Best Tent Camping In New Mexico: Top Free And Paid Sites

Best tent camping in New Mexico: Your guide for discovering New Mexico

In New Mexico, you can choose a location with a mountain view, surrounded by hills, or you can simply choose a location that allows you to enjoy the stunning night sky. There are many different places in New Mexico that the avid traveler cannot miss.

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In this article will show the best tent camping in New Mexico sites. Some of them you will find in the desert, and some of them are on the banks of a deep canyon. In any case, it will be wonderful.

In the wilderness of New Mexico, you can find great campsites where you can stay and enjoy great views. You will find many campsites in the Santa Fe area and other national parks in the state.

In fact, these places are just perfect for relaxing, here you can go on a trip through the desert and see many exciting places. If you love tent camping or RV camping and want to have an unforgettable vacation, you should definitely visit this place.

Can you camp anywhere in New Mexico?

This is out of the question. Vacationers in New Mexico are not allowed to camp in any location they choose to spend the night. In this state, you can find a lot of private land and public parks. In the event that you need to find free camping in New Mexico, it is important to pay close attention to the type of land and land use regulations.

In the US Public Camping System, you will find a map showing free backcountry camping sites, and you can see which fields are used as public and which are privately owned. In this article, you will also find free New Mexico campsites and paid options.

Where can I camp in New Mexico in the summer?

The New Mexico camping season opens in April and runs through September/October. The weather in New Mexico is very diverse, as is the state itself, as well as its landscape. On the eve of the trip, you need to check the weather in the area where you are going to go with a tent.

The following places are ideal for summer camping in New Mexico:

Aguirre Spring Campground

Near White Sands National Monument are the Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks National Monuments. Sharp rock formations stick out of the ground, forming tall tree-like structures in Aguirre Spring Campground.

The Aguirre Spring Campground Recreation Area has two trails, both worth seeing. Try the Baylor Canyon Trail, a six-mile trail that overlooks Baylor Peak and Organa Mountain.

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Keep an eye out for deer, Colorado chipmunks, and possibly mountain lions. To the east of the campsite, Pine Trail can be found, which is a 4.6-mile loop trail that takes an average of 2.5 hours.


  • 55 motorhome sites, sites less than 23 feet available for RV camping
  • Camping sites at each site
  •  Picnic tables
  •  Grill at every site
  •  Fire pits
  • Pets allowed

More information

Last Chance Canyon

Attractive to all climbers, Last Chance Canyon is a rock climbing destination where 15 different rocks offer a level of comfort for mountaineers. In summer, experienced climbers recommend Mud Coe Face and Hueco Cave for breathtaking climbs.

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Bighorn sheep, red-tailed hawks and falcons live in the canyon. There is a free campsite adjacent to the Lincoln National Forest parking lot with easy access to Last Chance Canyon.

The altitude is 6,000 feet, so don’t forget to bring cool weather clothing and gear! Use this campsite as a base to explore other parks around. Carlsbad caverns national park is for example nearby and should be used for an excursion.


  • Paid showers
  • Toilet
  • Pets allowed

More information

 Rancheros De Santa Fe RV Park and Camping

If you want to stay close to Santa Fe, one of the best campsites in New Mexico is Rancheros De Santa Fe RV Park and Campground with RV camping. The cosmic campground is located along historic Route 66, just minutes from Old Town Santa Fe.

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RV camping is close to RV park, where you will have access to a convenient public hot springs with bathrooms, tents, sleeping areas and many other amenities.

There are places for motorhomes, tents and several houses for rent. There is a swimming pool, and you can also visit the Good Dog Corral with your dog. In summer you can use the playground, and late at night, you can watch movies in the outdoor cinema. This is the perfect place to call your home base when visiting Santa Fe.


  • Picnic tables in all tent camping sites
  • Fire pits
  • Swimming pool
  • Playground
  • Toilet
  • Shower cubicles
  •  Laundry
  •  Cinema

More information

Columbine Campground, Carson National Forest

Some travelers prefer to camp on the Red River. With just 27 sites in Carson National Forest, Columbine Camp is the place to go for a relaxing outdoor experience.

