Comales Campground in Carson National Forest, New Mexico.
Campsites in the Southwest can be grouped in five distinct categories:
Southern Colorado and New Mexico have examples of each of these categories. We have visited many of these campsites, and can guide you to the best ones. Of course, "best" is a subjective term and depends upon your camping requirements. Do you want the best... scenery? hiking area? privacy? Do you require hookups for your trailer or motorhome? These, and many more factors will be covered in our evaluations.
Surprisingly, National Park campsites often offer the fewest amenities of all the five categories. Possibly this is because they are the oldest, and have not been updated for modern camping. They are often just a pull-in spot with no hookups. The restrooms usually offer flush toilets and sinks, but no showers. The campsites are usually packed with visitors. You will find little privacy here. But you do have easy access to all the natural features which a national park offers. Our advice is to seek a campsite with the features you desire outside the national park boundary, but near enough to be able to drive to the national park in a short time. A great example of this is Great Sand Dunes National Park in Southern Colorado which offers a scenic campsite, but the sites are small, close together, and difficult to access with a trailer or motor home. Just one mile outside of the park however, is Great Sand Dunes Oasis which offers hookup sites with easy accessibility. Perhaps even a better option is the lightly visited San Luis Lakes State Park, immediately adjacent to the national park on the west. The state park sites have great views of the Sand Dunes, are spacious, and offer hookups.
Hikers in Great Sand Dunes National Park are crossing Medano Creek after hiking the dunes to the left, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background.
Southern Colorado and New Mexico state parks are often hidden gems. Surprisingly, many of these parks have full hookups, dump stations, and showers. And they are usually located in a scenic area with hiking opportunities. Camping reservations for New Mexico State Parks can be made at www.reserveamerica.com and reservations for Colorado State Parks can be made at www.cpwshop.com/campinghome.page
A sandhill crane perches on the hiker bridge over the Pecos River in Villanueva State Park, northern New Mexico.
The National Forests of Southern Colorado and New Mexico are simply spectacular places. The scenery is magnificent, hiking opportunities abound, and campsites are numerous. These campsites are usually primitive with no hookups and pit toilets. However, if you have a self-contained rig such as a trailer or motor home and you've prepared with water supply and generator, you will love these sites. They are also perfect for tent campers. Recently some National Forest campsites have added hookups, particularly in southern Colorado. Examples of these are Matterhorn Campground south of Telluride, and One Mile Campground south of Crested Butte. Reservations are essential for the hookup sites, and can be secured at www.recreation.gov
Hopewell Lake Campground in Carson National Forest, northern New Mexico.
Don't overlook BLM campsites. There are some excellent ones in very scenic places, and some have hookups. In the past few years, the BLM has taken on the responsibility of administering some National Monuments such as Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. There are campsites with hookups here at the Orilla Verde area of the Monument. https://www.blm.gov/visit/orilla-verde-recreation-area
Another example of a BLM campsite with hookups is the Valley of Fires Campground just west of Carrizozo in southern New Mexico. It's a very scenic area perched on a bluff overlooking extensive lava fields with a roundtrip trail through the fields. https://www.blm.gov/visit/valley-of-fires
Taos Junction Bridge over the Rio Grande in the Orilla Verde area of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, administered by the BLM.
There are not many of these Army Corps campsites, but two excellent examples are in northern New Mexico at Abiquiu Lake and Cochiti Lake. Both lakes were created by dams engineered by the Army Corps, which built campsites along the lake shores. The Rio Chama is dammed at Abiquiu Lake, and the Rio Grande is dammed at Cochiti Lake. Both areas offer hiking, swimming, and boating, and are very scenic. These Army Corps campsites may be reserved at www.recreation.gov
Abiquiu Lake and Pedernal mountain, the subject of many of Georgia O'Keeffe's famous paintings of the Southwest.
If you've visited the State Parks of Southern Colorado and New Mexico, you're bound to have a favorite campsite or even several! Let us know yours, and send a photo if you'd like to. Or if you disagree with our selections, let us know why.