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.
Nm Campgrounds: Sugarite Canyon State Park
Located on the Colorado-New Mexico state line six miles northeast of Raton, Sugarite Canyon State Park is a nature-lovers paradise with an abundance of pristine natural landscapes ranging from meadows, forests, creeks, and lakes that are teeming with a diverse range of fauna and flora. Established in 1985, the 3,600-acre park is home to historic early-20th century coal-mining camp, which can be explored on self-guided tours, a visitor center with a dramatic interpretative trail, and two landmark lakes. Sugarite Canyon State Park offers camping for tents and RVs with electric hook-ups, RV pull-through sites, group shelters, restrooms with flushing toilets and hot showers, and dump stations.
160 NM-526, Raton, NM 87740
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Cottonwood Campground Navajo Lake State Park
In the cool waters below Navajo Dam, trout find their perfect habitat, and fishermen find world-class conditions for their sport. Come fall, campers at Cottonwood Campground are angling for something else: a spot near the golden cottonwoods that emblazon this valley. Pitch your tent beneath the shimmering leaves and enjoy the crisp autumn air along the sandy banks of the San Juan River. For those packing tackle, the trout-rich Quality waters are just a short walk away.
Getting there: 27 miles northeast of Bloomfield, off NM 511. Info: Navajo Lake State Park, 505-632-2278. Fee: $14 per night
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Clayton Lake State Park And Dinosaur Trackways
Make plans to spend the night under the beautiful starry skies of New Mexicos first dark sky park. Designated as dark-skies approved in 2010, Clayton Lake State Park is a Gold Level International Dark Sky Park and even has its own 14-inch Mead telescope at the Lake Observatory. The park is also home to one of the most extensive dinosaur trackways in North America, giving its visitors a unique glimpse into New Mexicos prehistoric past. But in between stargazing and dinosaur tracking, be sure to take advantage of the parks fantastic outdoor activities including boating, fishing, and hiking. Clayton Lake State Park offers RV sites with and without electric hookups available with a reservation.
Free Camping In New Mexico Basics
Most of the best free campsites in New Mexico are on BLM land, which generally allow up to a 14-day stay. But just be sure to check, as limits sometimes vary.
Also, even though there are few restrictions, whenever youre boondocking, it is best to follow the principles of leave no trace. Simply put: pack it in, pack it out, and try to leave the site a little better than you found it.
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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.
Along The River Rv Park Campground And Cabins
SOUTH NEW MEXICO
- Wildlife viewing
- Special monthly rates
Right in the Lincoln National Forest, the serene Along the River campgrounds feature breath-taking mountain views, rich wildlife, and star-studded nights, that you can watch straight from your campfire, drinking wine from local vineyards. As the name of the campground suggests, the campground is nestled along the Rio Bonito.
The campsite attracts visitors of all groups and ages. However, it is a perfect place for those searching for tranquility and connection to nature.
Along the River offers RV or tent sites and wooden cabins. The RV sites feature both full and partial hook-ups and start at USD$ 39 per night on a non-riverside site. Whereas the riverside spots begin at USD$ 42 per night. The primitive campsites are a walking distance of showers and restrooms, and the nightly rates start at USD$ 30. A small cabin begins at USD$ 64 per night.
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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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New Mexico Campgrounds: Upper Scorpion Campground
The Upper Scorpion Campground is close to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in New Mexicos Gila National Forest. The primitive campground is available for tent and car camping and offers picnic tables, vault toilets, and paved parking. The Gila River is within walking distance of the campground, and the closest store is about four miles away for supplies, gas, groceries, and hunting, and fishing licenses. The Gila National Forest comprises 3.3 million acres of densely forested hills, majestic mountains, and rolling rangeland and offers a wealth of year-round outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, picnicking, and camping.
NM-15, Silver City, NM 88061, Phone: 575-536-2250
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Miles: Enchanted Trails Rv Park & Trading Post
- Address: 14305 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM 87121
- Distance to Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta: 19 miles
- Description: 135 sites.115 pull-through full hook-up sites
- Discount: Enchanted Trails RV Park and Trading Post is a member of the Passport America 50% off campgrounds membership program. Join Passport America for $44 for an annual membership to receive 50% off this campground.
Tent Camping In Albuquerque
My family might be making a stop to tent camp in Albuquerque on the way to Oklahoma. What’s a safe place to tent camp that’s cheap and close to Interstate 40? Is there any such thing in the area? I’ve only stayed at hotels there so I don’t know what to tell them.
I believe our local KOA allows tent camping, but they might want to check to be certain.
I know they do have the little cabins, and the ones Ive seen even had air conditioning. The “Central KOA” is just off I-40, via the Central exit…at the extreme east end of Albuquerque. It’s in between I-40, and it’s famous predecessor, Route 66
There used to be another KOA on the far west side, just north of I-40, via Coors Blvd. exit., but it seems to be no longer listed. It may have changed affiliation, and RV’ers/Campers may know about it at this time…I do not.
While picnic areas are abundant in the adjacent Sandia Mountains to the east of Albuquerque, camping is not allowed unfortunately.
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Hackberry Lake Ohv Area
Hackberry Lake OHV Area is just what it says, an Off Highway Vehicle area, first and foremost. So thats something to consider if you are thinking of spending up to 14 days here.
But if youre into any type of OHV recreation DO NOT MISS THIS!
