New Mexico free camping – cool, green, and beautiful

posted in: New Mexico | 0

Who knew New Mexico was so green? This isn’t just photoshop, either — this gorgeous boondocking spot really does look like this! 🙂

If you’re looking for a camping spot with cool mountain air, beautiful scenery, lush green meadows, plenty of shady trees, and a creek running right by, then this could be the spot for you.

And did I mention it’s free? Yes, it’s another amazing free campsite, this time boondocking in the Carson National Forest of New Mexico.


Boondocking FR5 Carson Forest
Sweet little boondocking spot on FR5 in New Mexico’s Carson NF

Camping near Taos, New Mexico

If you’re heading north from Taos, then Wild Rivers (Rio Grande del Norte) has awesome camping. But what about heading east from town?

There are a number of official National Forest campgrounds along Highway 64, east of Taos. Las Petacas is the one where I stayed for a night to check it out, and the others look pretty similar.

These official road-side campgrounds do have the advantage of being close to town. If you want to camp out, and drive into Taos to take advantage of all the shops, restaurants and museums, then that can be a good choice.

But unless your goal is to be close to town, Las Petacas and the others close to it are not the best campsites around:

  • They’re organized campgrounds, with spaces quite close together.
  • They can be crowded on weekends.
  • You’re surrounded by people, and lose the feeling of camping out in nature.
  • The campground is squeezed in between the highway and the creek, so you’ve got a fair amount of traffic noise.
  • And of course, they’re not free, either!

If you drive just a bit further up Highway 64, you’ll find a place that has none of these drawbacks!

Boondocking FR5, Carson Forest

Forest Road 5 in the Carson National Forest turns off Highway 64 shortly before you reach Agua Fria (driving east). This is a wide, well-maintained gravel road, which looked suitable for any vehicle when I was there.

You can boondock along FR5 in the Carson Forest
Forest road FR5 leads to this excellent boondocking campsite

As you drive up the forest road, you’ll start to see some unofficial boondocking sites, where previous campers have built stone fire rings. The place I chose was the 3rd camping site that I saw, and I know there are more options up the road past where I stopped.

I had a perfect spot at the edge of a meadow, with the creek running by about 10 feet from my camper. There are lots of trees, so it’s easy to pick a campsite for shade or sun. At about 9,000 ft elevation, it’s cool up here, refreshingly so. And while I enjoy the high desert scenery of New Mexico, the lush greenery up here made a nice change. Just be prepared for cool nights!

Nobody camped within eyesight or earshot of me, and it felt like I had the forest to myself! This campsite is far enough from the highway that I didn’t hear any traffic noise from the highway, and just a few other campers drove by on the forest road to find a spot. Most of the time, the only sounds were the trickle of the creek, and a variety of exuberant birdcalls.

Free camping in New Mexico, Carson National Forest
The view across the road from my boondocking campsite on FR5

This is a dispersed camping area, and since you’re boondocking there are no facilities. I also had no cell service here.

No people next door, beautiful area, no traffic noise, no cost… In my book, this free New Mexico campsite, boondocking on FR5 in the Carson Forest, is just about perfect! If only there was cell service, I’d give it 5* all the way. 🙂


Forest Road 5 Dispersed – Carson National Forest
Boondocking site. Good gravel road with campsites widely scattered along it. Beautiful, cool, quiet, green and free. No facilities, no cell service.

Rating: 4****
Altitude: 9,016 ft
GPS: 36.42225, -105.34229
Price: Free


Questions? Comments?

Have you boondocked up in the Carson National Forest, or camped in some of the organized campgrounds? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the Reply section below. Thanks for sharing!

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PHOTO CREDITS: Deanna Keahey

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Hi! I'm Deanna, creator of Uphill Zen. I'm currently yondering around North America with my 1986 Toyota motorhome, Zennie. What makes my heart sing is travel, adventure, and the awe-inspiring wonders of nature. Finding ways to share that joyous spirit is what this is all about.

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