New Mexico's 10 Best Family Camping Spots (2023)

WANT TO SLEEP UNDER THE STARS? Try the mind-blowing Milky Way views from a certified Dark Sky Sanctuary. You can camp beside wildflower meadows or among volcanic rock columns, on the ghostly gypsum dunes at White Sands or the forested slopes of the Pecos Wilderness. Best of all, these 10 perfect places to pitch a tent are all easily accessible by car—no epic backpacking treks required. This summer, the sky’s the limit.

New Mexico's 10 Best Family Camping Spots (1)Brushy Point Campground offers views of Heron Lake. Photograph by NMTD.

1. Brushy Point Campground, Heron Lake State Park

Season: Summer

Throw open your rain fly at Brushy Point, and you’ll find a view more refreshing than your morning coffee: fields of golden sunflowers stretching nearly to the shore of Heron Lake. Pull up a chair beneath a juniper at your campsite to watch for osprey and bald eagles hunting salmon. If you plan to get on the water yourself, come ready to row—this tranquil no-wake lake is popular for kayaking and paddle- boarding. For hikers, the 5.5-mile Río Chama trail leads across a suspension bridge to the shale shores of a sister lake, El Vado, where motorized boating is allowed.

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Getting there:10 miles west of Los Ojos, off NM 95. Info: New Mexico State Parks, 575-588-7470. Fee:$10 per night

2. Columbine Campground, Carson National Forest

Season: Summer

You won’t 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, don’t forget to come well equipped and ready for a wilderness experience.

New Mexico's 10 Best Family Camping Spots (2)The Cottonwood Campground offers a shady campsite near the cottonwoods. Photograph courtesy ofNew Mexico State Parks.

3. Cottonwood Campground, Navajo Lake State Park

Season: Fall

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:$14per night

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4. Cosmic Campground, Gila National Forest

Season: Summer

The Gila National Forest’s remote setting—far from urban light pollution—makes it a perfect place for stargazing. In January 2016, the International Dark-Sky Association named the Gila’s Cosmic Campground the first Dark Sky Sanctuary in the U.S. Forest Service system. (The association awards the designation only to places with exceptionally starry nights, hoping to protect their scientific, natural, and cultural value.) At this high-desert campground, the number of tent sites—four, with a few more for RVs—corresponds 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

5. Panchuela Campground, Santa Fe National Forest

Season: Summer

The Pecos is a gem among New Mexico’s wild places, and this campground is a treasure. Set among the pines along Panchuela Creek, the campsites here get high marks for scenery. The location’s not too shabby, either, next door to the state’s second-largest wilderness area and its more than 200,000 acres of forested slopes, alpine peaks, and wildflower meadows. Streams rush through many of Santa Fe National Forest’s canyons, lending the area an especially lush feel, rich with ferns and knee-high grasses. Anglers camping here can fish Panchuela Creek and other nearby streams for rainbow and Río Grande cutthroat trout. For hikers, the Cave Creek Trail leads directly from the campsite to a trio of small caves several miles upstream (don’t forget to bring a headlamp).

Getting there:22 miles north of Pecos, off NM 63. Info:Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District, (505) 757-6121. Fee:$5 per night

New Mexico's 10 Best Family Camping Spots (3)City of Rocks State Park offers plenty of opportunities for stargazing. Photograph by Steven Bunt.

6. City of Rocks State Park

Season: Spring and Fall

In this natural “city,” the skyscrapers are rock columns as tall as 40 feet, formed by a volcanic explosion some 35 million years ago and sculpted over time. There are no sprawling campgrounds here; rather, 52 individual sites are scattered in scenic spots among the boulders. Gabriel Medrano, the park manager, says Site 22 is especially convenient for its arrangement of rocks that make tent setup easy. That site and others, such as 28 and 29, are situated beside popular hiking and mountain biking trails. Plan your trip for spring and fall for the best weather; summer can be hot here, and the landscape is rather exposed.

