some urban delights, you can come back to a comfortable campground everyone will love.
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Heron Lake State Park
- Top Activities: Boating, camping, fishing, hiking
- Pit Stops Nearby: El Vado Lake State Park
- Top Hikes Nearby: Rio Chama Trail, East Meadow Trail
Located in the northern part of New Mexico, just outside Los Ojos, Heron Lake is much quieter than its neighboring lake to the south, El Vado Lake.
Boats are restricted to no-wake speeds on Heron Lake, making this a wonderful destination for sailing and paddling sports. Because of its quiet nature, it offers some of the best camping in New Mexico for those who want a more tranquil camping experience.
Heron Lake State Park is known for its excellent fishing and numerous record-size trout and kokanee salmon have been caught here. Heron Lake has several lakeside campgrounds to choose from, including a few primitive campsites right on the beach.
West Mesa Road Dispersed Camping Near Ruidoso
Located just southeast of Albuquerque, West Mesa Road dispersed camping is another gem. Its not far off of the highway, but far enough that it still feels private.
What really makes West Mesa one of the best free campsites in New Mexico, however, is easy access to nearby mountain biking and hiking trails.
There is also an equestrian campground just down the road where you can fill up with water and dump your tanks.
If that isnt enough, how about the fact that youre only about an hour away from Roswell, home of the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Get your space case on!
GPS coordinates: 33.517, -105.5153
Free Camping in New Mexico Vibes Score: 8.2/10 A great option near Albuquerque.
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Cosmic Campground Gila National Forest
The Gila National Forests remote settingfar from urban light pollutionmakes it a perfect place for stargazing. In January 2016, the International Dark-Sky Association named the Gilas Cosmic Campground the first Dark Sky Sanctuary in the U.S. Forest Service system. At this high-desert campground, the number of tent sitesfour, with a few more for RVscorresponds to the number of concrete pads where hobby astronomers can set up their telescopes for unrivaled views of the Milky Way. Even with the naked eye, you can enjoy heavenly views here the most prominent constellations are nearly lost in a sea of pinprick lights that remind us of our place in the universe. Check their website for more information on stargazing parties.
Getting there: 12 miles north of Glenwood, off NM 180. Info: Gila National Forest Glenwood Ranger District, 575-539-2481. Fee: Free
Discover The Best Free Camping Across The Usa
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America .
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, youre contributing to these lands.
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Trail By Elephant Butte Lake Hot Springs Landing To South Monticello Campground
Other sites that can be reserved are Group Shelters at Dirt Dam, Ridge Road, and Hot Springs Landing.
For campsite availability at Caballo Lake State Park and Percha Dam State Park, call or check NM state parks online reservation system.
Tent Campsites near T or C: Fish Hatchery Park campground offers tent camp sites in a scenic area along the Rio Grande. Fish Hatchery Park is 3 miles from downtown , below .
Some of the in town also allow tent camping .
Camp Sites at Elephant Butte Lake State Park