If youre camping, but okay with sharing space with OHVers , this is a great BLM site. Most campsites have a covered picnic area, garbage can, and BBQ area. There is also a pit toilet.
The Carlsbad 100 Desert Race, an annual motorcycle event that traverses more than 44 miles of public land, is held here annually.
GPS coordinates: 32.6349, -103.8695
Free Camping in New Mexico Vibes Score: 6.2/10 OHV lovers must see!
Campgrounds In New Mexico: Cibola National Forest
Spanning more than 1.6 million acres, the Cibola National Forest is National Forest in New Mexico with elevations of over 11,000 feet. Named after the original Zuni Indian name for their tribal lands, the Cibola National Forest is divided into four wilderness areas, namely, Apache Kid, Manzano Mountain, Sandia Mountain, and Withington. The forest also has four ranger districts, namely Mountainair, Magdalena, Sandia, and Mt. Taylor, and offers a variety of camping options from tent and RV camping to group and dispersed camping with over 30 campgrounds from which to choose.
Albuquerque, NM 87113
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Bonito Hollow Rv Park & Campground
SOUTH NEW MEXICO
- Sand volleyball court
Bonito Hollow RV Park and Campground lies in the heart of the Lincoln National Forest, which offers numerous hiking trails, waterfalls, as well as summer horse races. Spreading 12 acres along the Rio Bonito and not far from Bonito Lake, you can enjoy fishing, as well as wildlife viewing. If you happen to come in winter, you can visit the southernmost skiing resort of the United States the Ski Apache making your stay a truly adventurous experience.
The campground has pull-thru and back-up sites, of which many are connected to water, electricity, and sewer. All spots are equipped with a picnic table and a fire ring. You can camp either by the Rio Bonito or in the forest according to your personal preference. Unluckily, there are no tent sites available this season.
The rates begin at USD$ 40 per night, and they include 2 people and 1 car. Each additional person is USD$ 5 per night, apart from children under the age of 10. Those camp for free.
Best Sites For Free Camping In New Mexico
Theres a reason to seek out the best free camping in New Mexico, chief of which is the boondocking lifestyle. Also, many people in RVs travel to New Mexico to escape the colder temperatures of northern winters.
Aside from that, there is another reason that so many RVers head to New Mexico.
The state has a ton of free camping on BLM and National Forest Service land, which is a rather freeing experience. If you like the off-the-grid lifestyle that is still often close to the conveniences of a town, New Mexico has numerous areas for you to spread your snowbird wings.
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Campgrounds In New Mexico: Morphy Lake State Park
Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Morphy Lake State Park is a small, 30-acre park at the edge of the Pecos Wilderness that rests at an elevation of 8,000 feet and surround the hidden Morphy Lake. Located seven miles southwest of Mora, the park is popular for camping, fishing, and picnicking, however, there is no running water, so visitors must bring their own. There is seasonal primitive camping for tents and RVs and restrooms with vault toilets and an array of outdoor activities to enjoy like fishing for trout and kokanee salmon in the well-stocked lake, canoeing, and picnicking.
Mile Marker 17Mora, NM 87045, Phone: 575-387-2328
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Corodo Village Mobile Home & Rv Resort
This is one of the nicer RV parks in Albuquerque because its not only a campground but also a full-time residence for many people. Corodo Village Mobile Home & RV Resort is centrally located to many of the attractions Albuquerque has to offer and has lots of amenities to take care of visitors.
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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.
What People Are Saying About Corodo Village Mobile Home & Rv Resort
We arrived during balloon festival, pricy but worth it. We were 1 mile as crow flies from balloon festival. We were able to get a site with one day notice! This is a mobile home park, which made for spacious lots, and family activities. Cynthia, RV Park Reviews
- Corodo Village Mobile Home & RV Resort
- 8401 Pan American Freeway NE
- Albuquerque, NM 87113
- Pets Allowed: Yes
- Cell Reception: Yes
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Bonito Hollow Rv Park
Bonito Hollow is one of theprettiest RV campgrounds in New Mexico. Just minutes from the town of Ruidosoas well as Lake Bonito, its the perfect location for those that preferexperiencing a mix of city sights and outdoor attractions while camping. Thecampground has 65 total campsites, including many with full hookups.World-class fishing in the nearby Rio Bonito and miles of hiking trails in thesurrounding wilderness are additional highlights.
Learn more about camping at Bonito Hollow RV Park.
Aguirre Spring Recreation Area Organ Mountainsdesert Peaks National Monument
Season: November through April
The Organ MountainsDesert Peaks National Monument preserves nearly half a million acres of rocky peaks and narrow canyons, much of it in Las Crucess backyard. Aguirre Spring Campground has the convenience of being close to the states second-largest city, yet its location on the east side of the mountains makes the site feel remote. Here the Organs stunning panorama of needle-like spires rises just outside your tent. The mountains seem to hug the campground, protecting the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem of yucca, juniper, and sage. Its some of the best desert camping in the state. Two trails depart from the site: The six-mile Baylor Pass Trail climbs to a saddle with views of the Mesilla Valley, while the four-mile Pine Tree Trail forms a loop at the base of the mountains.
Getting there: 23 miles east of Las Cruces, via US 70 to Aquirre Springs Road. Info: Bureau of Land Management Las Cruces District, 575-525-4300. Fee: $7 per night
White Sands National Park offers miles of trails, boardwalk viewing areas, and ten primitive camping sites. Photograph by NMTD.
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