If you’re looking for a way to live inexpensively while traveling through a beautiful part of the country, look no further than boondocking in New Mexico. You’ll find stunning views, historical mysteries and a wide variety of landscapes to explore.
With one of the most useful state park passes in the U.S., the Land of Enchantment makes it easy to cruise back roads, venture through the desert Southwest and even explore parts of Route 66 on a small budget.
Out-of-state travelers can purchase a year-long park pass for $225—this grants entrance into any of the state’s 34 parks. You can camp in dispersed sites for free or, if you desire less rustic accommodations with electricity and water, the cost is only $4 per night—not a bad deal for a night’s lodging.
Visitors are limited to a 14-day stay, then they must move on … to another state park, if you like! Even if you don’t purchase a state park pass, boondocking sites are $10 a night and those with electricity and water will only run you $14.
What really makes New Mexico state parks great is that they are usually located on lakes or near scenic locations and have hot showers and clean restrooms available for all. The parks are sprinkled from the northern most part of the state all the way down to the Mexican border, so terrain can vary from mountainous forests to hot desert landscapes.
The state harbors five different national forests, which lie mainly in the mountains and prairies. Carson National Forest is the northernmost forested area, covering the southern Rocky Mountains north of Taos. Santa National Forest is just south of there, within the boundaries of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Gila National Forest is in the western part of New Mexico and is the most rugged. Lincoln National Forest lies in the southern part of the state, starting with the Jicarilla Mountains and continuing on south through the Guadalupe Mountains, and Cibola National Forest is in the west-central part of the state.
Dispersed camping is allowed in all of these national forests unless otherwise marked. In most cases, these sites will be primitive with no amenities, but on occasion you may come across a campsite with a pit toilet or picnic table. Campsites are usually free unless they’re located in an organized campground. Many times there will be group sites available as well, and some of these can be reserved in advance. Again, keep in mind that there is a 14-day limit for your stay, then you must move on to a different area.
The national forests offer hundreds of options for free or low cost camping to those who enjoy a bit of wilderness with peace and quiet.
Corps of Engineers
The US Army Corps of Engineers manages water recreation areas throughout the U.S. The sites usually have camping available: some have full hookups for RVs and others offer only a fire ring and some showers, but they are located on lakes and waterways that provide dozens of options for entertainment.
Many campsites accept reservations, and there is usually a small charge. However, if you have a national parks pass, your entrance fee is waved and you will receive a 50 percent discount on camping fees—a great price to pay for a lake vacation.
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management is caretaker to millions of acres of public land, and New Mexico has several areas in which they allow dispersed camping. Much like the national forests, BLM lands have some organized campgrounds, along with many primitive sites for use. There is usually a small fee—anywhere from $4 to $10—for boondocking, and a 14-day limit is enforced.
You’ll have hundreds of stunning locations from which to pick. Most sites are located away from large communities and settlements, so if privacy and room to explore are top concerns for you, check out this option.
New Mexico has 15 casinos and virtually all of them allow overnight parking. Many have hookups for a small charge, and several casinos even have their own RV parks if you’d like full amenities. Here’s a list of locations and what you can expect from each. Be sure to call ahead if you have questions.
Explore the Land of Enchantment
The state of New Mexico offers so many options for free or low cost camping. Maybe now’s the time for you to explore more in the Land of Enchantment with an RV rental from Outdoorsy. You’ll have the opportunity to “try on” a motorhome or travel trailer before you purchase your very own, and you’ll get to wander around an iconic part of the southwestern U.S.—what could be better?
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