Camping in New Mexico is easy. With 27 State Parks, one State Fish Hatchery, one National Park, five National Forests, three National Historic Landmarks, two National Historic Parks, eight National Wildlife Refuges and one National Recreation Area there are literally thousands of state, federal and public campsites to choose from.
As beautiful as the entire state is, New Mexico is most famous for three things: The crash of alien UFOs in Roswell, and one of the most famous national parks in America—Carlsbad Caverns, and the Pecos River.
UFOs in New Mexico
In the summer of 1947, a rancher discovered unidentifiable debris in his sheep pasture outside Roswell, New Mexico. Although officials from the local Air Force base asserted that it was a crashed weather balloon, many people believed it was the remains of an extraterrestrial flying saucer. Newspaper reports the day after the incident reported the “remains of a flying saucer had been found,” but then shortly after that, the story changed and officials said it wasn’t a UFO at all.
Nearly 50 years after the story of the mysterious debris broke, the U.S. military issued a report linking the incident to a top-secret atomic espionage project called Project Mogul. Still, many people continue to embrace the UFO theory, and hundreds of curiosity seekers visit Roswell and the crash site every year. The crash at Roswell has fed conspiracies and fascination with aliens for over half a century and is the primary reason so many tourists and campers flock to New Mexico. The History Channel has more information on the crash and the conspiracies.
Carlsbad Caverns – Camping in New Mexico
The only National Park in New Mexico, this park is located along the border of Texas and New Mexico, in the Chihuahua desert just 2 hours north of Mexico. Established to preserve Carlsbad Cavern and hundreds of other caves within a Permian-age fossil reef, the park contains more than 100 known caves, including Lechuguilla Cave, the nation’s deepest limestone cave at 1,567 feet (478m). Lechuguilla Cave is also the fourth longest cave in the country and contains formations and microbes found nowhere else in the world. The recent exploration and scientific discoveries in Lechuguilla Cave, and other caves in the park hold immense potential for scientific research.
Carlsbad Caverns is one of the world’s largest underground chambers—more than eight acres of open caverns to explore! It has countless formations, is highly accessible, and offers a variety of tours year-round. For you movie buffs, the 1950s film “Journey to the centre of the Earth” were shot underground in the Carslbad Caverns.
The Pecos River – Camping in New Mexico
The primary river in the state is the Pecos River, famous in western movies and pioneer folklore, but also popular for all the recreational opportunities (fishing, tubing, rafting, boating, camping) and for being one of the best places to cool off when New Mexico summers hit the triple digit realms. It begins in New Mexico and crosses the state where it ends somewhere in Texas, some 926 miles later.
Legend has it that New Mexico’s most famous cowboy and character of tall tales, “Pecos Bill” Pecos Bill, was lost while crossing the Pecos River with his parents. A pack of coyotes found him, took to him and raised him. He lived among them until he met a cowboy and realized he wasn’t really a furry varmit, but a cowboy, and he gave up his life in a coyote den and howling at the moon to become a ranchhand.
No one was better at ranching than Pecos Bill because, having been raised with animals he had an uncanny ability to convince animals to work for him. According to legends, Bill married a nice girl named Slue Foot Sue and lived a long life of ranching, herding, and singing by the campfire, which takes us to the rest of this article, camping in New Mexico.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park – Camping in New Mexico
3225 National Parks Highway
Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220
Phone: (575) 785-2232
Unlike most national parks, there is no lodging or camping inside Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Primitive camping is allowed in the backcountry only and requires a free permit which is issued at the park’s visitor center when you arrive (not reservable in advance). The good news is, there are plenty of campgrounds outside the park, and you can find food inside the park—at least during visitor’s hours.
During visitor center hours, visitors can visit the Carlsbad Caverns Trading Company (CCTC), located at the west end of the building, just past the gift shop. There are sandwiches, salads, yogurt, or other snacks from the grab-and-go coolers. Visitors can also have a hot sandwich or meal made to order at the hot/cold food line. A variety of bottled, fountain and hot drinks are also available.
