This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy.

Where to Go Boondocking in New Mexico: Best Paid and Free RV Campsites

Published on September 20th, 2023 by Chelsea Gonzales
This post was updated on March 19th, 2024

Are you visiting Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta? This amazing event really shows off the Land of Enchantment, and boondocking in New Mexico adds to the experience.

That’s because in New Mexico, you will find incredible things to see and do around every corner. Whether you enjoy taking a leisurely hike, kayaking on whitewater, exploring ancient ruins, or just relaxing, you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities to fill every single day of your trip. On top of that, there are plenty of museums and other indoor attractions for those chilly fall days when staying in is a better idea.

Among the best things about this awesome state are all of the spectacular views it has to offer. Traveling in an RV gives you the unique opportunity to plant your home-on-wheels right in the middle of these views, and make them the first things you see each morning.

Sign up for the newsletter today!

Please enter a valid email address.

An error occurred. Please try again later.

× logo

Thank you for subscribing to the RV Living newsletter, keep your eye on your inbox for updates.

That said, in order to get the best views out your camper windows, you have to be willing to do some off-grid boondocking in New Mexico.

Lucky for you, New Mexico is the perfect place to do some dispersed camping in your RV!

When to Go Boondocking in New Mexico

When planning to boondock on BLM land in your camper, weather should always be a consideration. After all, you won’t have electric hookups, so running the air conditioner must be done sparingly, if it can be done at all. Likewise, you won’t want to be running the propane furnace all night and all day, as you’ll quickly run out of fuel. Besides, driving rough access roads to get to boondocking spots when the weather is less than ideal is never a great idea.

Tent trailer boondocking in New Mexico
For amazing views, you need to go dry camping in New Mexico

The good news? New Mexico has areas that are good for boondocking no matter when you visit:

  • Planning to visit New Mexico in the winter? Head to the southern part of the state where daytime highs tend to hang around 60°, meaning the heater will only need to run at night and you likely won’t run into snow.
  • Want to visit in summer? Just go north, and in the hottest parts of the year, head to higher elevations for nice, cool nights that won’t require air conditioning.

Of course, it’s always good to pay attention to the weather forecast, as you never know when temperatures might deviate from their norms.

Finding Spots for Boondocking in New Mexico

The next important thing to consider is where you will do your boondocking in New Mexico. Lucky for you, there are boondocking spots around every corner in the Land of Enchantment, meaning it should be easy enough to find dry camping spots no matter where you roam.

New Mexico scenery
Dry camping locations are not hard to find.

New Mexico State Parks Camping Pass

One of our favorite options for boondocking in New Mexico is the state parks annual camping pass. As of 2023, this handy permit costs only $180 a year for New Mexico residents and $225 for non-residents. It gives you access to free dry camping in the state park campgrounds—or for just $4 a night, you can camp with amenities like toilets, a fire ring, picnic table, and sometimes water and electricity!

We love that camping in the state parks gives you access to hiking trailheads on public land, learning opportunities with interpretive displays, and as a bonus, these parks are almost always in scenic locations with easy access.

It should be noted that guests can only stay up to 14 nights in any New Mexico state park. That said, campers are welcome to move directly to another state park without a gap between stays.

Want more info? Reviews for most New Mexico state parks can be found at RV LIFE Campgrounds or on the RV Life app.

National Forest Boondocking in New Mexico

National forests are always a good option for boondocking. New Mexico is home to a total of five different national forests and wilderness areas:

Carson National Forest. Located in Northern New Mexico, northwest of Taos. Home to the Cebolla Mesa Campground, one of the best places to stay near Taos.
Santa Fe National Forest. Situated just southeast of Taos.
Cibola National Forest. In the heart of the state, surrounding Albuquerque.
Gila National Forest. One of the most remote dispersed camping areas in the south west portion of the state.
Lincoln National Forest. Centrally located between Socorro and Roswell, you’re likely to see a UFO in this remote recreation area.

Wherever you go, the forest services give you plenty of dry campsite for tents, RVs, and car campers. Most forest service campsites will be undeveloped, and no amenities (not even vault toilets) will be available.

Generally, New Mexico national forest boondocking offers free campsites to guests, unless the dispersed camping area is in a developed area run by the Forest Service. Either way, the camping limit for visitors is a maximum of 14 consecutive nights.

To find good campsites in a national forest, consider locating the nearest forest service station to ask a ranger. These stations can usually be found nearby—or checking on RV LIFE Trip Wizard or by filtering campground results.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Boondocking

In addition to national forests, some of the best New Mexico boondocking spots are on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. What does this mean for campers? More places for boondockers in New Mexico, of course!

Like national forests, BLM land is open for dispersed camping unless otherwise posted. Again: Undeveloped, dispersed campsites are free for anyone to use for up to 14 nights. Meanwhile, sites found in the developed campgrounds run by the Bureau of Land Management will cost a small amount per night.

We recommend searching RV LIFE Trip Wizard for good BLM campsites. Of course, you can also stop in at any BLM office to ask about good campsites in the area.

New Mexico Corps of Engineers Dry Camping

Though technically not full-fledged boondocking, the campsites at the Corps of Engineers sites in New Mexico are worth mentioning. Some of these are primitive sites that require dry camping, while others have water and electric hookups for your camper. In all cases, the campgrounds are secluded, near water, and absolutely lovely, making for the perfect getaway.

There is a fee to stay in a Corps of Engineers campsite. However, these fees tend to be relatively low. Additionally, day-use fees are waived for national parks pass holders, and those with senior or disability passes will receive a camping discount as well.

Cochiti Lake is one of the best Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds in New Mexico

Other Places to Look for Boondocking in New Mexico

Just looking for a place to spend a night while on the road? There are a number of options that might work for you while in New Mexico. 

New Mexico is also home to a number of casinos, and nearly all of them allow overnight RV parking. Some even have RV amenities with hookups, available for a small fee. 

This state also has a number of national monuments with dry camping. One of the best places to boondock in New Mexico is the Cosmic Campground near Socorro. Stargazing and astronomy fans will love the dark night sky of the location, and easy access for big-rig RVs.  

Pro Tips for Dispersed Camping in New Mexico (and Everywhere Else)

Always monitor for wildfire detours and fire restrictions. New Mexico might be in desert terrain, but fires don’t discriminate against free campsites in canyon country.

Many New Mexico boondocking campsites are located off a dirt road. Check the campground GPS coordinates but don’t rely on them completely. Carry a paper map just in case you lose cellular coverage. And please stay on the existing road to get to your preferred spot. Don’t tear up terrain with your tires.

It’s a good idea to stop by a ranger station when you are thinking about a certain off-grid campsite area. These folks can tell you things only locals know. For example, if you need to fill your freshwater tank before heading out, or if there is an existing water source with easy access.

Finally, this shouldn’t need to be said, but with all the campground closures lately, we must.

Please practice leave no trace ethics wherever you camp. Pack your trash out, and leave an area better than how you found it. The only reason New Mexico boondocking has some of the best free camping (and paid campsites too), is because people practice responsible recreation.

About the Author:

Sign up for the newsletter today!

Please enter a valid email address.

An error occurred. Please try again later.

× logo

Thank you for subscribing to the RV Living newsletter, keep your eye on your inbox for updates.