Renting an RV in New Mexico

The American West is a place of legend. It's where native peoples build civilizations that spanned the centuries. Where European settlers learned to live in the deserts and lush prairies.

New Mexico is the very center of this Western culture, with so many must-see national parks and monuments that it’s hard to believe they’re all located in the same state. With plenty of those wide-open spaces Americans dream about, New Mexico is the perfect place to plan a vacation in a rented RV.

Why Renting an RV in New Mexico Is the Way to Go

Wide-open spaces—that’s a phrase that really means something in the desert. But in the sandy plains of New Mexico, the desert hides countless destinations each worth a trip of its very own. Under the earth, the largest cave in North America tells the stories of deep geological history. On the sides of cliffs, ancient homes invite visitors to imagine the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans that once called this area home. In between? There’s that desert again. If you’re going to pack in as much of New Mexico as you can in one trip, you’re going to need to be on wheels.

With so many of these destinations on federal land, there’s always a place to park your RV and camp for the night—sometimes far from any electric hookup, and sometimes on some of the nicest developed campsites anywhere in the country.

10 Incredible Places to See in New Mexico in Your Rental RV

Very few states can boast the sheer number of historical monuments and national landmarks as New Mexico. As you explore the state, you’ll find the ruins of an ancient and sophisticated civilization you never knew were there. You’ll climb your way through deep caverns, hike winding trails to isolated watering holes, and even fish in lush meadows where massive volcanic explosions once raged.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Deep below the Chihuahuan Desert, sulfuric acid ate its way through limestone to create Carlsbad Caverns, home to the largest single-cave chamber in all of North America. There, in the “Big Room,” as it’s called, visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park can take a 1.5-hour hike through a single cavern. Above grounds, this beautiful park offers an up-close-and-personal look at desert wildlife, including regular mass flights of bats visible from a specialized bat flight amphitheater from May to October.

The park itself does not have any camping or allow overnight RV parking, but that doesn’t mean Carlsbad Caverns won’t fit into your RV trip through New Mexico. The land surrounding the park is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and therefore freely available for boondocking. White’s City, New Mexico is located seven miles away and has a campground and other amenities so those looking to hook up for the night can stay close by the park.

Learn more about Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

White Sands National Park

For thousands of years, people have been drawn to the glistening white gypsum dunes of White Sands National Park in New Mexico. There, the white dunes represented shelter and shade for some groups and precious resources for others, with each of them leaving a piece of their culture behind. Visit the park to see the historic pueblos and ranches and of course, the white dunes themselves, which are home to countless species of desert flora and fauna.

White Sands National Park does not offer camping of any kind. However, the National Park Service recommends many RV-friendly campgrounds within one hour of the park, many of which are located in and around nearby Alamogordo and Las Cruces, NM. To find the best overnight spot for your RV trip, check out Oliver Lee State Park, Aguirre Springs Recreation Area, and Lincoln National Forest. Learn more about White Sands National Park.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

The caves in the cliffs overlooking the Gila River have provided safety and shelter to people in the area for countless millennia. It was the Mogollon people who decided, for a short time, to build out homes in the caves and stay for a while, and it is their homes that serve as the centerpiece of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. A landmark synonymous with the American West, these ancient dwellings speak to the region’s deep history. Come to see them for yourself, and enjoy hiking through the desert landscaping—including trails that lead to popular hot springs.

Gila Cliff Dwellings does offer three primitive campsites with limited amenities. RVs are not recommended at Grapevine Campground, but Forks Campground and both Upper and Lower Scorpion Campgrounds can facilitate RVs, albeit without any hookups. Note that the Scorpion Campgrounds do offer drinking water, but Forks will require water to be secured from the river and treated before consuming—which might be just what the doctor ordered if you’re looking for a truly rustic camping experience! Camping is free at all on-site campgrounds and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Petroglyph National Monument

Stretching 17 miles through the New Mexico desert, some 25,000 images hammered into stone remain a testament to the Pueblo people and the Spanish explorers who came and changed life forever. Using nothing more than simple hammers and chisels, local natives made the stone images that give Petroglyph National Monument its name. Today, visitors enjoy miles of hiking with some of the most unique sights you can see in the United States. Though the monument itself does not offer camping, its location in Albuquerque puts you a short distance from many RV-friendly campgrounds and resorts. Enchanted Trails RV Park & Trading Post is a popular spot with its local theming and historic location on old Route 66. For more RV camping in the area, check out the Good Sam Club’s website.

Learn more about Petroglyph National Monument.


Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness is a truly rustic destination for lovers of geology and nature’s artistry. The desert landscape here is far from any large water sources, which means vegetation is sparse and the layered rock formations can be seen unimpeded and untouched. This area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, so don’t expect trails or a visitor’s center; this is a destination for off-trail hikers and lovers of nature. As a BLM wilderness area, boondocking is legal throughout the area. If you’d prefer to hook up your RV and stay at a developed campsite, Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah is close to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, making it a great day-trip destination for campers staying at Chaco Culture. 

Learn more about Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah.

Chaco Culture Natural Historical Park

Chaco Culture Natural Historical Park represents the very center of Ancestral Puebloan civilization and is a World Heritage Site not to be missed on any RV tour through New Mexico. Deep within the canyon there, still-standing great houses and the roads connecting them, offer visitors a glimpse into the amazing engineering skills and beautiful culture of the people who inhabited this region in prehistoric and historic times. Come for guided tours of the sites themselves, and stay for some of the most breathtaking views of the night sky anywhere in America.

