The New Mexico State Park system is a wonderful resource for economical camping. You can buy an annual camping pass, whether you are a resident of the state or not, and with that you can camp for free at all but a couple of the parks. If you need to plug in to electricity, it’s only $4 more per night. You can stay at a park for 14 nights, then you have to leave for that long, but you can return to any park after you’ve been gone. Lots of campers go between their favorite places.
Their informative website is here: New Mexico State Parks. Note that the parks often have several different named camping areas and then within those there may be different camping groups of sites, also with names. For example, at Ute Lake we stayed first at Oldham Circle in Logan Park, and then when we needed electricity and wanted to be near showers, we moved to the North Area, Yucca sites. As with most NM parks, some sections are closed for the winter.
We travel with a Verizon setup for accessing the internet, so I don’t comment on the wifi choices at the parks. Our laptops attach wirelessly to a Verizon Jetpack, which tells us the signal strength. We see 1x, 3g, or 4g, and also the number of bars (little lines), indicating the strength also. As we are running a business online, we can’t be offline for long, so this is a very important factor for us in choosing parks to stay at. We also have a Wilson booster and antenna, which improves signals.
We also travel with dogs, and thus the goathead situation is worth noting! If you don’t know what these sharp little things are, you will after travel in New Mexico. One of our dogs has learned how to pull them out with his teeth, while the other one whimpers and holds her paw up for us. Our dog-walking fanny pack includes tweezers as well as the obligatory plastic bags for poop.
This page lists some of the parks we’ve gone to in the order we visited them, starting in November 2014, with comments about each one and links to my blog posts about our experiences at the parks. But like many good intentions, keeping this page up eventually fell by the wayside, so we went to more of the parks than are listed here.
Clayton Lake State Park
is in the Northeast section of the state. We stayed there one night in November 2014, as the internet was minimal. I did manage to message a friend on Facebook but then noticed that the Jetpack warned we were roaming, that is, we were using another company’s lines rather than Verizon’s, which can incur rather steep charges. I immediately went offline. The very nice park ranger, Joe, told us that Verizon will be acquiring the other company so sometime in 2015 the roaming charges shouldn’t be there. We only got 1x, which is only sometimes enough to do anything, and I don’t know if that will change.
There were goatheads, though not as bad as we would encounter later. We enjoyed the walk to the dinosaur tracks.
Here’s my blog post about being at Clayton Lake. One thing I noticed as we drove there is that the highway between the towns of Clayton and Raton was a nice 4 lane divided highway with little traffic, at least in November. If two people are traveling together and one does most of the driving, I think even a timid driver could drive that road. Did I? No, by the time we got there it was late in the day and I was tired. But I will another time.
Ute Lake State Park
We loved it here in November 2014. In mid-summer it might be hectic. We camped for three days at Oldham Circle #7, which is just above the lake, and that site has its own little peninsula. We had water on three sides, and loved watching the waterfowl, the deer, and the patterns on the water. We had excellent internet there, 4G with three or four bars. There were some goatheads on the various walks we took with the dogs. Then we moved to the North area, as we were burning throuhg a bit too much electricity on the partly cloudy days. The goatheads were really thick on the ground here, but our dogs figured out–with us on leash behind them–that the grassy areas right near the lake were good for walks. We stayed in this part a couple of days. I’d be happy to spend a lot of time at Ute Lake in quiet seasons! Here’s my blog post while we were at Ute Lake. The grocery store in Logan was small but we got by with it. We got propane just before 8 am on a workday, at the place out on the highway. During the day, they are often out making deliveries.
Conchas Lake State Park
We got our groceries in Tecumcari (at the Lowe’s) before going out here. We stayed just one night, again because we got little to no internet. Some goatheads, not too bad. My blog post was about an interesting camper we met.
Santa Rosa Lake State Park
We stayed a couple of nights here, further from the lake than we’ve been previously. Goatheads yes, but the dogs are getting faster at dealing with them and we are staying more on paved and gravel areas. Didn’t blog. Internet was intermittent 3G, did keep cutting out at times, but we were also able to stream music at times. Our campsite was A7 in the only section open and I forgot its name.
Sumner Lake State Park
This is our favorite park, so far. We are camping right next to the water, and there are very few goatheads. Love it! It’s very quiet, which may have something to do with being at Sumner Lake in December! Ducks, geese, seagulls, owls, even eagles. Deer turkeys, foxes… Superb internet on the Verizon network, the strongest we’ve had so far. We’ve had 4g with 4 bars without even having to turn on our booster. Our dogs stepped on plenty of goatheads, but I think this area was the easiest so far in that regard. There was an abundance of brown burrs that stuck in Nicky’s long coat, too. Most of our time here we were at a point that you get to by taking a dirt road down to it. There’s a sign on the paved road which says “Shoreline Access” and “Primitive Camping Area,” or something like that. Here’s my main blog post about Sumner Lake State Park and why it’s a favorite, and here’s a photogallery of Sumner Lake photos taken by my husband Kelly.
Bottomless Lakes State Park
If you need a good grocery stop, the Albertson’s is on main street, on the south side. For all-purpose shopping, there’s a Walmart as you come in from the north, plus lots of malls. Roswell is the largest town we’ve come across on the trip so far, at about 45,000 people, so it has lots of stores We got propane a few blocks south of the Albertson’s, at the corner of South Main and Poe, at the gas station there. It was a treat to get it during the day, as small towns often only sell it early in the morning or when you happen to catch the driver there.
Bottomless Lakes is roughly 12 miles east of Roswell, easy to get to by taking 380 from downtown till you’re almost there and then turning right at a sign, to go south a few miles. The road loops around the eight “bottomless” lakes. There are about ten campsites without electricity scattered along the smaller lakes, but the main campground is beside Lea Lake. It only has 3 non-electric sites but our solar panels were going great and it turned out that camping is also allowed on the other side of Lea Lake, at least at this time of year. I don’t know about when the large parking lot is full of people coming to swim. We had the parking lot pretty much to ourselves, and we set up near a trailhead for a 2-mile trail we did with the dogs several times. Nice views, Verizon 4G was so good that we never turned on our booster or raised our antenna. And the dogs got some stickers, but practically no goatheads, in their paws. Here are some photos of birds at sunset in the wetlands, and here is my blog post about a conversation with two of the Bottomless Lake Park Rangers.