The West's best camping

Fair warning: Waking up at any one of these places will hook you on camping for good

Southwest: 19 best campgrounds

Whether you want to hike the Grand Canyon or fly-fish in New Mexico, you'll find the perfect campground in our list of faves

NEW MEXICO

12. City of Rocks State Park, Northwest of Deming
House-size volcanic ash boulders create a mini-city maze; ancient paths weave through the boulders. Campsites have little shade, so go in spring or fall. From $10; 575/536-2800; reservation line 877/664-7787.

13. Iron Gate Campground, Pecos
Aspens and pines shade the 14 campsites nestled 9,400 feet up at the edge of the Pecos Wilderness. Go in spring when the wildflowers are at their peak. $8; no reservations; 877/276-9404.

14. Rio Chama Campground, Abiquiu
Tucked into a stand of juniper along the Rio Chama Wild and Scenic River, this campsite is in the heart of sandstone cliffs and Georgia O’Keeffe country. Snag the fourth site on the left―the only site with its own boat (non-motorized) put-in. Free; no reservations; 575/638-5526.

15. Jemez Falls Campground, Santa Fe National Forest, East of La Cueva
Nestled in a ponderosa forest at 7,880 feet―next to the Jemez River―this site is a fly-fishing dream. From the campground, hike 0.25 miles to 40-foot Jemez Falls, then continue 2 miles to McCauley Warm Springs. $10; no reservations; 575/829-3535.

16. La Junta Campground, Wild Rivers Recreation Area, West of Questa
Set on a mesa above Wild Rivers’ 760-foot gorge, the campground overlooks the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Red River. Hike down for a waterside picnic when it gets hot. $7 (plus $3 day-use fee); no reservations; 575/586-1150.

17. Sleepy Grass Campground, Lincoln National Forest, Cloudcroft

The grass-and-pine meadow feels totally secluded at 8,800 feet, but it’s just 1 mile from Cloudcroft’s shop- and restaurant-dotted Burro Avenue. Hike or bike Trail 5661 for views across White Sands National Monument and out to Las Cruces. $13; no reservations; 575/682-2551.

18. Twining Campground, Carson National Forest, Northeast of Arroyo Seco
Set in Taos Ski Valley at 9,400 feet, the campground gives you access to New Mexico’s highest peak―13,161-foot Mt. Wheeler―and the easier 6-mile Long Canyon/Gold Hill loop. Invite friends and camp at the uppermost site, the largest of four. Free; no reservations; 575/586-0520.

19. Morphy Lake State Park Campground, Mora

Campers once needed a four-wheel-drive vehicle to reach this campground, about 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe. Although a paved access road now smooths the journey, mornings here are still serene. Ponderosa pines surround the 30-acre lake, tucked into the eastern edge of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Most of the 24 sites sit waterside, allowing paddlers to launch right from camp. And sites on the lake’s east side enjoy blown-open views of 10,000-foot peaks, which get spotlit by the rising sun. From $10; no reservations or potable water; nmparks.com

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