Best Tent Camping: New Mexico is a must-read for campers and adventurers desiring an excursion into the Southwest. New Mexico offers a charm and beauty that is rare. From open Southwestern landscapes with blue mountains visible on the distant horizon to the meadows and streams and pines of Sugarite Canyon State Park in northern New Mexico, and on to White Sands, it is a truly an enchanting journey. This state is full of history, offering ruins and forts from the Spanish-American War, Native American pueblos, archaeology, and cliff dwellings.
Camping in New Mexico offers extensive options. Best Tent Camping: New Mexico is an indispensable guide, and the best campgrounds in and around these remarkable areas are described in great detail.
In Best Tent Camping: New Mexico, local author Monte Parr details the locations where travelers can best experience New Mexico’s incredible beauty. Amenities, price, elevation, restrictions, directions, and GPS coordinates are listed for each campground, and all locations are rated for beauty, privacy, cleanliness, and quiet.
About the Author
Monte Parr has been an avid outdoorsman since childhood. He has camped all of his life and spent hundreds of nights under the stars. He is an avid reader, with keen interests in the history of the Old West and Native American History. Since moving to New Mexico in 1988, Monte logged over 800 nights under the stars. He lives in Albuquerque, NM.
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Canjilon Lakes Campgrounds
Meadows of wildflowers abound, including Indian paintbrush and columbine.
Beauty: 5 stars
Privacy: 4 stars
Spaciousness: 5 stars
Quiet: 5 stars
Security: 4 stars
Cleanliness: 5 stars
Address: Canjilon Ranger District, P.O. Box 469, Canjilon, NM 87515
Fax: (575) 684-2486
Operated by: Canjilon Ranger District, Carson National Forest, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Open: Official season opens end of May to September 12. Due to federal budget restrictions, Forest Service management may limit recreational opportunities. Please call for current status of this campground.
Individual Sites: All sites are first come, first served. No reservations. 10 sites in Lower Canjilon Lakes Campground; 25 sites in Middle Canjilon Lakes Campground
Each site: Parking space, picnic table, and fire ring
Registration: Self-service registration after selecting campsite
Fee: $5/night for single unit, $5/night for extra vehicle
Interagency Annual Senior and access passes, America the Beautiful/Golden Age Passes are honored. If you hold the Interagency Annual Senior and access passes, America the Beautiful or Golden Age Passes, the passes must be in full view on your windshield or dash for the duration of your stay.
Elevation: Lower Campground 9,850 feet; Middle Campground: 9,830 feet
Pets: On leash.
Fires: Wood fires permitted only in provided fire rings; charcoal grills are permitted. Check with the campground host, forest service office and postings on the Camp Bulletin Board for fire restrictions.
Alcohol: Within campsite only
Quiet Hours: 10 p.m.- 6 a.m.
Stay Limit: 14 days
Canjilon (pronounced can-hee-loan) Lakes is a beautiful remote campground located several miles west of the tiny community of Canjilon, along the very bumpy Forest Service 129. Automobiles can make the trip driving slowly, but four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. Some areas on the road will slow you to 5 to 10 miles per hour. I towed a small pop-up here years ago, and will never do it again. Road conditions may deteriorate during rainy weather.
The washboard road is a reason why most RVs aren't as willing to make the trip, so this makes these two campgrounds an ideal tent-camper's retreat. Even so, there will be a few hearty RVs that tread the road.
Three cold-water lakes are located just 3 miles apart, Lower Canjilon Lake Campground has 11 sites, and Middle Canjilon Lake Campground has 32 sites. Upper Canjilon Lake has no campground but has several picnic tables and a vault toilet for picnics and fishing. Area fishing is excellent, primarily for rainbow, brook, and cutthroat trout. (It should be mentioned that there are two other campgrounds in the area, Canjilon Creek, with 4 campsites, and Trout Lakes, with 11 campsites. The latter is accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles; neither are profiled in this book.)
The altitude here is among the highest of all of the campgrounds profiled in this book. It dips down to the 40"F range many nights; even in July. Daytime temperatures rarely exceed 80"F. It can snow here anytime during the camping season.