While you are touring Carlsbad Cavern, you may take a break in the underground rest area, located at the base of the elevators. This area has restrooms, drinking fountains, and a limited snack bar operated by CCTC. Food purchased in the underground snack bar must be consumed there.
The town of Carlsbad, New Mexico is 20 miles (32 km) northeast of the park, on highway 62/180 and they do offer a variety of lodging, including camping and RV parks. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is surrounded by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and they do allow permit-free RV/tent camping. Check with the local Carlsbad BLM office for regulations (575) 234-5972. There is also camping at Guadalupe Mountains National Park campground, Carlsbad’s “sister park,” 40-minutes away in Texas.
Camping In New Mexico
Carlsbad KOA – Camping in New Mexico
2 Manthei Road, Highway 285
Carlsbad, NM 88220
Carlsbad KOA is one of the closest campgrounds to the National Park. It’s also in a very scenic area, right next to Brantley Lake and Brantley Lake State Park. Located right off of US Highway 285 near the Guadalupe Backcountry Byway this KOA is outside of town, and is a quiet getaway.
With 104 RV Sites, with full hookups, 30/50 Amp service, and both back-in and pull through sites, this is a great campground for anyone from tent campers to RVers with big rigs. There’s a heated pool and hot tub, hot showers, and pets are allowed.
- Bike rentals
- Snack bar
- A laundry room
- A community room
- Meal delivery
- A dog park
- Close to gas stations
White’s City RV Park – Camping in New Mexico
19 Carlsbad Caverns Hwy
Whites City, NM 88220
Phone: (575) 785-2291
Located in White’s City at the intersection of National Parks Highway and Carlsbad Cavern Highway, this RV park is as close as you can get to Carlsbad Caverns. In fact, it sits directly outside of the entrance to the National Park, so close you can even walk to it. It is, however, a 4-mile hike to the visitor’s center. White’s City itself is a small town, but it has everything you could need, including supply stores and restaurants.
With 60 RV Sites, it’s small but comfortable and quiet. The park has full hookups, with 30/50 amp service, back-in and pull-through sites, hot showers and it’s pet friendly. There are fire rings and a picnic area for campers. There is no pool. The biggest feature White’s City RV Park offers is convenience since It’s the only RV park at the entrance of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Reviews range from very poor to okay, but it is under new management and is listed here because it is literally the closest campground to Carlsbad Caverns.
Jemez Falls Campground – Camping in New Mexico
This incredibly popular campground is in a wonderful ponderosa pine forest. If you stay here, be sure to take the short hike to Jemez Falls or go further to Battleship Rock. This campground is popular with people using both tents and RVs. Expect it to be full on summer weekends. There are five main campgrounds along the Jemez Mountain Trail – San Antonio, Jemez Falls, Redondo, Paliza and Vista Linda along with numerous picnic spots providing scenic and quiet locations. So if Jemez is full, as it usually is, check out the other campgrounds.
Jemez Springs is close to three of New Mexico’s most amazing water falls – Jemez Falls, Soda Dam and a waterfall at the Gilman Tunnels. Just past the village limits and east of La Cueva, NM the easy and unforgettable hike through Jemez Falls Campground will lead visitors to Jemez Falls – a 70 foot plunge through a narrow gap in the granite bedrock.
There are only 52 tent and RV campsites at Jemez, and one of them is reserved for the campground host. There are no RV hook-ups at the campground. The sites are divided among three loops. The accessible picnic area is equipped with a shelter, tables and large grills. Accessible vault toilets and trash collection are provided. The site can accommodate up to 100 people. A large parking area is on-site.
Drinking water is not provided in the day-use area, but is available at nearby campgrounds and facilities, including Battleship Rock, Vista Linda and the Jemez Ranger Station. There is paved access from the highway and paved internal roads to individual camp sites. Drinking water is provided from spigots conveniently located throughout the campground. Vault toilets provide basic sanitation needs. A campground host is on duty during the summer camping season.
