5 Boondocking Locations and Free Campsites in New Mexico



New Mexico is a state that doesn’t get a lot of attention; it lacks the name-brand national parks of Arizona and the trendy tourist spots of neighboring Colorado. Depending on the type of traveler you are, though, that’s exactly why New Mexico should be on your RV travel bucket list!

Natural wonders abound in the Land of Enchantment, from the voluminous caves at Carlsbad Caverns, to the other-worldly dunes of White Sands National Park, to the ancient cave dwellings at Chaco Canyon. Fortunately for travelers like you, there’s also no shortage of free or almost free campsites in this state. 

Can I Go Boondocking in New Mexico?

Absolutely, the Land of Enchantment has over two million acres of BLM land, nine national monuments, two national parks, and five national forests (Carson, Cibola, Lincoln, Gila, and Santa Fe), many of which you can camp for free in! Most of which are first-come, first-served. However, there are a few dozen state parks offering free dispersed camping or reserved sites with a few amenities for a nominal fee. 

Unlike many other states, New Mexico doesn’t exclude boondockers from camping in private parking lots. Walmarts, casinos, and a few restaurants and stores permit this so long as you’re spending some money with them. While the lands surrounding cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe are largely private, you don’t need to drive very far to go boondocking in New Mexico.

New Mexico is a large state, though, with widely varying climate and terrain. Down south, come prepared for desert conditions with plenty of water, fans, and your own shade (trees can be in short supply). The northern part of the state features colossal mountains, with plenty of peaks over 10,000 feet. Be sure to bring a fully functioning heater, some blankets, and a supply of hot cocoa to keep you warm on chilly nights. Read on for some of the best spots for boondocking New Mexico!

Top Locations For Boondocking in New Mexico

There are so many options for boondocking New Mexico that you don’t necessarily have to plan your trip around the campsites. Start by figuring out the attractions you want to visit and things you want to do, then find a campsite close to it. If you’re looking for a place to start, though, these are some of the best places for boondocking in New Mexico.

The Cosmic Campground

Amenities: Located in the sparsely populated southwestern part of the state, this is the campground to visit for stargazing. It gets incredibly dark here, with the nearest significant light source almost forty miles away. Sites are primitive, consisting of concrete pads, a fire ring, a picnic table, and a vault toilet. A few smaller concrete pads that sit further away from the campsites are reserved for setting up telescopes. 

Capacity: There are several sites within the campground and even more along the dirt road approaching it. Sites inside the park include a concrete pad that can accommodate a 32-foot RV.

More information: The Cosmic Campground

Cimarron Canyon

Amenities: As a state park, Cimarron Canyon is considerably more developed than some of the federal sites in New Mexico. There are three campgrounds in the canyon (Tolby, Maverick, and Ponderosa), and each has around twenty or more sites with fire rings and grills but are otherwise fairly basic. All of them have easy access to the Cimarron River.

Capacity: 20 sites in Tolby Campground, 40 sites in Maverick Campground, and 17 sites in Ponderosa Campground ranging from 16 to 45 feet

More information: Cimarron Canyon

Pecos River Corridor Recreation Area

Amenities: Located just up the road from Carlsbad Cavern, this is the perfect spot to rest after a national park adventure. The camping area is quite primitive, with dispersed camping being the only real option. However, most come to enjoy the river, and the recreation area has its own boat ramp. Be sure to empty your tanks beforehand, as there are no restrooms in the area.

Capacity: 51 sites. Be careful about dispersed camping outside the designated camping areas as much of the area is private land.

More information: Pecos River Corridor Recreation Area

Aguirre Spring Campground

Amenities: If you love desert camping, this is your place for boondocking New Mexico. It’s only half an hour from Las Cruces and forty-five minutes to White Sands National Park. The campground sits near the base of the rugged Organ Mountains, providing a stunning backdrop for your boondocking adventure. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring, and access to vault toilets and drinking water. The Baylor Canyon and Pine Tree Trails leave directly from the campsite.

Capacity: 55 sites

More information: Aguirre Spring Campground

Datil Well Recreation Area Campground

Amenities: This campground surrounds one of the fifteen water wells along the historic Magdalena Stock Driveway, a route used by cowboys in the late 1800s to move their cattle to the railhead at Magdalena. Sites here include picnic tables, fire rings, grills, drinking water, and vault toilets. There are also three miles of hiking trails to enjoy, where you can see some of the area’s native plants and wildlife.

Capacity: 22 sites

More information: Datil Well Recreation Area Campground

Experience the Land of Enchantment With Cruise America

New Mexico is one of the least traveled states, and it’s certainly not for want of attractions. The tourist industry simply isn’t as big as neighboring states like Arizona and Colorado, which is why it pays to carry your accommodations with you.

Choosing a Cruise America RV rental is the ideal way to get off the beaten path in New Mexico. Not that anywhere in the state is overrun with tourists, but some of the real hidden gems can only be explored with your own set of wheels. Check out Cruise America’s great selection of RVs, ranging from spartan models for the road tripper on a budget to some of the most luxurious RVs you could ever imagine. To start your adventure, reserve an RV today!