Best Campsites in New Mexico

by Emily Morgan
best-campsites-in-new-mexico
Photo by: Sean Pavone

Outdoor enthusiasts have long been going to the “Land of Enchantment” for years to explore winding rivers, trek through the mountain ranges, and survey the state’s rich history of Native American, European American, and Mexican heritage. These campsites in New Mexico have endless outdoor adventure opportunities, with their vast desert landscapes and craggy mountain ranges to their famous white sand dunes.

New Mexico also has the sprawling Chihuahuan Desert and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It also features some of the country’s most extraordinary landscapes ranging from rolling dunes, deep canyons, and boundless, star-studded skies.

Needless to say, New Mexico’s striking terrain offers a spectacular variety of camping spots. From the 200,000 acres of canyon wonderlands in the Santa Fe National Forest to the Petroglyph National monument, you’ll want to spend a week or even a lifetime exploring the state. Ready to pack your bags? We’ve got you covered when deciding on a campsite in New Mexico.

White Sands National Park

For those what to camp in a sci-fi movie

Location: Located between the cities of Alamogordo and Las Cruces, about 85 miles outside El Paso, Texas
Campground Contact:  (575) 479-6124
Park Hours: Open daily from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Campground Website

White Sands National Park is truly unlike any place we bet you’ve ever been. This genuinely unique landscape boasts dunes that stretch in every direction. However, if you want to camp here overnight, you’ll need to be prepared. Campers must obtain a backcountry permit, given on a first-come-first-served basis. According to experts, you need to be at the park’s visitor center as soon as it opens its doors if you want a chance to camp here.

However, it will prove to be well worth it as the camping location is like something from a sci-fi movie, with its remarkable alabaster hills. However, we can’t stress enough that preparation is key. Beyond the permit requirements, it’s essential to know that the park will have scheduled closures due to missile testing. There are also no advanced reservations here. In addition, having a map and adequate navigation skills is vital as the desert’s landscape can be somewhat disorienting.

White Sands National Park: A Campsite Out of This World

The best times to visit in terms of weather are autumn and spring, as summer and winter have extreme spikes and deeps in temperature. However, this area is for those searching for proper desert camping.

Campground Breakdown:
•  10 primitive sites available on a first come first serve basis
• Campers can stay anywhere along the 2.2-mile Backcountry Loop
• Fee is $3.00 per person age 16 and older and $1.50 for anyone age 15 and under

White Sands Amenities: Vault toilets, potable water, leashed pets allowed, picnic tables, restrooms

Learn More About White Sands National Park Here

Panchuela Campground

For those who want to see New Mexico’s lush forests

Location: Located in Santa Fe National Forest
Campground Contact: (505) 438-5300
Park Hours: Open 24 hours
Campground Website

This campground is nestled among the pines along Panchuela Creek along the Pecos River. For many, the best part of the campground is the scenery. In addition, it has an incredible location, sitting next to the state’s second-largest wilderness area, known as the Santa Fe National Forest.

The forest is more than 200,000 acres of lush forests, alpine peaks, and meadows. Streams rush through many of Santa Fe National Forest’s canyons, lending the area an incredibly dense feel. Ferns and knee-high grasses also dot the area. Anglers can fish in the Panchuela Creek and other nearby streams for the state’s rainbow and Río Grande cutthroat trout. In addition, hikers can trek the Cave Creek Trail, which leads directly from the campsite to a trio of small caves several miles upstream.

Campground Breakdown:
• Six campsites
• Shelter Nonelectric: $5 per night
• Tent Only Nonelectric: $5 per night

Panchuela Amenities: Picnic tables, fire rings, restrooms, grills, potable water, leashed pets allowed

Reserve a Panchuela Campiste Here

Bandelier National Monument

For those who want to immerse themselves in New Mexico’s history and culture

Location: Los Alamos, New Mexico
Campground Contact: (505) 672-3861
Park Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Campground Website

These campgrounds at the Bandelier National Monument are surrounded by ancient Pueblan historical sites, making it a perfect way to experience the desert’s fascinating culture and past.

Here, you have three main campgrounds to choose from when pitching your tent. First, you can stay at the Juniper Family Campground with bathrooms with running water. The campground accommodates both tents and RVs. Secondly, the Ponderosa Group Campground is a tent-only campground with pit toilets only and no running water.

The last camping option is getting a backcountry permit and camping out in the designated areas. If you’re interested in backcountry, you’ll need to call to make a reservation. If you’re in the mood to rough it, the nearby Santa Fe National Forest and Pecos National Historical Park are well worth the trip.

Campground Breakdown:
Juniper Family Campground: Sites are given on a first come first serve, no reservations are accepted
•52 Total Sites: $12 per night
Ponderosa Group Campground: Reservations are required
• 2 Total Tent-Only Sites: $35 per night, sites can accommodate up to 50 people

Bandelier National Monument Amenities: Food storage lockers, staff on-site, firewood for sale, potable water, dump station, leashed pets allowed

Learn More About Bandelier National Monument Campsites Here

 Elephant Rock Campground

For flyfishers and mountain bikers

Location: Red River, New Mexico
Campground Contact:  (575) 586-0520
Park hours: Open 24 Hours
Campground Website

The Elephant Rock Campground is located in Carson National Forest and is the place to be for anglers who want to get in some fly fishing at the nearby Eagle Rock Lake. In addition, the nearby resort town of Red River gives you plenty to explore. For hiking, visitors can also check out the Fawn Lakes Trail. In addition, Elephant Rock Trail is an excellent choice for those who wish to mountain bike.