Jemez Falls, the largest waterfall in the Jemez Mountains, is nearby and can be hiked from the campground. The Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument are within short driving distance along the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway.
Redondo Campground – Camping in New Mexico
2806 East 2nd
Roswell N.M., 88201
Phone: (575) 623-4897
If you want to combine your trip to the Carlsbad Caverns with a trip to the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, this is a perfect location. Whether you’re pursuing a sighting of little green men and all that goes with a day in Roswell, or other lovely attractions in the area, the Red Barn RV Park is a great place to stay. Located right in Roswell, it’s just minutes from the crash site and the UFO Museum and Research Center, and under two hours from Carlsbad Caverns.
There are 15 RV Sites with full hookups and 30/50 Amp service and back-in/pull-through sites: There’s no pool or hot tub, but the campground is pet-friendly.
- General store
- Book exchange
- Game room
- Cable TV
Cowboy’s RV Park – Camping in New Mexico
Cowboy’s RV Park Information
2570 W. Marland Blvd.
Hobbs, NM 88240
With only 22 RV sites, this park is small, but it packs everything a camper needs into the amenities it offers. It’s one of the best RV parks in Roswell, and it’s close enough to do a day trip to the Carlsbad Caverns as well as many other destinations in New Mexico. Cowboy’s RV Park offers both 30/50 amp service, pull through and back-in sites, showers, wifi, cable, laundry, RV storage, and a dog park. The RV sites are concrete and private and the roads are paved.
Located on the outskirts of the town of Hobbs, the park is just down the street from a number of restaurants, shops, and a Pilot Travel Center. It’s minutes from the local casino and horse track and right on the edge of the Texas state line. It’s also only 90 minutes from the Carlsbad Caverns National Park and a great midway option for people coming from Lubbock or Odessa, Texas.
Being small makes it easy to keep impeccably clean and well-maintained, and gives the park a feeling of community, thanks to its owners and staff. It’s conveniently located right off the highway, yet road noise is not an issue. The RV park remains quiet and calm. A gated and controlled entrance keeps the park safe and secure.
Pecos River RV – Camping in New Mexico
Pecos River RV Park Information
320 E Greene St
Carlsbad, NM, 88220
Pecos River is a family-friendly RV park in Carlsbad, New Mexico. One of the best things about it, is it is nestled right along the Pecos River, just downstream from the Playground on the Pecos and across from Lake Carlsbad Beach Park. Campers can walk to the center of Carlsbad from the park. There are a number of restaurants, grocery stores, shops, and even the Carlsbad Museum and Art Center. It’s also just 25 minutes from the entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The park has RV Sites: 199 with full hookups and 30/50 amp service. There are both pull-through and back-in sites, a pool and hot tub, showers, and pets are allowed.
If you’re looking for a good location, you can’t beat the Pecos River RV Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico. It’s the perfect combination of the convenience of being located within walking distance of a town center and plenty of amenities while still being just a short drive from natural attractions and wilderness. The RV park itself is located next to a playground and right on a river with fantastic fishing, so there are still plenty of outdoor activities to partake in where you’re staying.
- Picnic areas
- Bike rentals
Aguirre Springs Campground – Camping in New Mexico
15000 Aguirre Spring Rd.
Organ, NM 88052
Phone: (575) 525-4300
There’s a lot to like about this campground — from campers getting to sleep below the needles of the Organ Mountains to the fact the campground is where the ever popular Pine Tree Trail begins. The trail is an easy four-mile loop that takes you to the base of the needles.
This campground is located on Aguirre Springs Road and overlooks White Sands as well. It’s on the basic side, but water is available at the host site. There are 57 family sites plus 2 group sites (no RVs over 23 feet).
Dripping Vat Campground – Camping in New Mexico
3005 E. Camino del Bosque
Silver City, NM 88061
Phone: (505) 388-8201
If you love to fish and really love trout fishing while you’re camping, check out this campground in the Gila National Forest. It’s close to the well-stocked Snow Lake. The lake is stocked three times a year, fall, summer, and spring, so there’s a good chance if you’re fishing for dinner – you’ll eat well too. It’s a primitive campground, but the 40 sites each have fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets. There’s also potable water. Dripping Vat Campground is about 50 miles from Reserve. Not recommended for RVs over 19 feet. There are no hookups.
