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Cibola National Forest was originally established in the late 1800s as a forest reserve park. The national forest's status was upgraded in the 1950s to grant it additional protection. The origin of Cibola, which is pronounced as “SEE-bo-lah,” is murky. It’s thought to be either a Zuni Native American word for their pueblos, which once dotted New Mexico or a Spanish word for buffalo.
Cibola National Forest sprawls across a huge swath of New Mexico, and small portions are also in Texas and Oklahoma. Though it’s clear that various Native American tribes have dwelled in this region for a few hundred years, archeologists have found evidence of human presence as far back as 14,000 years ago.
The closest large town, Albuquerque, boasts a vibrant culture, music, and art scene. It’s also the site of one of the larger airports close to the park. From the closest entrance points, it is about 15 miles to the center of the city. Book an RV in Bernalillo County, NM, and get ready to make new RV camping memories to last a lifetime.
Encompassing an astounding 1.6 million acres, Cibola National Forest is divided into four districts to make it easier for rangers to manage: Mountainair, Sandia, Magdalena, and Mt. Taylor. A majority of these districts are inside the New Mexico state border. There are several hundred miles of established trails for hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers to explore. The buttes and mesas rising from the panoramic desert also are popular with rock climbers. It’s not uncommon to spot a colorful speck slowly inching its way up a massive rock face on an early morning. Due to the extreme temperature and weather conditions, rock climbers tend to hit their favorite crags very early in the morning to beat the heat.
In spite of the arid, harsh desert conditions, wildlife is surprisingly abundant, especially in the lowlands, arroyos, and canyons where water can be more easily found. In the wooded regions, which is farther north, black bear, deer, and elks are common sights. Elsewhere in Cibola National Forest, cougars, pronghorns, and several other species of wildlife can be observed both in air and on land. Biologists know that there are at least 30 endangered and threatened species dwelling within the park, including the Mexican spotted owl.
Further away from the city, the night sky is especially clear thanks to low humidity and pollution. The Milky Way is easy to view during the summer months, and in winters, several nebulas and astronomical bodies can be seen with the naked eye.
By renting a camper, it’s easier to get an early start on a long hike or fishing excursion. RV camp at Cibola National Forest, which has 18 developed campgrounds for RVs and tents. The McGaffey Campground near Gallup is one of the few National Forest campgrounds with full hookups for RVs and campers. However, bear in mind that reservations cannot be made online, and RV sites are handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Ojo Redondo, which is close to Grants, along with the other campgrounds at Cibola National Forest, is a small, primitive campground. The access roads, particularly in the wintertime, can be difficult to navigate in a larger rig.
Alternatively, camp in an RV near Albuquerque to benefit from the city utilities. The KOA in Bernalillo, can accommodate rigs up to 100 feet long and includes electric, wifi, and cable. The family-friendly facility also has a swimming pool and an outdoor movie theater.
Though Albuquerque is famous for being mentioned by a Looney Tunes character on a regular basis along with its fabulous annual Balloon Fiesta, the neighboring towns have plenty of charm, history, and attractions, which can be discovered with only the help of a rental motorhome. Algodones, NM, is in particular known for its casino, the Black Mesa Casino. In addition to over 600 slot machines, it also features poker tables and delicious restaurant fare.
Near Edgewood, NM is a small wildlife rescue organization that doubles as an education center. Visitors can get up and close with several rare, exotic critters like great horned owls, golden eagles, bobcats, caracara, and several more. The rescue is open daily throughout the year. Tinkertown Museum, found in La Sandia, NM, is a hybrid of a diorama museum and art gallery. The curious museum has operated since 1983. Inside, visitors are treated to dioramas that depict various elements of the Old West era, like saloons, blacksmith shops, and the famous Boot Hill.
At the end of a long day of adventuring and sightseeing, kick up your heels outside a camper rental and enjoy the sunset on a warm evening.