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Lincoln National Forest Camping

Nestled in the beautiful landscapes of New Mexico, Lincoln National Forest boasts a wide array of recreational activities for all nature lovers.

With its diverse ecosystems ranging from desert habitats to lush forests, this national treasure offers visitors the chance to explore unique terrains while enjoying a memorable camping experience.

Read on to learn more about Lincoln National Forest camping!

RV Lincoln National Forest camping

Overview of Lincoln National Forest

Lincoln National Forest is a remarkable destination located in southeastern New Mexico. This forest covers approximately 1.1 million acres and consists of three major mountain ranges: Sacramento, Guadalupe, and Capitan. With elevations ranging from 4,000 to 11,500 feet, the park features diverse landscapes and ecosystems that transition from Chihuahuan desert to sub-alpine forest.

The forest is home to various plant species, including fir trees, which are prevalent in the higher, cooler elevations. These trees contribute to the scenic beauty and ecological diversity of the area. Visitors can enjoy the unique natural features of the forest through various recreational activities such as camping, hiking, and mountain biking.

Camping in Lincoln National Forest is a popular activity, offering different options like dispersed camping, campground camping, group camping, and RV camping. The forest’s campgrounds are spread across the mountains, providing campers with opportunities to enjoy the wealth of outdoor activities and observe firsthand the unique ecosystems that can be found in the region.

The best time to visit Lincoln National Forest is during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is most conducive to outdoor activities. During the peak summer season, the park tends to be crowded, so it is recommended to arrive early or reserve a spot in advance to secure the best locations. Keep in mind that facilities vary across the campgrounds, so it is essential to plan and pack accordingly.

Camping in Lincoln National Forest

Whether you’re looking for established campgrounds, dispersed camping options, or group and RV camping, this scenic destination in southern New Mexico has something for everyone.

Campground camping is a popular choice for visitors to Lincoln National Forest, as it provides a range of amenities and facilities. Some campgrounds, such as Pines Campground, offer tent camping and camping trailer options. Other campgrounds feature rustic-style campsites set at the base of the tallest mountain in southern New Mexico.

Dispersed camping is another option for adventurous campers looking to escape the crowds and explore the natural beauty of Lincoln National Forest. This type of camping allows visitors to set up camp outside of designated campgrounds, offering a more remote and self-sustained experience. However, it is essential to follow Leave No Trace principles and be aware of any regulations and restrictions in place.

For those traveling in larger groups or with an RV, Lincoln National Forest has options to accommodate these needs as well. Some campgrounds have designated group camping areas, while others may have specific RV camping sites. RV length limits may vary depending on the campground, so it is essential to check the particular rules and facilities of your desired destination before arrival.

Regardless of your camping preferences, Lincoln National Forest provides a stunning backdrop for your outdoor adventure, with its diverse landscapes, abundant wildlife, and plethora of recreational activities. No matter which camping style you choose, be prepared for a memorable experience in this unique natural setting.

Popular Campgrounds

Apache Campground is a great choice for campers who enjoy a serene and peaceful environment. The campground boasts a number of spacious and well-maintained campsite options. Nestled among the trees, Apache Campground provides visitors with the perfect opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty of Lincoln National Forest.

South Fork Campground is another popular choice among campers. Known for its accessibility to the White Mountain Wilderness, the campground features 53 sites with a 14-day stay limit. South Fork Trail (T19) passes through the campground, leading campers into the picturesque wilderness, perfect for hiking and wildlife viewing. The variation in difficulty levels on the trail caters to visitors with different levels of hiking experience.

Deerhead Campground is another notable option within Lincoln National Forest. This campground, located in a secluded and quiet area, offers campers the chance to reconnect with nature and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Deerhead Campground is perfect for those seeking tranquility and solitude while camping.

All three campgrounds provide ample opportunities for recreation, relaxation, and exploration.

Reservation Process

Campground Reservations

Most campgrounds in Lincoln National Forest allow campers to reserve sites in advance. Sites can be reserved through third-party websites, such as Keep in mind that sites are limited, and reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis during peak seasons. It is recommended to book as early as possible for your desired dates.

Group Camping and RV Camping Reservations

For those interested in group camping or RV camping, some campgrounds offer designated areas for these types of accommodations. Similar to individual campsites, reservations may be required in advance for group and RV sites. Visit the Forest Service website for more information on campgrounds and their specific reservation processes.

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping offers a more rustic experience in Lincoln National Forest and is typically free of charge. While reservations are not needed for dispersed camping, campers should be aware of rules and regulations. Campers are allowed to stay for a maximum of 16 days in any 30-day period at the same dispersed area. Upon reaching the 16-day limit, campers must move at least 5 road miles away to camp in another dispersed area. When selecting a campsite, ensure it is placed at least 100 feet from any stream or other water source to minimize environmental impact.

Facilities at Campgrounds

Lincoln National Forest offers a variety of campgrounds with a wide range of facilities to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience. Many of the campgrounds provide parking spaces for campers, making it convenient for both RV and tent camping. In addition to parking, most sites also come equipped with picnic tables for campers to dine and enjoy the surrounding nature.

To enhance the outdoor experience, many campgrounds have fire rings and grills available for use, allowing visitors to cook and warm themselves during cool evenings. Campers are encouraged to utilize these facilities responsibly and adhere to any fire restrictions that may be in place.

A staple facility in many campgrounds at Lincoln National Forest is the presence of toilets. Both traditional and vault toilets can be found throughout the campgrounds, ensuring a clean and sanitary environment for all campers. In some locations, drinking water is also available, adding to the convenience and comfort of the camping experience.