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Getting there:29 miles north of Deming, via US 180 then NM 61. Info:City of Rocks State Park, 575-536-2800. Fee:$10per night

7. 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 area’s 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 there’s 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. You’ll be close enough to beat the crowds to the falls—some 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

New Mexico's 10 Best Family Camping Spots (4)Morphy Lake State Park is perfect for tent camping. Photograph courtesy of New Mexico State Parks/James Foley.

8. Morphy Lake State Park

Season: Summer

Tight turns make this state park difficult to reach for RVs, but as a result it’s a haven for tent camping. Morphy Lake is small—only 15 watery acres—but its setting in a valley shaded by ponderosas gives the park an intimate feel. Campsites perch along the lake under towering trees, spaced so that campers aren’t too cozy with their neighbors. Each site has a view to the water, and many have access to good canoe launch sites. Although the lake is open year-round (to accommodate ice-fishing in winter), the campsites are only accessible April 1 to November 1.

Getting there:7 miles south of Mora, off NM 94. Info: Morphy Lake State Park,575-387-2328. Fee:$10per night

New Mexico's 10 Best Family Camping Spots (5)Aguirre Spring Campground is on the eastern side of the Organ Mountains. Photograph by NMTD.

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9. Aguirre Spring Recreation Area, Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument

Season: November through April

The Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument preserves nearly half a million acres of rocky peaks and narrow canyons, much of it in Las Cruces’s backyard. Aguirre Spring Campground has the convenience of being close to the state’s 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. It’s 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:$7per night

New Mexico's 10 Best Family Camping Spots (6)White Sands National Park offers miles of trails, boardwalk viewing areas, and tenprimitive camping sites. Photograph by NMTD.

10. White Sands National Park

Season: November through April

New Mexico lays claim to the largest gypsum dune field in the world, and you can camp amid its stunning alabaster hills. There are no official campgrounds or RV sites within the park (there are several close by, including at Aguirre Spring Recreation Area—see above). Even in this minimalist landscape—275 square miles of sparsely vegetated snow-white sands—wildlife abounds. Campers are welcome anywhere along the 2.2-mile Backcountry Loop. The first campsite is three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead; any of them will give you a front-row seat to the park’s spectacular—and highly photogenic—sunsets and sunrises.

Getting there:18 miles west of Alamogordo, off US 70. Info: White Sands National Park,575-479-6124. Fee:$5

Note:In addition to park entrance fees, a permit is required for backcountry camping. Campers must register for one of 10 sites (available on a first-come, first-served basis) at least one hour before sunset. The park is periodically closed for missile testing on the adjacent White Sands Missile Range, so call ahead to verify that it’s open.

FAQs

What is the most popular state park in New Mexico? ›

Best state parks in New Mexico
  • Hyde Memorial State Park. #1 - Hyde Memorial State Park. ...
  • Rio Grande Valley State Park. ...
  • Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. ...
  • Cerrillos Hills State Park. ...
  • Glade Run Recreation Area. ...
  • City of Rocks State Park. ...
  • Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. ...
  • Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park.

What is the best location for campsite? ›

On a map, look for places that are:
  • Flat, where your odds of finding a level campsite are best.
  • Within convenient proximity of firewood and water.
  • Off-trail, so you don't disrupt another backpacker's wilderness experience.
  • Not at the bottom of a valley or canyon, where the air would be coldest and most humid.
Nov 28, 2017

Where can I camp in New Mexico 2022? ›

11 Great RV Destinations in New Mexico
  • Ghost Ranch. ...
  • City of Rocks State Park. ...
  • Cosmic Campground. ...
  • Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway / Angel Fire RV Resort. ...
  • Chaco Canyon. ...
  • Elephant Butte Lake State Park. ...
  • Las Cruces / Hacienda RV Resort. ...
  • Clayton Lake State Park and Dinosaur Trackways.

