New Mexico’s a terrific place to camp, a real paradise of scenery and magical destinations. There are the Rocky Mountains that spread in the northern part of the state, offering a slew of rugged and high alpine campgrounds. Further south, it lowers in elevation and gets warmer, offering some winter camping opportunities.
The capital of the Land of Enchantment also serves as its outdoor crown jewel. Surrounded by wilderness and National Forest Service land, Santa Fe holds some of the best camping in all of New Mexico. Both RVs and tents will find suitable campgrounds nearby in a variety of settings, including plenty within nature. Given the …
Top New Mexico Campgrounds by City
The mountains and forests around Taos and Santa Fe are among the most popular destinations for both tent and RV campers. Throughout the state there are many choices for all types of travelers, from secluded dispersed campsites to those next to the city streets. Here’s a look at the closest campgrounds to many of the favorite tourist destinations in new Mexico.
Where To Go Camping in New Mexico
New Mexico, like its fellow Southwestern states, offers four seasons’ worth of camping and outdoor adventure. With the highest point in the state, over 13,000 feet in elevation, New Mexico is a hotbed for hiking, camping, and all manner of outdoor sports.
RVs and tents will all find campgrounds to their liking in this Land of Enchantment.
Best Times to Go Camping in New Mexico
Much like Arizona, you can camp in New Mexico year-round if you know where to go during each season. Also, much like Arizona, campers who can wait until the end of summer or the beginning of fall are going to have an easier time dodging the worst of the crowds.
The northeastern section of the state, also home to higher elevations, is the best place to head for summer travel. Albuquerque and all things north of it are where you want to be in the summer. For example, Santa Fe gets up to around 85 degrees in July during an average year, but the nearby forests are likely to be even a bit cooler than that.
Once fall sets in, the state opens up with opportunities. Not only are temperatures more comfortable throughout, but crowds die down in the national parks and national forests.
The only downside here is for visitors wanting to see the bats in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. You’ll need to brave summer crowds or get there in the late spring, as bats are usually gone from November to May. Early fall travel is an option, but anything past mid-October risks missing the bats. Still, the best time to visit New Mexico overall is in the fall.
In winter, New Mexico is mainly a ski destination, with cities like Taos seeing winter sports fans coming in droves. However, winter camping has fewer options. Heading south is your best bet, as places like Las Cruces have an average wintertime high of around 60 degrees. Still, temperatures may drop below freezing overnight.
Most campers will want to wait until spring to do any camping, especially in the national parks.
National Park Service Sites in New Mexico
New Mexico has 18 total National Park Service (NPS) sites, and six of them offer camping, including both national parks. Campers looking for established front-country sites will have better luck with the national forests than NPS sites, though.
El Moro National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historic Park are the only two places to offer front-country camping. Chaco Culture has intermitted campground closures due to rockslides, so check their website for the most up-to-date information. The remaining four NPS sites only offer primitive backcountry sites.
- White Sands National Park (backcountry primitive sites only)
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park (backcountry primitive sites only)
- Bandelier National Monument (backcountry primitive sites only)
- El Malpais National Monument (backcountry primitive sites only)
- El Moro National Monument
- Chaco Culture National Historic Park
National Forests in New Mexico
While New Mexico has excellent NPS sites, the national forests here are really the star of the show. With five national forests, all great for campers of all ages, it’s easy to find a place to call home for a few nights. While all are great options, the Cibola and Santa Fe National Forests are the most popular. Campers wanting to avoid crowds should head to the Lincoln National Forest.
- Carson National Forest
- Cibola National Forest
- Gila National Forest
- Lincoln National Forest
- Santa Fe National Forest
Best Free Camping in New Mexico
New Mexico is one of the best states for free camping, with an abundance of public land. Nearly a third of the state is managed by the federal government, with more than 90% of the federal land run by the Bureau of Land Management or the National Forest Service. This means that free camping is available in almost all of the public land in New Mexico.
New Mexico State and Public Parks
New Mexico has 35 state parks in total, and 28 of them offer camping. These state parks are spread out well throughout New Mexico, meaning travelers are almost always within a short drive from a state park. In fact, New Mexico’s state park system boasts that 70% of New Mexicans live within 40 miles of a state park.
While you won’t find a state park near you everywhere, the odds are in your favor. If you want to plan a trip around New Mexico’s state parks, here are 10 of the best to start with.
- Bottomless Lakes State Park
- City of Rocks State Park
- Cimarron Canyon State Park
- Santa Rosa Lake State Park
- Rockhound State Park
- Sugarite Canyon State Park
- Fenton Lake State Park
- Conchas Lake State Park
- Elephant Butte Lake State Park
- Bluewater Lake State Park
RV Resorts and Unique stays
While a state steeped in rugged history, New Mexico offers plenty of comfortable glamping and RV resort options for travelers. Glamping stays here tend to be privately owned and available for booking through Airbnb or Vrbo. There are several that stand out among the rest, though, including these six stays.
- Angel Fire RV Resort
- Hotel Luna Mystica
- Rancho Gallina Eco-Retreat
- Taos Mesa Off-Grid Eco-Haven Bus Stay
- Hacienda RV Resort
- Ghost Ranch
With some of the most beautiful desert scenery in the Southwest, New Mexico has to be on every adventurer’s bucket list. Those seeking a serene outdoor experience are sure to find it in the Land of Enchantment.