Exploring New Mexico by RV: Best Places to Camp in the Land of Enchantment
New Mexico is home to some of the best free national forest camping, cheap camping in state parks, and rugged ample dispersed BLM land. Quaint little towns full of artists and the rich history of the people who’ve lived here for thousands of years dot two lane roads that wind forever away from the hustle and bustle of civilization.
All you need to do is pick a location, and get started with your search for the perfect place to call home for your home on wheels.
RV Camping in National Forests of New Mexico
Home to millions of acres of forestland, from pinyon pine deserts to tall ponderosa pines, the US Forest Service provides enough campgrounds and wild camping locations to fill a lifetime’s worth of adventures.
Carson National Forest
RV camping in Carson National Forest puts you in the heart of the mountains north of Santa Fe, on your way to Colorado, and the experience all around plays to this theme.
Home to Wheeler Peak, a 13,000 foot behemoth surrounded by several companions over 12,000 feet themselves, silver faced, snow capped ridges and dense pine forests ready you for the transition from the Land of Enchantment to the beginnings of Colorado’s more typically perceived Rocky Mountain experience.
Not that you need to rush through, mind you. In the center of the three major swatches that make up Carson National Forest is Taos, New Mexico, an artsy little villa that beckons everyone from bikers to bodhisattvas to explore whatever mystical nature the town seems to hold.
While the entire region, like the state itself, is known for having a sort of serene magic to it all, there are also plenty of folks who take to the forest to participate in activities decidedly more loud. Should you be looking for peace and quiet, we highly recommend you do your homework.
And of course, come back and tell us about where you stayed and what you thought of your campsite!
Cibola National Forest
Unlike most national forests, Cibola is more like the gods (aka National Forest Service), took a bag of giant dice and tossed them across New Mexico. Wherever they landed, they called that stretch of forest “Cibola.” Some of them even fell as far away as Texas and Oklahoma.
Still, much of Cibola remains raw and largely undisturbed, if disjointed, with places with curiously interesting names like Apache Kid Wilderness and fire scorched otherworlds like Manzano Mountain Wilderness.
Aside from scrubby forests and red rock cliff outcroppings, parts of the national forest comprise grasslands as montane New Mexico flirts with the oncoming flatlands of the Great Plains.
Regardless of which portion of Cebola National Forest you find yourself exploring, there are a plethora of campgrounds (many often empty) just waiting for you and your rig.
Gila National Forest
Some may find the humor in the notion that Gila Wilderness holds the peculiar designation of being the world’s first “wilderness area,” as though all of nature’s wild things were just sitting around waiting for some official to come along and truly proclaim them wild…others may just be happy that this sliver (and the entire surrounding national forest as well) exist for their outdoor amusement today.
Long winding roads through juniper forests showcase the southwest’s most exotic display of creatures, from the comical roadrunner to the elusive gila monster.
Lincoln National Forest
Why a national forest in New Mexico is named for Abraham Lincoln is a mystery best left to the shadowy throws of some long gone morning’s mist, but we can say for sure is that this national forest fills the gaps left by Carlsbad National Park’s lack of RV camping, with plenty of adventure and the promise of the unknown. Not to mention that it’s the birthplace of the original, actual Smokey the Bear.
Legend has it that during an immense forest fire, a young black bear cub escaped seemingly certain death by climbing a tree, but not before his paws were singed. Rescued, he quickly rose to fame and now travels the nation dousing people’s fires if they get out of hand.
It’s true, ask any bear in Lincoln National Forest and they’ll tell you the same.
Santa Fe National Forest
Wrapped all around the city by the same name, Santa Fe National Forest holds everything from quaint little campgrounds to vista-laden dispersed camping. The perfect settings for exploring everything this forest has to offer, from the hot springs and fumaroles of Valles Caldera National Monument to the cliff dwellings of the Ancient Puebloans in Bandalier National Monument.
RV Camping in New Mexico’s State Parks
With camping fees starting at as low as $8 per night for absolutely no amenities, to a mere $18 for full hookups (a steal considering most state’s don’t offer full hookups at all in their state parks, and certainly not for under $20), state park camping in New Mexico is one of the best ways to see the Land of Enchantment.
Add to that New Mexico’s annual state park pass, that gets you $10 off any available campsite in the park system, and you’re talking seriously cheap camping…though note that if you’re not a NM resident, the annual pass costs a whopping $225. So you’ll want to plan on staying in the state for a considerable amount of time before making that purchase.
Topping it off, unlike neighboring Colorado and Texas, there is no additional “day use” pass required when you camp in a New Mexico State Park.
Luxury Camping in New Mexico
Perhaps you’ve had enough of this pesky wide open nature stuff and just want to dip your toes in a little opulence for awhile. New Mexico isn’t going to let you down, and while a plethora of private RV parks exist, with the typical showers, laundry, maybe even a pool, these are the creme of the desert’s latest crop.
Take Angel Fire RV Resort for example. You don’t just get a cushy spot near a ski resort (yeah, they have one of those here), your nightly stay also garners you access to a putting green, a swimming pool…someone even comes to your site to pick up trash on a daily basis. All that, and at a decent rate if you’ve got Passport America to boot! Did we mention there’s a country club attached?
Not interested in the possibility of a dusting of snow on your site and want to drop a few coins off at the casino? Route 66 RV Resort and Casino might be more up your sleeve. Or stick with what you know and drop in at a surprisingly lush KOA near Carlsbad, where they even offer room service right to your RV!