Travel File: Cimarron Campground, New Mexico

To pick up where I left off in the last post about our camping trip in New Mexico, I am sharing these maps to help you see just where in the heck we ended up:

area map

Just south of the Colorado border into New Mexico is Carson National Forest.

map 2

We drove up to Walsenburg, Co, then headed west to Alamosa.

Map 3

We followed 160, then turned south at Fort Garland; we took 196 out of the Amalia/Costilla area and meandered for miles down that route.

Of course, I looked all of this up once we got home.  The map we had to navigate from was this lovely gem my husband printed off before we left the house:

google map of carson national forest

His notes: Trinidad to Walsenburg; get off I-25 in Walsenburg; 160 to Alamosa; 295 to Costilla; 196 to wherever.

“Wherever” is definitely where we ended up!

So here’s the deal:  We thought we would just find some dispersed camping in the national forest because that’s normally permitted.  BUT, things are a bit different in this part of New Mexico.  After talking with the area Forest Ranger and reading all the signs, we discovered that it’s much trickier to do because of two reasons: 1)  Every time you see an arrow sign, you must stay on the road and 2) while you can camp a half mile off the road, you are not allowed to drive off said road.  So, if you need your vehicle to camp (you’re not backpacking), it’s basically impossible to do so because you have to do it at least a half mile off the road, but you’re not allowed to drive off the road If you are packing in and out, it’s fine to do so, but you can only leave your vehicle in designated parking areas overnight.  I think we saw 3 designated spots in the entire area in which we were exploring!

Carson Natl Forest signs

After much dismay and the waning sun signaling we needed to find “home” for the night, we drove our defeated selves to the nearest campground.

Cimarron campground signs

chopping wood

One awesome thing about this area is it is perfectly legal to chop wood (permits required for felling trees), but there is plenty of dead stuff for firewood hanging around.

Camping at Night

The night was quiet, the stars were out and we slept like logs.

We awoke to songs from unfamiliar birds and a parade of cars cruising down the road as they bid goodbye to the mountains and thanked them for the temporary rest.  When the exhaust and dust settled, campsite #7 became a quiet slice of peace hidden in an uninhabited campground.

Cimarron campground site7

We almost always get the best camp site in the campground (or, at least that’s how we feel!).  Site 7 was free when we rolled in, and it seemed to be one of the most secluded and beautiful.  (I suggest anything on the outer loops-even some of the horse sites were nice!)  While the interior sites are pretty, they’re not as private.

Cimarron Campground New Mexico sites

Horse site

Horse site.

Our site was a stone’s throw to this meadow behind us:

meadow 2

You can see more photos of this meadow in a previous post here.



We LOVED this place!  On the back side of this campground there is a trailhead to Shuree Ponds, which is only a half mile away.

Shuree ponds site

The ponds are stocked with fish and the views are magnificent!  My next post will feature this place more extensively, because it was definitely picturesque.  Small talk with the campground host and park ranger who were hanging out at the ponds (getting the well working after a long winter) helped us understand the area a little better.


We decided to return home on a different route, which was about 35 miles from camp to Hwy 64.

I highly suggest you try camping here if you get a chance.  Even if you don’t have the entire campground to yourselves (heaven, isn’t it?), it will be worth it!

Notes about this trip:




Cimarron Campground   is not to be confused with Cimarron Canyon campground.  We stayed in the mountains above Red River.  The Canyon spot is south of where we were, along Hwy 64 on the Cimarron River, closer to Eagle Nest.s

Because the campground had only been open one week (we camped Sun-Wed of Memorial Day weekend), the water hadn’t been tested and therefore was not available.  We had 10 gallons of drinking water with us, so we didn’t care.  They waved our camping fees because of this (free site for 3 days!!!).  This should be a lesson to always travel with plenty of water!  There is potable water (usually) and pit toilets at this campground.

You can reserve a site at Cimarron campground on-line here.  Enlarge the map to see site #’s and scroll over the site #’s to the left of the map to see photos and brief descriptions of each site.



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