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12 Best Camping Spots In New Mexico (For Beautiful Scenic Views)

Explore the top 12 camping spots in New Mexico for scenic views, from desert sands to mountain vistas. Perfect guide for outdoor enthusiasts and travelers.

Tobi Miles
July 10, 2022
12 Best Camping Spots In New Mexico (For Beautiful Scenic Views)

New Mexico has become a hotspot for adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country. The Land of Enchantment draws millions of visitors each year for a good reason. The winding rivers, countless hikes, unique geography, deserts, mountains, and the mix of American, Native, and Mexican cultures make New Mexico a truly incredible place to visit.

New Mexico has countless places that are great for camping. Having so many choices can make it difficult to narrow things down, so we made it easy. These are 12 of what we think are the best camping spots in New Mexico. We picked a nice variety of options to satisfy every type of camper.

So let's take a look at some of our favorite camping spots in New Mexico. There is something for everyone!

1. Carlsbad Cavern National Park

Credit: tofoli.douglas / Flickr

Camping at Carlsbad Cavern National Park is only allowed in the backcountry, so there are no established campsites. There is not a direct fee for camping, but you will have to pay or use a National Park pass to enter the park.

Campers will need to get a free backcountry use permit at the visitor center upon arrival. There is BLM land just outside the park where you can RV or car camp.

We would recommend that if you are a new to camping, then maybe you shouldn't try backcountry camping in a place like this. If you're adamant about it, at least go with some friends that have experience.

You will also need to reserve a timeslot online or by calling 877-444-6777 to enter the cave that is the namesake and main attraction of the park. This can't be done at the park, so make sure that you take care of it in advance.

The NPS website says this about where you can camp - "Backcountry camping is only allowed west of Rattlesnake Canyon trailhead off the Desert Scenic Loop Road and south of the Guadalupe Ridge Trail to the park boundary for approximately two miles, after which camping is allowed both north and south of the trail."

2. Bottomless Lakes State Park

If you head to Roswell to do some alien-hunting, then, at less than 15 miles away,

Bottomless Lakes State Park

might be a great spot to camp. There is plenty to do at the park, such as kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, hiking, and even scuba diving.

If you want to enjoy some of the eight lakes that are in the park, then don't worry…they all do have a bottom. The lakes are all formed from sinkholes and range from 17 to 90 feet deep.

The green/blue color that gives them the illusion of seemingly going down forever comes from the aquatic plants that live beneath the water.

The campsite has 32 sites; six have a full hookup, 26 have electric/water hookups, and they also have an RV dump station. There are also bathrooms and showers available for use.

The main lake, Lea Lake, has a beach, playground, volleyball court, picnic areas, a pavilion, showers, and more.  Some of the lower lakes have developed campsites with vault toilets but no hookups.

You can also rent pedal boats, paddle boards, and life jackets during the rental season. Fishing is also allowed from November to March. There is plenty of wildlife and 4.5 miles of trails to enjoy.

Related Read: Best Time To Visit New Mexico

3. White Sands National Park

Sands National Park offers a truly unique camping experience. You can leave your shoes in the car as you hike with all of your gear for about a mile going up and down the sand dunes until you reach the camping area.

Everything is sand everywhere you look; you can quite literally spend your entire time without shoes or boots. Camping costs $3 per person on top of the $25 per-car entrance fee for the park.

Camping permits are given out each morning at the visitor center. There are only ten campsites, and you will get a one-night permit, so you need to go back in the morning if you want to stay for another night.

The passes are first-come-first-served, so make sure to get there early. The park also occasionally closes for a few hours due to the White Sands Missile Range still testing in the area.

They don't allow camping on these days, so be sure to check here for upcoming closures. The campsites are more like camp areas since everything is on sand and can change.

All of the camping in the park is backcountry camping, so some camping experience is definitely recommended. You will also have to carry all of your gear over the dunes, so be sure to pack as light as possible.

4. Rockhound State Park

Camping in

Rockhound State Park

is a really cool experience for families. This was the first park in the United States to allow collecting of rocks for personal use.

You can dig for geodes, quartz crystals, perlite, jasper, and lots of other rocks and minerals in the park, and you can keep up to 15 lbs of gems in minerals if you can find them.

You can reserve one of the 29 campsites, 23 of which have electric hookups. There are restrooms with showers, drinking water available, and an RV dump station.

