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5 Best New Mexico State Parks for Camping in the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico, fondly known as the ‘Land of Enchantment,’ isn’t just a name—it’s a promise of the wonders that await. From its mountainous desert landscapes dotted with sagebrush to the mysterious echoes of ancient civilizations in cliff dwellings, the state is a camper’s dream. While there are numerous spots to pitch a tent or park an RV, some New Mexico state parks truly stand out as prime camping destinations.

Join us as we journey through the five best New Mexico state parks that offer not just a place to camp, but an immersive experience into the magic and mystique of this incredible state.

A Local's Guide To Must-See New Mexico | Best In Travel 2023

How Many New Mexico State Parks Are There?

There are 35 New Mexico state parks. Almost all allow pets except Rio Grande Nature Center State Park and Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park, which only permit service dogs. Pancho Villa is the southernmost park, just a few miles from the Mexico border, while Sugarite Canyon is the northernmost park, south of the Colorado border. Other state parks are primarily off I-25 and I-40.

The New Mexico state parks offer year-round recreational activities. Birding and wildlife viewing are trendy pastimes while visiting. Due to the many state parks on lakes, officials permit boating, fishing, and swimming. For visitors who prefer hiking, 22 of the parks have established trail systems. Adventurers enjoy ice fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in the winter.

During our first trip to New Mexico, we were absolutely blown away by the terrain, recreational opportunities, and history protected in their state parks. To this day it is one of the states that has surprised us most.

Sunrise over New Mexico National Park
New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment and is filled with many stunning national and state parks.

Is There Camping in New Mexico State Parks?

Of the 35 state parks in New Mexico, 30 offer camping. Some locations allow primitive, tent camping only, while others have full hookups for RVs. Officials also allow beach camping, boat-in camping, and equestrian camping at certain state parks.

Depending on the New Mexico state park, camping amenities may include vault toilets, comfort stations, showers, and potable water. Some sites offer picnic tables and grills.

Pro Tip: You’ll love camping at one of these 6 Best Ruidoso RV Parks and Campgrounds for Your New Mexico Camping Trip.

How Much Does New Mexico State Park Camping Cost?

New Mexico offers a New Mexico State Park Annual Camping Pass. It costs $180 for In-State campers and $225 for Out-of-State campers.

Without the annual camping pass, primitive camping is usually around $8/night in New Mexico State Parks. Developed sites range from around $10-18. Camping fees are also per vehicle, so you’ll pay additional fees if you travel with multiple cars. You can make reservations on the Reserve America website. Type in the location and search for availability by your dates, RV length, and desired amenities.

The Annual Camping pass works for camping in all NM state parks, and is a great deal if you plan on spending at least 28 days primitive camping or 12-22 days in developed sites. Also, note that this does not cover transaction fees when you book your reservation.

The New Mexico State Park Annual Pass - Detailed Cost and Was It Worth It?

5 Best New Mexico State Parks For Camping

With so many New Mexico state park camping choices, it’s hard to know which locations offer the best experiences. We did the work for you and have listed our top five choices. Four offer lakeside views, while Oliver Lee provides easy access to White Sands National Park. Let’s dive in!

1. Navajo Lake State Park

During the summer, you’ll find Navajo Lake full of motorized boaters, canoers, kayakers, water skiers, and sailors. This New Mexico state park camping location has the state’s second-largest lake. Many anglers enjoy flyfishing the San Juan River and book guided excursions with local outfitters. There are two marinas and two boat docks in addition to 4.4 miles of trails and beach access.

At Navajo Lake State Park, there are seven campgrounds with over 200 developed campsites including electric, water and electric, and full hookups. There’s also boat-in camping and beach camping for guests wanting a more primitive adventure.

You can make all New Mexico State Park camping reservations up to six months in advance. Campsites at Navajo Lake State Park range from around $10-45 per night. The park is off Highway 511 in the northwestern part of the state, about 30 minutes from Bloomfield. The Navajo Lake stretches across the Colorado border.

2. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park

Another spot for New Mexico State Park camping is Oliver Lee Memorial State Park in the Chihuahuan Desert against the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico. One of the best features of this state park is its proximity to White Sands National Park. Many RVers stay here when they visit the national park since the visitor center is only about 30 minutes away.

This historical state park preserves the homestead of Oliver Milton Lee, an important figure in New Mexico’s history. In 1893, he settled at the mouth of Dog Canyon, built a house and ranch, helped bring water to the Tularosa Basin, and helped establish the town of Alamogordo. This unique town is a trendy tourist destination only about 30 minutes away.

The campground at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park has water and electric sites, dry sites, hydrants, restrooms, and a dump station. The park is off Highway 54, about 12 miles south of Alamogordo.