For a challenging but rewarding experience, take the Columbine Twinning Trail. This 8.5 mile trail takes about 4.5 hours round trip. Take a packed lunch with you to enjoy along the way, and make time for the beautiful national forests.

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Look for deer, elk, antelopes and bighorn sheep. Remember that you are in the habitat of bears, however, their encounters with people are rare. After a day’s hike, return to camp for a relaxing evening with stunning views.


  • Picnic tables in all tent camping sites
  • Fire pits
  •  Toilet
  •  27 sites
  •  7 RV sites under 23 feet

More information

Is overnight camping allowed in New Mexico State Parks?

On March 13, 2020, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, New Mexico banned public gatherings, including overnight tent camping. In this regard, the money for the reservations was returned to everyone who pre-booked places in the campsites of the state.

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Safety is one of the primary concerns of state parks, and EMNRD believed it was in the public interest to stop tent camping at night when park users are closest to each other to minimize close contact between park users.

However, overnight backcountry camping in New Mexico is now open to tourists.

Can you camp for free in New Mexico?

Cebolla Mesa Campground near Taos

Cebolla Mesa Campground is one of the best places for free remote camping in New Mexico. Camping by the rocks overlooking the Rio Grande Gorge is an incredible adventure! The campsite can be reached just a short drive from Taos.

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Cebolla Mesa Campground is located on a 3-mile dirt road that is full of vehicles but has bumps. Therefore, it is not recommended for large vehicles over 25 feet, but there are four sections along this road where motorhomes can be accommodated completely free of charge.

West Mesa Road Dispersed Camping near Ruidoso

 Another gem is the scattered campsites on West Mesa Road southeast of Albuquerque. They are close to the highway, but at the same time removed and secluded from crowded areas. West Mesa has easy access to nearby mountain bike trails and numerous hiking trails nearby.

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Not far from the road there is a horse camp where you can fill up with water and unload your motorhomes. An added attraction is the campground’s location – just an hour’s drive from Roswell, home to the International UFO Museum and Research Center.

The Roswell Museum and its grounds have several exhibits that may not be related to the UFO theme but are undoubted of interest to lovers of mysticism. This is the so-called “Hampton Stone”, which, according to most experts, is a stone from a meteorite that fell in a valley near Roswell.

Caja Del Rio near Santa Fe

Looking for a great, spacious place to put everything from tents to big trucks? Not far from Santa Fe, there is just a great free campsite where you can stay.

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Camping Caja del Rio is located within the Santa Fe National Forest. This site is administered by the US Forest Service. There are no facilities, but plenty of space allows you to place a motorhome of any size. And if you have a solar battery installed, then on a sunny day it will allow you to fully provide yourself with electricity.

Just follow the directions of the GPS device. It may try to lure you from the south, but you want to avoid it. It is best to enter the campsite from the north, it is here that there is a convenient check-in. The campsite is only a 20-30 minute drive from town, making it an ideal base for excursions around Santa Fe.

Dog Canyon Dispersed near Alamogordo

 Dog Canyon Campground, located half an hour from White Sands National Park, is another great place for vehicles of any size. There is more parking space than the most experienced traveler can imagine, spacious views and beautiful starry skies. For this reason, it is easy to place the largest motorhomes here.

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Moving up the road, you’ll find the Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, where you can purchase a day pass to access features like showers and have easy access to numerous hiking trails.

Monticello Point Road near Truth or Consequences

 If you’re touring New Mexico, this is a really great location near Interstate 25. Monticello Point Road is also operated by BLM and is one of the best free campsites in New Mexico due to its convenience.

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Monticello Point Road is also a desert area. There is enough space for cars of any size and enough daylight to use solar energy. This is a good starting point for squatting or exploring the quaint towns of New Mexico.