The park also has education programs, picnic areas, three miles of interpretive hiking trails, and plenty of wildlife and birds to enjoy all around.

The scenery is stunning, with the incredible views of the mountains in every direction. The park's solitude makes it nice and quiet, and the campground makes a fun community where you are sure to find other families to hang out with.

And, of course, you or your kids might even find a newfound love for geology after digging for crystals and minerals in Rockhound State Park.

Related Read: 75 BEST Things To Do in New Mexico

5. McCrystal Campground

Credit: greg westfall / Flickr

If you are looking for solitude and an escape from the busier campgrounds, check out McCrystal Campground in the Valle Vidal portion of Carson National Forest.

They offer 55 sites for tent or trailer (up to 32 feet) camping, each with a picnic table and room for parking. Those on horseback will find six horse-friendly sites on the premises.

The campground is primitive, so there are no showers or hookups for water or sewer, but there are six fault toilets that you can use.

The US Forest Service does not recommend drinking water from the creek, so you should bring any water you will need to drink. You will also need this water for cooking, bathing, or for your horses.

The area is remote, so be prepared to be away from society during your stay. This is a popular spot for fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, and more.

A self-guided tour also starts at the campground entrance and will take you down a trail to a historic pioneer cabin. One thing to note is that black bears and elk may be present in the area.

Hunters often target these species but are aware and camp responsibly while in this area. An encounter is unlikely if you take the proper precautions. Here are a few tips from the National Park Service for camping in bear country.

6. Gallo Campground - Checo Canyon

Credit: lockland78 / Flickr

Gallo Campground is found in the Checo Culture National Historical Park. The campground is in the Gallo Wash, which is part of a lowland desert that is surrounded by canyon walls, fallen boulders, cliffs, and desert plants and brush.

This is a genuinely immersive camping experience that will put you in the heart of the desert, with only what you brought with you. There are 32 campsites with picnic tables that are a part of the camping area. 27 of the sites are open for tent camping or a small RV/Trailer.

Each site has a different max size for an RV or trailer, so be sure to double-check when making your reservation. There is a bathroom with flushing toilets and drinking water on-site, but there are no showers, hookups, or a place to buy food.

This park is an exciting experience with multiple hiking trails that take you to ancient cultural sites where Native Americans once lived.

The park was also the 12th park in the world to be designated as a certified Dark Sky Park. So it is a great place to experience an escape from light pollution and enjoy a night full of endless stars.

7. City of Rocks State Park

While a fairly small park at only one square mile,

City of Rocks State Park

packs a big punch in the geology department.

The park gets its name from the 34.9 million-year-old volcanic rock formations that can be found throughout the park. These formations can tower as high as 40 feet and have paths that resemble city streets running between them.

There are 50 campsites, with 10 of them having hookups for water and electricity. All campsites have a picnic table and fire ring. There are bathrooms, hot showers, and drinking water available as well.

The park has 5.5 miles of hiking trails, a botanical garden, a day-use area, a visitor center, and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. It's unique because this area was inhabited for thousands of years.

The park is open year-round and has various events throughout the year. It is definitely recommended to reserve a campsite during the summer months and around holidays.

8. Heron Lake State Park

Credit: EMNRD

For those who want to spend a little time on the water, Heron Lake State Park is a perfect option. This is a very diverse park where everyone will find something of their liking.

There are 250 developed campsites, 54 of which have electric hookups. The campsites range from being located among the pines to lining the shore of Heron Lake. Toilets, showers, and an RV dump station are available.

There is no shortage of activities to keep everyone entertained. The lake is a "quiet lake," so motorized boats are allowed, but you can't make a wake. This makes it perfect for paddle sports, sailing, fishing, or swimming.

You can find trout and kokanee salmon in the lake. Out of the water, you can see wildlife like black bears, mountain lions, elk, deer, bald eagles, osprey, and more.

There is plenty of hiking to do, and the trails are great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. The scenery is beautiful, and the blue color of the lake is something that you will want to take in with your own eyes.

Related Read: Do You Need A Passport To Go To New Mexico?

9. Jemez Falls Campground

Hikers who want to get away from the desert and enjoy hiking through the forest will love

Jemez Falls Campground

, located in the Santa Fe National Forest.

The campground is named after the nearby 70-foot Jemez Falls, which can be reached through a short hike from the campground. This is the largest waterfall in New Mexico and definitely worth visiting.

