In a state like New Mexico, different campgrounds offer varying activities to suit any camper. Many are part of the US National Park System. The top sites for camping in New Mexico include:
1. Wild Rivers Recreation Area
If you love activities that are based on rivers, such as rafting or fishing, this is the perfect camping ground for you. Wild River Recreation Area is home to the Red River and the Rio Grande. For the hiking enthusiast, there are plenty of trails across rugged but scenic terrain.
This camping ground also features the La Junta Overlook. From this overlook, you can see the Rio Grande Gorge. In the wintertime, this park is just a short drive from the Taos Ski Area.
2. Bottomless Lake State Park
Home to the Lea Lake Compound, this park is ideal for camping in a van. This campground offers electric hookups on all campsites. It also includes amenities like free Wi-Fi and paddleboard rentals.
If you’re into the paranormal, you should know that Roswell, New Mexico is just 14 miles away. While not paranormal, it is interesting that none of the lakes are actually lakes but rather sinkholes that filled with water.
3. Aguirre Spring Campground
This campground offers more than 50 campsites, although they are designed for tents and trailers only. You should know that these campsites can not be reserved and are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Located in southern New Mexico, this campground features the Organ Mountains, which gives it a very distinct jagged rock landscape. If you’re also looking for a popular pit stop, Aguirre Spring Campground is located near White Sands National Park.
4. Navajo Lake State Park
The main attraction for these camping grounds is the park’s namesake. Navajo Lake is the second largest lake in New Mexico, making it popular with boaters. Also located in this park, the San Juan River provides excellent trout fishing.
Even if water isn’t your thing, there are also hiking trails. Campsites are offered through reservations and first come, first serve options.
5. Heron Lake State Park
Located in the northern section of the state, Heron Lake State Park offers boating and fishing on the lake. Prospective campers should know that Heron Lake has a strict no-wake policy for boats. This makes this campground better for campers who prefer serenity to sounds.
The fishing in this park is excellent, offering trout and salmon. While the campgrounds may not be fancy, they are on the water, with some being right on the lakeside. It is also located near El Vado Lake State Park.
6. Jack’s Creek Campground
Less than an hour’s drive from Santa Fe, Jack’s Creek Campground is located at an elevation of 8,000, something those who are prone to altitude sickness should make note of. This park is in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, offering great views in all seasons.
The camping is a bit primitive as there are no electrical hookups or stations to dump waste. The campsites are also only offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
7. El Vado Lake State Park
El Vado Lake State Park offers as many amenities as any park in New Mexico. This place is ideal for boaters, offering both boat ramps and rentals. Trout and salmon fishing is popular here. If winter is more your thing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also popular activities.
While not as popular an activity, this park is great for bird watchers as bald eagles are a common sighting. There are more than 100 campsites with water and electric hookups.
8. Elephant Butte Lake State Park
This state park is located on Elephant Butte Reservoir, the largest body of water in New Mexico. This park is known for waterfront camping and, due to the mild climate, fishing and swimming take place year-round. There are plenty of trails for hiking and mountain biking.
As far as campgrounds go, you’ll have plenty of space as there are almost 200 campsites. Each offers a full hookup.
9. White Sands National Park
If you want the option of roughing it, White Sands National Park gives you that option. This park features an expansive backcountry area that doesn’t even include bathroom facilities.
In this park, only backcountry camping is offered. Because this can be dangerous, you will need a permit to camp, which is obtained from the visitor’s center.
10. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Perhaps the most popular national park in New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns, offers cave tours. There are more than 100 different caves in this park, and you can choose from guided or self-guided tours. Similar to White Sands National Park, primitive camping is all that is offered. If you desire more modern amenities, Carlsbad is close by and offers campgrounds with amenities.
11. Angel Peak Scenic Area
Home to rugged rock formations, this park offers beautiful terrain that includes canyons, badlands, and Angel Peak. This park does have some drawbacks, including extreme weather based on the season and only primitive camping. This area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
12. Cherry Creek Campground
A pet-friendly campground, this park includes densely wooded areas with golden aspens, rusty oaks, and red sumac trees. This campground is located on a section of the Trail of the Mountain Spirits By-Way.
13. Cibola National Forest
A massive park of more than 1.5 million acres, this national forest has four distinct wilderness areas. At the highest point, the elevation reaches nearly 11,000 feet. There are more than 30 campgrounds to choose from.
14. Cimarron Canyon State Park
While many parks feature rivers, Cimarron Canyon State Park also features scenic palisade cliffs and waterfalls. If you run short of essentials, the town of Eagle’s Nest is just three miles away. Water services are offered, but electricity is not.
15. Columbine Campground
Offering hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing, Columbine Campground is found between Questa and Red River. This is another high-elevation site, at nearly 8,000 feet. One of the hiking trails leads to the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness area.
What Type of Vehicle Should You Get?
Many traditional vehicles are too small and lack off-roading capacity. On the other end, RVs are cumbersome and expensive. For those reasons, a campervan is a great alternative.
Easily fitting 2-3 people, these vehicles offer plenty of amenities, including microwaves, fridges, and even solar panels. Sleeping arrangements are also included.
What Precautions Should You Take?
While budget is always on someone’s mind, safety is also a priority. If getting lost on a camping trip is a concern, then the Gaia GPS app is essential. This app is offered in a free version, as well as a $40 option that includes the weather.
For those who want to know the locations of bathrooms and gas stations, the iExit app is great. For those traveling with children, this app is a lifesaver.
Even if you aren’t using an app, you should take precautions. If there is a place to register with the park service, you should do so in case you get lost. Always make sure to have the essentials when you go hiking, such as water and an emergency kit.
Are You Ready for Camping in New Mexico?
Now that you know about the top 15 campgrounds in New Mexico, what are you waiting for? As you have read, there are campgrounds for those who love water and those who prefer dry land. You can check out mountains, deserts, and even caves.
A campervan is the best vehicle to take your trip with. It’s the right compromise between a traditional van and the RV and offers all the amenities that you need. When in nature, always take time to plan ahead and bring everything that you might need.
If you’re ready for your campervan-led adventure, reserve a campervan today.
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