The campground has two loops – the upper and lower loop – and is located along a mountainside nestled among Ponderosa pine and aspen. The lower loop overlooks Snow Lake. Surrounding views are of mountain meadows dotted with stands of Ponderosa pine. It’s fairly open, with few trees for shade, but the open meadows, lake, and vistas are beautiful.
Gallo Campground at Chaco Canyon – Camping in New Mexico
PO Box 220
Nageezi, NM 87037
Phone: (505) 786-7014
Campers don’t go to Gallo Campground for the amenities. They go for the mystery, the history, and the UFOs. All the campground has to offer are water, bathrooms, picnic table, and fire grate. There’s no shopping, no theme parks, nothing to “do” around Chaco other than explore ancient Chaco ruins and hope you see a UFO without being abducted by one. There’s a good chance you might—see one that is.
Chaco is the 12th park in the world to be certified as a Dark Sky Park, meaning that it’s ideal for stargazing, and for spotting visitors from other planets. Robert Redford describes the place as “magical” and endorses the film, The Mystery of Chaco Canyon — a film with a backpack full of over a dozen awards.
Gallo Campground offers 49 sites, plus 2 group sites and it can accommodate RVs under 35 feet. Sites 36-49 are for tent camping only. Most of the other sites are open to RVs or tents. Car camping is allowed. Trailers and RVs over 35 feet in length cannot be accommodated. There are no hook-ups. A dump station is located in the campground. Generators may be operated one hour at a time between 8:00AM and 8:00PM. Reservations are needed as this place fills up fast—especially on weekends.
The campground is located one mile east of the Visitor Center, and is open year-round. You’ll camp in a rugged environment, surrounded by petroglyphs, a cliff dwelling, inscriptions, and a high desert landscape. There is no shade. The campsites are available by reservation. Camping is limited to 14 days. Each campsite costs $15.00 per night. Interagency Senior and Access pass holders pay $7.50 per site, per night. There is a limit of six people, two tents, and two vehicles at each campsite. Check-out time is 11:00 AM.
Each site has a picnic table and fire grate (with a grill). Bring your own firewood or charcoal. Gathering wood is prohibited and no firewood is available in the park. Most sites include a tent pad. Pets are permitted, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Don’t approach or feed the wildlife. The campground has water (non-potable) and restrooms with flush toilets. The restrooms are closed from the day after Veterans Day through the end of February. Porta Pottys are available during this time. Site #11 and both restrooms are handicap accessible. There are no showers or hook-ups. Drinking water is available 24 hours a day in the Visitor Center parking area. There is no gasoline, auto repair, food, or ice available in the park. To make the most of your visit, please plan ahead and come prepared.
Bottomless Lakes State Park – Camping in New Mexico
545 Bottomless Lakes Rd
Roswell, NM 88203
Phone: (575) 624-6058
If you like lakes, Bottomless Lakes State Park has eight lakes all within the park. All were originally caves, or sinkholes, flooded by seepage from the underground water table, and exposed due to gradual erosion of the overlying rocks.
Fishing is allowed in two of the lakes (Cottonwood Lake, Devil’s Inkwell), and swimming in one (Lea Lake, the largest). Lea Lake is also next to a campground with 32 campsites with hookups and showers, a pavilion and a picnic area. Although recreation is the reason most people visit, the lakes are good photographic subjects, and the place is easily reached, being just a few miles from the major cross-state highway US 380. The lakes have dark water and steep sides which led early explorers to think the depths were limitless, though they actually range from 17 feet to 90 feet.
The lakes can be seen from the park road or by short hikes, and although geologically significant they are perhaps not quite as interesting as might be imagined as the surrounding landscape is rather drab, dusty and featureless.