Chaco Culture is a great place for the RVing crowd—as long as your rented RV is no more than 35 feet in length. The on-site campground has nearly 40 sites, some of which are RV-only, which is just as well because the lack of shade makes RV camping an ideal way to experience this monument to the people of Chaco Canyon. Note that there aren’t any hookups here, so you’ll be dry camping even within the developed campsite.

Bandelier National Monument

The 33,000 square acres of mesa wilderness at Bandelier are a testament both to the wonder of nature and the rich history of humanity in what is today New Mexico. Throughout the park, petroglyphs and stone houses carved directly into the cliffs tell a rich story of the area’s Pueblo people. Winding trails offer glimpses at bursts of pink flowering cacti and the local Abert’s squirrels, known for their distinctive white tails and tufted ears.

At the park, the Ponderosa Group Campground requires reservations and allows RVs, but only one per group. The Juniper Family Campground, however, is available on a first-come, first-served basis and has 40 campsites, all accommodating to RV camping. Keep in mind, however, that these are primitive sites without hookups. Learn more about Bandelier National Monument.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

In the rolling hills of the New Mexico countryside, there sits a 13-mile wide circle of flat land created by a massive volcanic explosion over 1 million years in the past. That’s where you’ll find the Valles Caldera National Preserve: the nation’s newest national preserve and a lush natural area perfect for those looking to get out of the barren desert for a while. Where there once stood a volcano, the preserve is now filled with wide-open meadows perfect for observing wildlife, like the prairie dogs that call the area home. Fly fishing is a favorite activity here, as is touring the old ranches that dot the land.

While the preserve itself does not have any campsites or allow backcountry camping, it happens to be conveniently located within 15 minutes of both Bandelier National Monument (with its many RV-friendly campsites) and Santa Fe National Forest, which offers no less than eight RV-friendly campsites.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Few destinations in the United States offer a better look at the raw power of the earth than the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the site is named for the unique rock formations that resemble teepees made by volcanic activity in the area. The rocks range from just a few feet tall to a towering 90 feet and are surrounded by boulders deposited by the same volcanic activity that made the rocks themselves.

There are marked trails, some of which are partially wheelchair accessible, that take hikers around the unusual rocks. As this is a BLM site, dispersed camping, otherwise known as boondocking to the RV crowd, is allowed throughout the area away from developed trails. Some areas will be marked as “no camping,” and others will have no markings whatsoever, but popular campsites can be spotted by their flat land.

El Morro National Monument

For centuries, travelers would stumble across the pool at the base of the bluffs at what is now El Morro National Monument. This pool represented then (and now) the only natural source of water for countless miles, and that has made it a popular campsite for Ancestral Puebloan, Spanish, and American travelers. Those travelers have left their mark, sometimes literally in the many petroglyphs in the area, and other times more permanently, like in the massive Ancestral Puebloan building that once housed as many as 600 people.

El Morro is truly a destination that rewards hikers. It all starts with a short, paved trail to take you through the petroglyphs. Go a little further, and you reach the pool itself. Farther still, you reach the namesake headway overlooking the Zuni Mountains and the El Morro Valley. Hike long enough, and you can explore the ancient ruins of the Puebloans for yourself. After a long day’s hike, the park has a small nine-site campground that accommodates RVs up to 27 feet in length.

Learn more about El Morro National Monument.

Campgrounds and RV Parks in New Mexico

New Mexico is great for RV camping, whether you choose to camp on public lands or at one of the state’s many excellent RV parks and Campgrounds, including:

The Route 66 RV Resort in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a fantastic place to stay. Get your kicks at Route 66 RV Resort, which offers a full casino and attached hotel (if you want to get out of the RV for a night!), a pool and spa facility, and plenty of restaurants to enjoy the Southwest flavors of the region.

Elephant Butte Lake RV Resort in Elephant Butte, New Mexico, is another good spot. If you’ve ever heard of the historic Truth or Consequences Hot Springs, this park is the place for you. Nearby the springs, you’re also right at the desert oasis that is Elephant Butte Lake, with its many watersports activities and lush golf courses.

Rancheros de Santa Fe Campground in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is one that you shouldn’t overlook. This campground is also on Route 66, and it offers a truly New Mexican experience in a natural desert setting. There’s a pool, free Wi-Fi, and dozens of available spots with electric and water hookups. Good Sam has a list of their campgrounds here.

Things to Know About Renting an RV in New Mexico

Things to Note About Camping in New Mexico

Potable water is a major concern for campers in New Mexico. Many campsites are advertised either for their lack of water sources or the actual presence of accessible water.

New Mexico is a camper’s playground, but viable options for your trip are going to depend heavily on how much work you want to do to secure water for cooking and drinking. In some campsites, you may find yourself walking down to a river or stream to collect water—so be sure to bring plenty of receptacles, or just bring your own drinking water with you.

If you prefer to camp with more comfort, focus on those destinations that offer fully developed campgrounds with water as well as electric hookups. 

Dry Camping or Boondocking in New Mexico

The US Forest Service manages a lot of land in New Mexico, even if you don’t think of woodlands when the state comes to mind. In places like Gila National Forest and Lincoln National Forest, boondocking is encouraged and very accessible. Just be sure you’re prepared with plenty of drinking water.

Otherwise, the RV community reports several great free camping spots throughout New Mexico, including Trout Lakes Campground in Amarilla, Fort Stanton Recreation Area in Lincoln, and if you have a smaller RV, Ojo Redondo Campground in Thoreau.