Joe Skeen Campground near Grants

 Run by BLM, Joe Skene Campground is a great place if you want to enjoy some serious tent camping. This is probably the best free camping in New Mexico. However, here you are limited to a stay of just one week instead of the standard 14 days.

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There are several sites with fire pits, picnic tables and sheds that can accommodate large vehicles. There are also toilets, storage space and rubbish bins.

Joe Skin Camping is located within the El Malpais National Wildlife Refuge and provides plenty of opportunities for hiking and other outdoor activities. Hikers will enjoy sandstone cliffs, canyons, the La Ventana natural arch and cratered backcountry, as well as the Sebolla and West Malpais wilderness areas. Opportunities for hiking, wildlife watching and photography are plentiful in the area.

Hackberry Lake OHV Area

 The Hackberry Lake OHV zone, as the name suggests, is mainly for off-road enthusiasts. So if you are planning to stay for up to 14 days, it is worth considering this option. But if you love OHV vacations, definitely don’t miss… THIS!

If you’re going to camp in New Mexico but agree to share a spot with OHVer (we’ve done this a few times with no problems), this is an excellent BLM spot. Most campsites have covered picnic areas, dumpsters, and barbecue areas. There are also pit latrines.

How much does camp in a state park in New Mexico cost?

Santa Fe national forest

When hiking in New Mexico, choose the Santa Fe National Forest. Perched atop Tulhas Peak in the Pecos Wilderness, Santa Fe National Park is a protected national forest in northern New Mexico.

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One of New Mexico’s five famous National Forests, a 20-minute drive from Santa Fe, takes you to the Santa Fe National Forest, a hiker’s paradise with 200,000 acres of wilderness and an incredible canyon. The location of the Santa Fe National Forest comes down to the middle of north-central New Mexico.

Why did we mention it specifically? The forest is bordered by lush meadows and coniferous trees, and its beauty is complemented by a dormant volcano. In the alpine forests and streams of the national forest, you can fly fish, not only experienced anglers, but also beginners can fish here. The highest point in the forest is Thatches Peak, a peak in the Pecos Desert.


  • Trekking trails


  • $65 per night 

More information

Pecos national historical park

The park, operated by the National Park Service, spans thousands of acres of landscape and contains many historical features. These range from prehistoric ruins to 19th-century ranches and Civil War battlefields.

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Its main feature is Pecos Pueblo, also known as Chicuye Pueblo, an abandoned Native American community of the historic period that became the state’s first monument in 1935. The Pecos National Monument was significantly expanded in 1965 and was renamed in 1990.

Two sites in the park, Pueblo and Glorieta Battlefield, have been declared National Monuments of the country, which is of particular interest to this place among history buffs.


  •  Trekking trails
  • Historical sights


  • $3 for 7 days for visitors over 16 years old
  • $20 for an annual subscription

Local residents and regular visitors can get an annual park entry pass for as little as $10.

More information

White Sands national park

When people think of White Sands National Park, the first thing they think of is White Sands National Monument, a 275 square mile desert with white sand dunes.

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White Sands National Monument owes its white color to the presence of a large amount of gypsum in the composition of the sand. The main thing that attracts the attention of visitors to this famous place is the white sand dunes, most of which are made of gypsum.

There is no organized recreation area in White Sands National Park, but there are primitive campsites. The essence of primitive camping is that you take a tent with you and camp in a place you like without electricity, water or a toilet.

Primitive camping in New Mexico does not imply the presence of a shower and a kitchen. There are also sites with full connectivity in the national park. If you don’t want to cook on a campfire, bring everything you need for cooking and snacking in nature. Don’t forget water and provisions.