Where is best to stay in Mexico with kids? ›

The 5 Best Destinations for Families in Mexico
  • Tulum.
  • Isla Mujeres.
  • Puerto Vallarta.
  • Cancun.
  • Los Cabos.
Mar 3, 2022

What is a FamCamp? ›

The FamCamp® program provides a trailer full of camping equipment and a campsite reserved at a State Park. The campground is usually located relatively close to an urban area and is available during the prime camping season.

What is the number 1 visited national park? ›

Coming in at the top spot with a whopping 12.1 million visits, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the country's most-visited national park. Crossing North Carolina and Tennessee, this park is known for its wildlife, waterfalls, and fog-covered mountains.

What is the 333 rule for camping? ›

By adhering to this simple rule of thumb, you can make traveling easier for your whole family. What is this? First, limit your travel to no more than 300 miles in one day. Second, arrive no later than 3 p.m. Finally, stay at your destination for at least three days.

What is the number 1 rule of wild camping? ›

The general rule is – leave the area in exactly the same condition as it was discovered. Be considerate and camp high: Whenever wild camping it's important to stay away from settlements and respect the privacy of others. Camping on high ground helps to prevent causing a problem.

What state has the best camping? ›

Utah is the most convenient state with an average campsite rating of 4.51 out of 5, only 12.2 inches of rain per year, and 88.1% of the state has access to wifi. On the other hand, Hawaii is the most inconvenient state for camping.

Where can I camp in NM right now? ›

Discover Camping in New Mexico
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park. National Park Service.
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park Tours. ...
  • Carson National Forest. ...
  • Cibola National Forest and Grasslands. ...
  • Gila National Forest. ...
  • Lincoln National Forest. ...
  • Pecos National Historical Park Fishing Reservations. ...
  • Santa Fe National Forest.

How much does it cost to camp at New Mexico State Parks? ›

Annual Day-Use Permit (valid 12 months from month of purchase)
New Mexico Resident or Non Resident (No Replacement)$40 (No Replacement)
New Mexico Veteran with 50% or more disability – Apply HereNo charge

Can you sleep in New Mexico rest areas? ›

Can You Sleep in Your Vehicle at a New Mexico Rest Area? Yes. The State of New Mexico has stated in its rules posted at each rest area (See Rule 6), that they want you to “protect yourself by resting sufficiently before resuming your travel”. This implies being allowed to sleep long enough to resume driving safely.

Where do the Kardashians stay in Mexico? ›

Words have it that the Kardashians stay in Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort, while in Cabo. The resort is located on the desert coastline of Los Cabos where the sea and the sun converge.

Is New Mexico a good place to visit with kids? ›

New Mexico is a fascinating state for kids. It is a place where they will not only learn about – but learn to love – history, culture, and geography. Exploring New Mexico with kids is a great way for families to turn a road trip into an adventure.

Where is the cheapest safest place to visit Mexico? ›

10 cheap places to visit in Mexico
  1. Puerto Vallarta. ...
  2. Playa del Carmen. ...
  3. Isla Mujeres. ...
  4. Valladolid. ...
  5. Guadalajara. ...
  6. Cancun. ...
  7. San Cristóbal de las Casas. ...
  8. Mexico City.

What are the 3 types of campgrounds? ›

So this article is going to discuss a few popular types of camping.
  • Backpacking: For campground owners, there are different types of camping hat you should know about. ...
  • RV camping: RV parks are continuously gaining popularity. ...
  • Frontcountry camping: Frontcountry camping is perhaps the most popular type of camping.

What are the three types of campsite? ›

Three Types of Camping
  • Camping on the way to a different destination.
  • Camping that's attached to a destination.
  • Camping that is the destination.

What is Walmart camping? ›

It provides safe, overnight parking to break up long travel days, while also offering the convenience to stock-up on groceries and camping essentials. While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers.

What is safest city in New Mexico? ›

New Mexico's safest city is Los Alamos, earning a very high 0.98 Safety Index score that dwarfs those of every other community in the state.

