Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
Guide

Introduction

Hankering to head out and explore some new horizons? Why not load up the RV and plan a visit to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument?
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument sits outside the small town of Cerro, New Mexico. The landscape is extremely rugged and flat but also picturesque. The land rises up to 7,000 feet in total elevation. Throughout the region, such topographical features as volcano remains, river beds, and deep canyons can be seen. The historic Rio Grande river itself forms an impressive gorge moving through immense depths of volcanic rock and ash.
The monument grounds are believed to have been in use since ancient times. Many petroglyphs have been found on the premises, which indicate prehistoric life.
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is a haven for families who enjoy outdoor recreation. Among the most popular activities found here include whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and camping.
In total, the land at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument consists of 242,555 acres, which is under the care of the Bureau of Land Management. At the meeting point of the Rio Grande and Red Rivers, several campgrounds offer incredible views and wonderful hiking paths.
Avid fishermen love to flock to the region for its abundance of angling opportunities. Hunting is also a popular sport here, as is the viewing of wildlife. Among the species commonly seen at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument are bighorn sheep, mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn, and antelope.
The BLM office also offers guided hiking tours throughout the monument grounds. More information about schedules for tours can be found through the monument's website.
For an idyllic vacation in a rural and historic paradise, consider a trip to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. You'll have so much fun you'll want to visit again and again.

RV Rentals in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Transportation

Driving

There are several ways travelers can access Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. One of the most direct routes is found along Highway 64, a two-lane highway kept in good condition. However, this popular stretch of road is interrupted in spots by the gorge, and thus, drivers must use the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to continue along this route. This particular route to the popular monument is flat and devoid of tree cover, meaning clearances for RVs are not an issue.

Periodically, in the winter months, Cerro does get some snow, and the roads are kept clear during these spells to permit year-round travel. Wildlife will enter the road on occasion, so care must be taken to remain alert while driving.

Another route to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is by proceeding along Highway 522 directly from the town of Cerro. Travelers should note that there is only one lane in each direction, meaning RV campers must be prepared to pull over to the side of the road as often as is necessary in order to prevent traffic blockage. The side roads found off this central highway are primarily comprised of dirt and gravel, so it is important to reduce speed to prevent any vehicle damage.

Construction on any of the highways leading to the monument is seen only occasionally.

Parking

Parking is available via many on-site lots at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Public Transportation

There is no public transportation available to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Campgrounds and parking in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Campsites in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

First-come first-served

Orilla Verde Recreation Area Campground

Orilla Verde Recreation Area Campground is found on the grounds of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Though primarily a day-use facility, overnight camping is permitted on the premises for a fee.

This camping facility features primitive style camping for both RV and tent campers to enjoy. The on-site amenities found here include picnic areas and trash cans. Ten of the sites have water and electrical hookups, while others are primitive.

Pets are welcomed at this campground but must remain leashed. Generator use is permitted; however, all RV and tent campers are asked to respect a quiet time from 10 PM to 6 AM.

This recreational area permits camping on the premises on a year-round basis.

Upper La Junta Campground

Also found within Carson National Forest is the Upper La Junta Campground. A small camping facility, Upper La Junta Campground offers RV and tent camping year-round on a first-come, first-served basis. There are eight campsites available in total.

There are very few amenities at this primitive style campground. Found on the grounds for public use are picnic tables, toilets, and drinking water. No power or water hookups are available; however, generator use is permitted.

Dogs may join their owners on the grounds but must remain leashed.

The closest town offering groceries, gas, and other amenities is Tres Ritos.

This campground can only accommodate small RVs and trailers which measure a maximum of 16 feet in total.

Big Arsenic Springs Campground

Found within Wild Rivers Recreation Area is Big Arsenic Springs Campground. This popular public recreational center sits within the nearby Carson National Forest.

RV and tent camping are both available year-round at this much-loved camping facility. All sites are secured on a first-come, first-served basis.

The on-site amenities include drinking water, firewood, picnic tables, toilets, and trash cans.

Dogs are allowed on the premises but must remain leashed at all times.

There are no power or water hookups provided at this primitive style campground.

Seasonal activities in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Off-Season

John Dunn Bridge Recreation Site

John Dunn Recreation Area offers many attractions for families to enjoy year-round during a visit to this region. The bridge found on the grounds connects the Rio Grande to the famed Rio Hondo and is only one of three similar crossings in the region.

The bridge was destroyed then rebuilt in 1908 by businessman John Dunn. Over time, this bridge also deteriorated, and a third version was constructed in 1930.
One of the most popular activities at this recreational center is picnicking along the banks of the river. There is also a boat launch where families can take their canoes or kayaks out to enjoy the Taos Box River. White rafting is a fan favorite activity here as well.

Hiking trails are also found on the grounds as are several rock climbing walls.

Rio Grande Gorge and West Rim Trail

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is a popular attraction at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. This passageway is also commonly referred to as High Bridge. The bridge is constructed of steel and connects the Rio Grande Gorge to Taos. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge bears the distinction of being the seventh-tallest of its kind in the United States.

The main focal point of a visit here is the incredible views seen from every angle while on the bridge. This is one expedition when having a camera on hand is an absolute must.
Access to popular hiking and biking trail known as the West Rim Trail is also found here.

Taos Valley Overlook

The Taos Valley Overlook is comprised of 2,600 acres in total and offers incredible views of the gorge below. This region is set aside for recreation of the non-motorized variety, meaning off-road vehicles are not permitted here.

The Taos Valley Overlook is an excellent place for families to enjoy some vigorous mountain biking or hiking. The trails found here are moderate in both length and intensity. One of the most popular paths found on the premises is the nearly nine-mile Rift Valley Trail.

Along any hiking or biking adventure, families may be treated to the sight of such wildlife as coyotes, deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. Pinyon jays, bald and golden eagles also frequent the area.

In-Season

Orilla Verde

Orilla Verde is found along the shore of the Rio Grande river. The name Orilla Verde translates to green banks, a name that is quite fitting for this property.

The weather in this region is quite humid and dry, and it encourages an environment that supports many different species of plant and animal life. Recreational opportunities abound here including camping, boating, fishing, hiking, and more.

The property is home to seven campgrounds, and there are also multiple picnic areas that feature tables and shelters.

There is an on-site visitors' center which is open from May through October each year.

Cerro del Yuta Wilderness

The second of two wilderness locales found in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness rests along a stretch of land known as the Taos Plateau. This landscape is renowned for its terrain which reflects the effects of lava flows and shield volcanoes.

Found on the premises is the well-renowned Ute Mountain, whose immense peak can be easily seen throughout the grounds. Other incredible views seen across the vast, flat terrain include those of the Taos Plateau, the Rio Grande river, and the Sangre de Christo mountains.

Rio San Antonio Wilderness

During a visit to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument., families won't want to miss the opportunity to visit the Rio San Antonio Wilderness, one of two federal wilderness areas on the grounds. The property is quite flat and comprised of heavy grass. Elevation rises to a total height of 8,400 feet, giving families a good workout as they scale the mountainous terrain.

The gorge carved by the San Antonio River is breathtaking to behold. The surrounding landscape offers the perfect photo op with its vast tree cover of Douglas fir and spruce.