Moreover, although it’s in New Mexico, it’s not a campground in the desert. The sites sit at 8,400 feet above sea level, giving you some elevation. The campground also winds up a hillside with several sites nestled among aspen, fir, pine, and spruce trees

Campground Breakdown:
• 20 Total Sites
• All Sites are Standard Non-Electric: $22 per night

Elephant Rock Amenities: Vault toilets, potable water, grills, fire rings, picnic tables, leashed pets allowed

Reserve an Elephant Rock Campsite Here

Aguirre Spring Campground

For mountain camping in the desert

Location: Located in Las Cruces, New Mexico
Campground Contact: (575) 525-4300
Park Hours: Nov – March: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., March – Nov: 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Campground Website

Situated at the base of the steep and soaring cliffs on the east side of Organ Mountains with expansive views over Tularosa Basin and White Sands National Monument, the Aguirre Spring Campground features 55 first-come, first-served individual campsites, two group sites, and also a horse corral. In addition, the campground sits at 5,700 feet, making it relatively colder than the desert.

In addition, the site is the only developed campground in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, which is at the state’s southern end. The mountains also come up from the state’s low-lying Chihuahuan Desert.

Here, you’ll be treated to the lofty spires of the Organ Mountains, which, in effect, give you stunning views from any perspective. The campground also has ample opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and wildlife watching. This campsite is also a solid choice if you want to visit the nearby White Sand Mountains.

Campground Breakdown:
•  55 individual sites: $7 per night
• Sites are on a first-come-first-serve basis
•  Two group Sites: $50 per night

Aguirre Spring Amenities: pit toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, potable water, leashed pets allowed

Learn More About Aguirre Spring Campsite Here

City of Rocks State Park

For those who want to see out-of-this-world rocks

Location: Located in Faywood, New Mexico
Campground Contact: (575) 536-2800
Park Hours: Open daily from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Campground Website

Overall, City of Rocks State Park is well known for its colossal rock formations and groups of monolithic volcanic rocks that are located in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, some of which are over 50 feet tall. These rock “skyscrapers” were formed by a volcanic explosion some 35 million years ago and have significantly sculpted over time.

City of Rocks: Ancient artifacts, stargazing and botanical gardens

The campground has 52 developed campsites with camping for both tents and RVs. The park also boasts a gorgeous botanical garden home to native cacti and other fauna. This campground also needs to be at the top of your list for stargazers, as it’s renowned for being an ideal place to view the vast wonders of the night skies, which you can observe at the new Star Observatory.

Instead of a sprawling campground, 52 individual sites dot the area in scenic spots among the boulders. According to Gabriel Medrano, the park’s manager, Site 22 is particularly convenient for its arrangement of rocks that make tent setup easy. That site and others, like 28 and 29, also sit beside popular hiking and mountain biking trails. In addition, try to plan to visit during the spring and fall for the best weather, as summer can be scorching and the landscape has little tree cover.

Campground Breakdown
• 52 Sites in Total
• 35 Developed Sites: $10 per night
• One Site with Water and Electric (50 amp): $14 per night
• Three Sites with Water and Electric (30 amp): $14 per night
• 10 Sites with no reservations necessary: Price varies

City of Rocks Amenities: Restrooms, showers, vault toilets, picnic tables, leashed pets allowed, observatory

Reserve a City of Rocks Campsite Here

El Vado Lake State Park Campground

For the best lakeside camping in New Mexico

Location: Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico
Campground Contact: (575) 588-7247
Park Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m
Campground Website

Lastly, El Vado Lake is a fantastic destination for campers who want variety. Here, you can opt to rough it with a primitive campsite or at the same time, park your RV with electric hookups. The developed campsites also make this a perfect place for families who want to spend time together enjoying the outdoors. El Vado also boasts several nearby hiking trails, kayaking, boating, swimming, fishing, and birdwatching— bald eagles and migratory birds frequent the area, so make sure to bring binoculars.

The campground also lets you access two lakes: El Vado and Heron. This area also gives you plenty of room to spread out with eight campgrounds, 100 campsites, and several primitive beach campsites. The most popular campgrounds are Grassy Point Campground, Elk Run Campground, and Pinon Beach Campground.

The lake also features numerous private coves, which gives anglers great spots for catching trout and salmon, with boat rentals available in the park.

Campground Breakdown:
• 80 Developed Campsites: $10 per night
• 17 Sites with Water and Electric (30 amp): $14 per night
• Two Sites with Water, Electric, and Sewage Hookup Sites (30 and 50 amp)
• Four Group Campsites: $90 per night
• Primitive Beach Camping: $10 per night
• Primitive Boat Camping: $10 per night

El Vado Lake State Park Amenities: Restrooms, showers, vault toilets, playground, marina, boat ramp, picnic tables, fire rings, grills, leashed pets allowed

Reserve an El Vado Lake Campsite Here


Outsider.com