The altitude is partly what makes Canjilon so lovely. There are many aspen groves, tall ponderosa pines, spruce, and fir. There is scrub oak near the lakes and creeks. You will see many wildflowers abounding, including Indian paintbrush and columbine. Outside the campgrounds are open meadows with tall prairie grass waving in the cool mountain breezes.
You will see some aspen groves defoliated in this area. These trees died as a result of an infestation of Western Tent Caterpillars, with past drought conditions, and other diseases contributing to their demise. Western Tent Caterpillars are widespread throughout the forests of the southwest, more than 35,800 acres has fallen victim in New Mexico alone.
Several hiking trails exist nearby, which will tire you quickly due to the altitude. Nearby Canjilon Mountain tops out at 10,913 feet. Red Hill just due west is 10,108 feet at its summit. This entire area averages more than 9,000 feet in elevation.
Most campsites are shady through the day and vary in size and privacy. Select your campsite with regard to water runoff, because some locations become a mud bog. Many of the sites are grassy and are ideal for tent camping. These two campgrounds rarely fill to capacity.
Each campsite comes with a fire ring and a picnic table. The vault toilets are modern and very clean. There is no evidence of vandalism, and Forest Service law enforcement officers patrol frequently, with an occasional visit by New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and the Rio Arriba County Sheriff's Department. The security of these campgrounds is great. Fishing licenses and possession limits are checked here on a regular basis, so beware.
There is no water here, you must bring your own. Be sure to come well supplied, because the bumpy drive to town isn't something you want to do once you get settled in. The Ranger Station is 1 mile north of the town of Canjilon on FR 129.
This is black bear country; watch for mountain lion, bobcat, and coyote as well. Keep your dogs closely monitored and leashed (6 foot leashes are recommended). You will see evidence of beaver along nearby Canjilon Creek. Raccoons are regular pests here as well. There are no bear-proof food lockers, so store all food items in your vehicle.
From the town of Canjilon, Drive northeast on FS 129 and Lower Canjilon Lake is 12 miles, on the left side of the road. Middle Canjilon Lake is 1 mile farther.
Latitude N 36" 33' 1.6"
Longitude W 106" 20' 41.6"
Elevation: 9826 per Garmin GPS, 9803 per Google Earth.
Latitude N 36" 33' 19.7"
Longitude W 106" 19' 56.8"
Elevation: 9830 per Garmin GPS, 10033 per Google Earth.
Table of Contents
Northern New Mexico Campgrounds
1. Canjilon Lakes Campgrounds
2. Chaco Canyon Campground
3. Hopewell Lake Campground
4. Columbine Campground
5. Elephant Rock Campground
6. Fawn Lakes Campground
7. Junebug Campground
8. Coyote Creek State Park Campground
9. Morphy Lake State Park Campground
10. Sugarite State Park Campgrounds
11. Valle Vidal Campgrounds
12. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Campgrounds
13. San Antonio Campground
14. Redondo Campground
15. Jemez Falls Campground
16. Bandelier National Monument
17. Fenton Lake State Park Campground
18. Clear Creek Campground
19. Rio de Las Vacas Campground
20. Black Canyon Campground
21. Field Tract Campground
22. Iron Gate Campground
23. Jacks Creek Campground
24. Villanueva State Park
25. Cochiti Lake Campgrounds
Southeastern New Mexico Campgrounds
26. Manzano Mountains State Park
27. Red Canyon Campground
28. Fourth of July Campground
29. Tajique Campground
30. Caballo Lake State Park
31. Percha Dam State Park
32. Aguirre Springs Campground
33. Valley of Fires Recreational Area
34. Oak Grove Campground
35. Silver Lake Campground
36. Pines Campground
37 Deerhead Campground
38. Sleepy Grass Campground
39. Sumner Lake State Park
Southwestern New Mexico Campgrounds
40. El Morro National Monument
41. Joe Skeen BLM National Conservation Area
42. Pancho Villa State Park
43. Water Canyon
44. Datil Well
45. Quemado Pinon Campground
46. Quemado Juniper Campground
47. Quemado El Caso Throwdown
48. Dipping Vat Campground at Snow Lake
49. City Of Rocks State Park
50. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
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