What is the best month to visit New Mexico? ›

Late fall or early Spring are the best times to visit New Mexico if you want to avoid large crowds. The tourist peak season is during the summer months and over the Christmas period. Try visiting New Mexico in March, April, October, or November for the best combination of warmer weather and fewer crowds.

What are the prettiest small towns in Mexico? ›

12 Prettiest Small Towns in Mexico
  1. San Sebastian Bernal[SEE MAP]
  2. Tulum[SEE MAP] ...
  3. Tlacotalpan[SEE MAP] ...
  4. Todos Santos[SEE MAP] ...
  5. Mazunte[SEE MAP] ...
  6. Malinalco[SEE MAP] ...
  7. Tepoztlan[SEE MAP] ...
  8. Yelapa[SEE MAP] ...
Dec 17, 2022

What is the cheapest and safest place to live in New Mexico? ›

1. Deming. Deming tops our list of most affordable cities in New Mexico. Located 35 miles north of the US-Mexico border, Deming is home to around 15,000 residents and is the county seat of Luna County.

What is the most unpopular national park? ›

The least-visited national parks in the United States
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska: America's least-visited national park contains no roads or trails. ...
  • National Park of American Samoa: About 8,500 people visited this South Pacific park in 2021.
Aug 19, 2022

What's the prettiest national park? ›

Top 10 most beautiful National Parks in the USA
  • GRAND CANYON.
  • DENALI NATIONAL PARK.
  • YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK.
  • HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK.
  • ZION NATIONAL PARK.
  • GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK.
  • OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK.
  • GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK.
Jul 5, 2021

Can you sleep at rest stops in New Mexico? ›

Can You Sleep in Your Vehicle at a New Mexico Rest Area? Yes. The State of New Mexico has stated in its rules posted at each rest area (See Rule 6), that they want you to “protect yourself by resting sufficiently before resuming your travel”. This implies being allowed to sleep long enough to resume driving safely.

Can you camp anywhere in New Mexico? ›

Dispersed camping is generally allowed on public lands in New Mexico for no more than a period of 14 days within any period of 28 consecutive days. The 14-day limit may be reached either through a number of separate visits or through 14 days of continuous overnight occupation during the 28-day period.

Can I sleep in my car at Walmart? ›

Does Walmart Allow Overnight Parking? The short answer is that, according to Walmart's corporate website, Walmart does still allow overnight parking in 2022. However, there are some caveats to this, and when you look at the policy in practice, overnight camping rules vary widely from store to store.

Can you stop on the highway to sleep? ›

No, under federal law, it is not illegal to sleep in your car unless you are trespassing, intoxicated (including engine off), or falling asleep whilst driving. That being said, some cities have local ordinances that do make it a crime.

Is it safe to sleep in your car? ›

Is it safe to sleep in a car? It is generally safe to sleep in your car overnight, providing the engine is turned off and you're parked in a secure location. Cars are not airtight, meaning oxygen can enter the vehicle during the night to allow comfortable breathing, even when the windows and doors are closed.

Where can I camp for free in New Mexico? ›

Or, browse these free campsites on our New Mexico dispersed camping map to find one near you.
...
Here's a quick list of the free campsites I dive into below:
  • Caja del Rio.
  • Juan Tomas Road.
  • Cosmic Campground.
  • Parks Ranch Campground.
  • Mills Canyon Campground.
  • Angel Peak Scenic Area.
  • Capitan Wilderness.
  • Holloman Lake.
Sep 13, 2022

What state has the most free camping? ›

Wyoming. There is free camping almost everywhere you go in Wyoming, and it's easy to find a beautiful area with few people around. While the most popular part of the state is near Yellowstone National Park, you can continue to travel south into the Wind River Range and see snow-capped peaks for much of the year.

Can I pitch my tent anywhere? ›

Some general rules to follow:

Check for 'no camping' signs. If a landowner asks you not to camp on their land, respect their wishes. Leave no trace of your visit. Use a stove rather than a campfire, take your rubbish home and take a hand shovel for when it's necessary to take care of business.

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