For larger gatherings or special events, certain campgrounds feature a picnic pavilion or pavilion. This provides a covered area where visitors can gather, dine, and socialize while enjoying the national forest landscape. As pavilions may be limited, it is recommended to reserve these areas in advance.

It is essential to note that while many Lincoln National Forest campgrounds have these facilities, it is always important to check each campground’s specific amenities before visiting. This information can typically be found on the national forest’s website or on popular camping resource sites.

Trails in Lincoln National Forest

Lincoln National Forest offers a variety of hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts, including the popular Rim Trail, Osha Trail, and other interesting paths to explore. The forest is a haven for both scenic hikes and challenging treks, making it an excellent destination for all levels of hikers.

The Rim Trail (#105) is a must-visit for those looking to experience the beauty of Lincoln National Forest. Extending over 32 miles, this trail starts near Cloudcroft and offers stunning views of the surrounding area. Hikers will pass through lush meadows, dense forests, and access many of the area’s best viewpoints.

Another popular trail in the forest is the Osha Trail (#234), a 2.5-mile path that takes hikers through the peaceful forest setting. This moderately difficult trail is situated at a high elevation, offering spectacular views of White Sands National Park and the Tularosa Basin. Although Osha Trail is not as long as Rim Trail, it provides a more accessible option for those with limited time or a craving for a shorter hike.

In addition to the Rim and Osha trails, Lincoln National Forest is home to many other hiking options. A few notable trails are:

Local Fauna

The Lincoln National Forest is home to a diverse range of wildlife, offering visitors the opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Among the most common animals that can be encountered in the forest are deer, elk, and bears.

Deer at Lincoln National Forest

Deer can be frequently spotted grazing throughout the Lincoln National Forest, particularly in areas with grassy meadows and shrubs. There are two primary species of deer in the region: mule deer and white-tailed deer. Mule deer are more abundant and can be easily identified by their large, mule-like ears and black-tipped tails. In contrast, white-tailed deer have smaller ears and a distinct white underside to their tails. Both species are known for their agility and grace, often bounding away at the first sign of danger.

Elk are another common species that can be observed in the Lincoln National Forest. They typically inhabit the forest’s higher elevations, where they graze on the abundant grasses and shrubs. These majestic animals are one of the largest members of the deer family, with adult males (called bulls) often weighing up to 700 pounds. During the fall mating season, visitors may be fortunate enough to witness the impressive display of bulls bugling: a loud, high-pitched call that can be heard for miles.

Bears are also present within the Lincoln National Forest, and visitors should be aware of their presence when camping and hiking. Both black bears and the more elusive brown bears (or grizzly bears) reside in the forest, with the former being more common. Black bears are small to medium-sized, usually weighing between 200 to 600 pounds, and have a variety of fur colors ranging from black to cinnamon. Brown bears, on the other hand, are much larger, weighing up to 1,500 pounds, and have a distinct hump on their shoulders. It’s essential for visitors to practice proper food storage and disposal to avoid attracting these powerful creatures to their campsites.

By being respectful of the wildlife and practicing safe camping habits, visitors can fully appreciate the diverse fauna found within the Lincoln National Forest.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best campgrounds in Lincoln National Forest?

Lincoln National Forest offers a variety of campgrounds to choose from. Some popular options include Bonito Lake Campground, which features a creek, hiking trails, and horse corrals, and Cedar Creek Recreation Area, which offers seasonal camping and day-use picnic areas. You can also explore more options on platforms like AllTrails, which lists top camping trails in the area.

How do I make camping reservations?

For some campgrounds and group camping sites in Lincoln National Forest, reservations may be required. You can make reservations through Alternatively, you can also call 1-877-444-6777 for bookings.

Where can I find a map of available campgrounds?

You can find maps of available campgrounds in Lincoln National Forest through various online platforms, such as the US Forest Service website. These sources provide detailed information about campgrounds, their locations, and the amenities available.

Are dispersed camping areas available?

Yes, dispersed camping is available in Lincoln National Forest. In most areas, as long as you are 150 feet away from water sources and not camping in prohibited areas like trailheads, specially designated zones, close to critical wildlife habitat, or highly protected Wilderness Areas, you can set up a tent. When dispersed camping, make sure to practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the surrounding environment.

What camping restrictions should I be aware of?

When camping in Lincoln National Forest, be aware of any vehicle or RV size limits at specific campgrounds. Some sites have a maximum RV length restriction, such as a 25′ or 26′ limit. Make sure to follow any posted rules and guidelines for campfires, trash disposal, and noise levels to ensure a pleasant experience for you and your fellow campers.

Are pets allowed at campgrounds in Lincoln National Forest?

Pets are typically allowed at campgrounds in Lincoln National Forest, but it’s always a good idea to double-check the specific campground’s rules and regulations before bringing your furry friends along. If allowed, make sure to keep your pets on a leash and clean up after them to maintain cleanliness in the campground and minimize disturbances to local wildlife.

sunset at Lincoln National Forest

Time to Visit Lincoln National Forest

Camping in Lincoln National Forest offers various lodging options to suit individual preferences, from well-maintained campgrounds to dispersed camping in more secluded areas. In addition to camping opportunities, Lincoln National Forest is home to a plethora of fantastic recreational activities such as hiking, wildlife watching, and picnicking.

With these diverse offerings, Lincoln National Forest caters to a variety of outdoor adventurers, ensuring everyone has an enjoyable camping experience. It’s definitely a destination that deserves a spot on your travel bucket list!

And be sure to check out our post on Carson National Forest–another prime spot for camping in New Mexico!