The campground has 52 developed sites that have a picnic table and fire ring. The campsite can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet long but there are no hookups.

There are vault toilets and drinking water available as well. You can enjoy hiking, biking, and birdwatching while escaping the sand and sun of the desert.

Pets must be leashed, and food should be stored in proper containers due to the local bears that frequent the area. There is no firewood available to purchase, but you can take dead and fallen wood from the site.

To help prevent the spread of tree-killing pests, be sure to collect local firewood instead of bringing it in from different areas.

10. Navajo Lake State Park

Featuring the second largest lake in the state, covering 15,600 acres,

Navajo Lake State Park

provides plenty of entertainment. This place is great for campers who want to be a little bit more in touch with society.

This place is enormous, with two marinas, hiking/biking trails, camping, fishing, hunting, and scuba diving. Additionally, there are swimming areas, beaches, restaurants, and park events that happen throughout the year.

There are seven campgrounds here with 244 total campsites. There are eight full hookups, 11 water/50 amp electric hookups, 45 water/30 amp hookups, and 41 30 amp electric hookups.

Restrooms with showers are available as well as RV dump stations. You can also find WiFi to stay connected during your stay.

This is a watersport haven in the middle of the desert that is perfect for waterskiing, wakeboarding, fishing, swimming, boating, sailing, paddle sports, and scuba diving. Fly fishers can hook into world-class trout in the San Juan River.

This is an excellent place for families who want to have an all-inclusive experience where you can keep everyone entertained without having to leave the park.

The park can be very busy but doesn't really feel too crowded due to how big it is. This one should definitely be on your list.

Related Read: 20 Golden Reasons to go Albuquerque Balloon Festival?

11. Wild Rivers Recreation Area

Credit: It'sOnlyMakeBelieve / Wikipedia

The Wild Rivers Recreation Area is located on land that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Northern New Mexico.

While BLM land does have free dispersed camping available, camping in this area is confined to five developed campgrounds. These sites do have a camping fee of just $7 per night.

You will find 40 campsites that are spread across five camping areas as well as two group shelters. There is a visitor center, hiking/biking trails, picnic areas, drinking water, and restrooms that are available for use.

The river is very swift and strong, so swimming is dangerous. Whitewater rafters can use the river, but it is hazardous and requires quite a bit of skill.

All boating equipment has to be hiked down to the river, and boaters must register with the field office prior to launching. Licensed fishermen can try to hook a cutthroat, brown, or rainbow trout and northern pike.

This is a great place to witness some of the powerful landscapes that New Mexico has to offer. The 800-foot-deep canyon that was carved out of volcanic flows over thousands of years by the rivers.

This creates a truly breathtaking view where you can see where the Rio Grande and the Red River meet. There are several overlooks that will give you a stunning perspective of the surrounding areas.

12. Enchanted Trails RV Park

Credit: Enchanted Trails RV Park & Trading Post / Facebook

If you are traveling on Route 66 and need a spot to park your RV for the night, the Enchanted Trails RV Park is a great option. We get it; sometimes, you don't want to venture miles off the beaten path and away from civilization to camp.

This RV park is a perfect stop right in Albuquerque and has all of the amenities that you need for a fun stay. The property still features some of the original 1940s Albuquerque architecture and has been used as a backdrop in several movies.

You will find 135 RV sites, 127 of which are pull-throughs. They have full hookups with 50 or 30 amps and electric/water-only hookups with 30 amps. Restrooms and showers are available as well.

There is a pool and spa, a billiards room, a vintage trailer exhibit with seven vintage trailers that you can check out, and a TV lounge to enjoy.

The park has free WiFi and on-site laundry facilities that include a vintage wringer washer and a mangle iron. They sell propane and RV supplies, and Camping World is next door.

This might be the perfect stop on your trip down Route 66 to enjoy the pool and the beautiful views overlooking the city. They can get busy, so they recommend making reservations at least a day or two in advance if possible.

Which New Mexico camping spot will you choose?

As you can see, New Mexico offers a little bit of everything so that everyone from all walks of life can find something to enjoy. The beautiful landscapes are breathtaking, and the adventure never ends.

Whether in the desert, the mountains, or the city, New Mexico is an excellent place to camp. And the best part is that you can get all this without a passport!

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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