  • Picnic table in all tent camping sites
  • Fire pits
  • Toilet
  • 70 sites fully connected, the rest with electricity
  • 4 tent sites
  • Pets allowed
  • Laundry
  • Swimming pool
  • Children’s room and recreation area
  • Shower cubicles
  • Excursions in the dunes


  •  Per-vehicle price – $20
  •  Annual Vehicle Pass – $45
  •  Annual Park Pass – $80

More information

Carson national forest

The Carson National Forest is one of New Mexico’s most famous campsites. Located near Cuesta, this national forest offers the Columbine Mexico Campground, surrounded by beautiful natural scenery between Cuesta and New Mexico’s Red River. The campsite is located at an altitude of 7900 meters, which is worth considering before arrival.

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Hikers staying in this national forest in New Mexico can enjoy the winding Columbine hiking trail. The National Forest has all the amenities you need to connect, including running water, toilets, and picnic tables. As a result, millions of tourists visit the area each year to enjoy camping in New Mexico.

In addition, in a national forest in New Mexico, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy horseback riding, off-road driving, hunting and cycling. There are cottages and houses in the national forest that can be booked.


  • 42 tent sites
  • Sites with full connectivity
  • Tourist entertainment
  • Picnic tables
  • Fire pits


11$ per one night

More information

Navajo lake state park

Lake Navajo State Park is located about 20 miles from the incredible bloom spot, which attracts photo shooters. It is one of the largest lake parks in the New Mexico Lake Park System. There are many primitive campsites and another campsite around the lake.

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Cottonwood Campground is known for its boating and fishing. There is a lot of shade at the campsite, as there are many poplars growing around, so it is convenient to stay in Cottonwood Campground in the summer. This Lake Navajo State Park also has provisions for motorhomes, including potable water and a waste disposal facility.

The San Juan River also flows through Navajo Lake State Park. Many fishermen have chosen this place for active fishing. A short trip to Albuquerque will take you to the Petroglyph National Monument.

Navajo Lake State Park is home to the Simon Canyon Trail and the South San Juan River Trail, both popular with hikers.


  • Shower cabins
  • Toilet
  • Fishing
  • Boat station


38$ per one night

More information

Lincoln national forest

The Lincoln National Forest in south-central New Mexico is known as the home of the world famous Smokey Bear, which has become a living symbol of the wildfire prevention movement. The bear who served as a hero is buried in Captain, New Mexico.

In Lincoln, camping is available in all three ranger counties, and camping areas are available in Smokey Bear and Sacramento ranger counties. Campfire restrictions may apply from March to July. For more information about restrictions, please contact the park administration.


  • Picnic places
  • Fire pits
  • Toilet
  • Several hiking trails
  • Horseback riding
  • 3 group sites
  • 23 sites for tents and motorhomes with picnic tables, grills, drinking water, toilets and storage


39$ per one night

More information

Cibola national forest

Cibola National Forest, a famous campsite in New Mexico, is located east of Albuquerque and is famous for its picturesque scenery. Climbers can choose from the Sandia Mountain Region in the Cibola National Forest, which is located in the Sandia Mountain Region.

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There are many hiking options to choose from in this area. Home to a large petroglyph site, this national forest in New Mexico is the largest petroglyph park in the state.


  • 80 sites
  • RV sites
  • RV hookups


20$ per one night

More information

Heron lake state park

There are several campgrounds in Heron Lake State Park: Tent sites, RV parks.

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Heron Lake State park is definitely a place to visit. The Place is perfect for outdoor activities like paddleboarding, sailing and kayaking. The lake also offers prize trout and salmon fishing.


  • ADA Access
  • Trash
  • Picnic Table
  • Firewood Available
  • Phone Service
  • Showers
  • Electric Hookups
  • Toilets

More information


In New Mexico, you can see many attractions such as Elephant rock campground, Aguirre springs campground, Jemez falls campground etc.

Camping in the state allows you to enjoy beautiful nature (wild and scenic rivers, mountain biking trails, organ mountains, canyon wilderness) and the starry sky.

If you’re planning a long trip and want to take a side trip to Texas, here are the 14 best state parks in Texas for camping that you must visit!

If You are interested in Camping in the following regions, read my other articles:


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