RV campsite in New Mexico
New Mexico has 35 stunning state parks to explore.

3. Heron Lake State Park

Heron Lake State Park is another location near the Colorado border. It’s much quieter than Navajo Lake because boats must operate at no wake speeds. Sailing, cross-country skiing, hiking, wildlife viewing, and fishing are exciting activities. Anglers have caught record-size trout and kokanee salmon, and in the winter, outdoor adventurers enjoy ice fishing. Various wildlife that visitors may see include mountain lions, black bears, elk, deer, marmots, bald eagles, and osprey.

Heron Lake State Park also has a boat dock, boat ramps, a marina, and eight developed campgrounds. There are three primitive camping spots, including boat-in camping and shoreline camping. The campgrounds at the state park include bathhouses, potable water, dump stations, fire rings, and picnic tables. Some sites offer water and electricity. A few provide full hookups.

Tent camping in New Mexico
Enjoy lakeside views or rugged terrain while camping in a New Mexico state park.

4. Elephant Butte Lake State Park

About 80 miles north of Las Cruces is New Mexico’s largest state park. Elephant Butte State Park has room for water enthusiasts with kayaks, jet skis, pontoons, sailboats, ski boats, cruisers, and houseboats. The sandy beaches attract visitors yearly to enjoy the summer sun. Fishing, scuba diving, hiking, swimming, and birding are other activities.

At Elephant Butte State Park, there’s a marina, boat dock, boat ramp, boat rentals, and over 170 developed campsites. Some sites have water and electricity; a handful offer full hookups. There’s also primitive beach camping and boat-in camping. The campground provides restrooms, showers, fire rings, picnic tables, and a dump station.

To reach Elephant Butte, State Park, take exit 83 off I-25 and drive four or five miles to the visitor center. This park is easily accessible and convenient for travelers wanting to stay near a major interstate.

5. Santa Rosa Lake State Park

The last park on our list of best New Mexico state parks for camping is Santa Rosa Lake. Like the other state parks on New Mexico lakes, this location is great for water enthusiasts. Activities include boating, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, and water skiing. There are also equestrian trails and equestrian camping available at the Los Tanos Campground. Fishing, swimming, birding, and hiking are other standard recreational activities.

The three campgrounds offer dozens of sites. Los Tanos and Juniper have no hookups but offer potable water stations and comfort stations. Rocky Point A offers electric service, but Rocky Point B has no services. The state park is north of Santa Rosa off I-40 about 8 miles.

RV campsite in New Mexico state park
Make a reservation ahead of time to ensure you secure your campsite in a New Mexico state park.

When Is the Best Time for New Mexico State Parks Camping?

New Mexico state parks are open year-round. Some parks will accept reservations during the non-peak season while others only allow for first-come, first-served camping. However, if you plan on visiting busy state parks, especially in the summer, you’ll want to make reservations early.

When you check out the New Mexico state parks, pay close attention to the elevation and location. If you’re visiting in the middle of summer, chose higher-elevation parks. In the fall, winter, and spring, chose lower-elevation parks.

For example, the best time to visit Oliver Lee Memorial State Park may not be the best time to visit Heron Lake State Park. Oliver Lee sits in the Chihuahuan Desert at 4,400 feet, while Heron Lake sits at over 7,100 feet. Unless you plan on ice fishing, it’s best to avoid Heron Lake in the winter. However, you could book a stay at Oliver Lee and explore White Sands National Park during the winter.

Pro Tip: Take some time to explore these 7 Most Amazing New Mexico National Parks during your trip.

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Enjoy the Land of Enchantment With New Mexico State Parks Camping This Season

There’s a reason New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. It’s a beautiful state with gorgeous lakes, mountain ranges, rivers, and deserts. You’ll have plenty of outdoor recreational activities to keep you busy. Or if you prefer a more relaxing weekend, sit outside and listen to the birds, read a book by the beach, or sit by the campfire and take in the scenery.

New Mexico state park camping is excellent for any type of traveler. The hardest part is deciding which park you’ll visit on your trip to the Land of Enchantment!

Which state park will you see first? Tell us in the comments!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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Steve H

Friday 11th of August 2023

We have stayed at all the NMSP campgrounds mentioned except Oliver Lee. Also Sugarite Canyon, Bottomless Lakes, Caballo Lake, Clayton Lake (with dinosaur tracks in the spillway), Rockhound, and Cimarron Canyon SPs. Best SP bargain in the nation @ $14/night for W/E sites with the day pass, flush toilets, hot showers, dump station, hiking and biking trails, and a lake for boating and fishing included in that price. We stay at NM SPs every time we go to NM from our Colorado home!