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14 Free Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Boondocking Locations

Last updated on May 10th, 2022 at 01:58 am

Feature for Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument

The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Taos County, New Mexico is a 380 square mile piece of land declared a national monument by President Obama in 2013. The monument is comprised of parts of the Taos Plateau volcanic field. When we visited the monument, we got to see the Ute mountain with heights of 30 890 feet. We also had a swim in the Carge springs which outflow from flooded lava tubes. We had a lot of fun rafting and boating in the rapids, which varied between Class II and IV, only with a guide. Most of the trails were perfect for mountain biking and hiking as we enjoyed the scenery.

In the Red River and the Rio Grande, you get the chance to fish for rainbow and brown trout, and hunting is also allowed at the monument, subject to game regulations. The monument also proves to be a good place for camping as there are five camping grounds, with one being by the river. The Rio Grande del Norte National monument is home to Elk, Mule, Deer, Cougars, Coyotes, Bear and a bunch of other animals as the monument acts as an essential area for wildlife who use it as a winter corridor between the mountains.

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 History of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

The Rio Grande Valley has been inhabited by the Jicarilla Apache, the Utes, as well as the Taos Pueblo and Picuns Pueblo since the archaic period. Proof of their habitats lies in the petroglyphs found on the rock surfaces, and the stone tool remains that have been unearthed in the mountains. The San Antonio Mountains acted as a good source for dacite, used for tool building.
In the 1800s, the Spanish and the English began settling in the valley. The Spanish began to enslave the Pueblo tribes and forced them to work in the gold mines.

This led to the Pueblo revolt in 1680, where the Pueblo expelled thousands of Spanish settlers from the valley.
The Spanish undeterred returned later but eventually lost the territory to Mexico in the Mexican war for independence. However, the Mexican government gave up this territory to the USA in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 after the Mexican-American war.

In the 19th century, the region became popular with French settlers. The town of Questa became inhabited by French fur trappers who decided to stay in the area even after the fur trade ended. The arrival of the Denver and the Rio Grande railroad in 1870 made the region an essential stopping point on the rail line. Ranching and other agricultural activities remain the primary source of livelihood in the area.

The Rio Grande was one of the eight rivers to be designated as a Wild and Scenic river in 1968. The Rio Grande del Norte National monument, however, was only designated as such by President Obama in 2013. Portions of the monument were designated as wilderness areas under the bipartisan John D Dingell Jr Conservation, Management and Recreation act in 2019.

14 Free Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Boondocking Locations

1. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Boondocking – Sublette

Address
Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico
GPS: 36.990354, -106.227828
Elevation: 9370′

Management Public – Forest Service (Official)

This is a disbursed camping area by the old railroad stop of Sublette NM. This is on Carson National Forest lands. From the Antonito CO Cumbres Toltec train station drive roughly 10 miles west. Turn left on to county road D.5 and then hang a right about a half mile down the road. Hang a left a short distance later and stay straight on this road until you get close to the waypoint. There’s numerous dispersed camping sites in this area.

2. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Boondocking Locations – Rio de Los Pinos Campground

Address
Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico
GPS: 36.9549, -106.1749
Elevation: 8346′

Management
Public – USDA Forest Service

The road in is Gravel and 8 miles from a paved road. There are 6-15 campsites at this location. You may stay 14 days at Rio de Los Pinos Campground. 4 developed campsites + dispersed camping at 8000′ with superb river fishing access just west of NM Game & Fish Recreation Area

3. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Camping Spots – Rio de los Pinos SWFA

Address
Los Pinos River Access Road
Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico
GPS: 36.953003, -106.120069
Elevation: 8156′

Management Public – State Park

This is a free dispersed campsite. This campsite does not use a reservation system. First come, first served. This is a high elevation location. There are 2 areas to camp here, the first is managed by the Rio de los Pinos Wildlife Management Area. There are at least six “parking areas” to camp for free. Great for larger rigs, not as ideal for tent camping.

4. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument RV Parking – Laguna Larga

Address
Forest Road 78A
Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico
GPS: 36.884203, -106.107326
Elevation: 9004′

Management
Public – Forest Service (Official)

There are 1-5 campsites at this location. You may stay 14 days at Laguna Larga. Four dispersed campsites are set on fishing water’s edge at 9000′, dispersed camping elsewhere around lake.

5. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking – San Antonio Mountain

Address
Tres Piedras, New Mexico
GPS: 36.919008, -105.986313

Management Public – Bureau of Land Management (Official)

The road in is Dirt and 500 Feet miles from a paved road. San Antonio Mountain is open March to November. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay 14 Days at San Antonio Mountain. Beautiful views of San Antonio mountain or continue up 118 for possibly more camping. Very remote, no service. The road was super rough and washed out when I went, but it had just rained. Signs advise no passenger cars continue beyond the staging area.

6. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Boondocking – Antonito Spray Park

Address
101, 199 E 3rd Ave, Antonito, CO 81120
Antonito, Colorado
GPS: 37.074183, -106.00804
Elevation: 7887′

Management Public – County Park (Unofficial)

The road in is Paved. Antonito Spray Park is open Year Round. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. This is a small city park that allows parking behind it, on the dirt road 3rd ave. A short walk from downtown and Cano’s castle, but there isn’t much else to see around town.

7. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Boondocking Locations – Elk Creek Trail

Address
Forest Road 128
Antonito, Colorado
GPS: 37.119511, -106.377123
Elevation: 8812′

Management Public – Forest Service

The road in is Dirt. The maximum RV length at Elk Creek Trail is unlimited. Free dispersed camping in a big open area with lots of sun and room for any sized rig. No Verizon service.

8. Paid Site – Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Camping Spots – San Luis Park at Sanchez Stabilizing Reservoir

Address
Sanford, Colorado
GPS: 37.169564, -105.516527
Elevation: 7825′

Management Public

A little park on the side of the road. Can accommodate multiple RVs. Good for a quick stop – overnight RV parking. Vault toilet.

9. Paid Site – Rio Grande del Norte National Monument RV Parking – Trout Lakes Campground

Address
FR 125
Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico
GPS: 36.606389, -106.378942
Elevation: 9301′

Management Public – USDA Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Dirt and 11 miles from a paved road. Trout Lakes Campground is open End of May. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 15 feet. You may stay N/A at Trout Lakes Campground. Trout Lakes contains 5 primitive campsites and access roads within the campground. Three lakes provide fishing opportunities amid a setting of quiet conifers and aspen. Summer’s quiet beauty turns to gold as autumn touches the aspen and rewards campers lingering in the area.

10. Paid Site – Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking – Canjilon Creek

Address
Forest Road 130
Canjilon, New Mexico
GPS: 36.543393, -106.317381
Elevation: 9350′

Management Public – Forest Service (Unofficial)

The road in is Paved. Canjilon Creek is open seasonally. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay 14 days at Canjilon Creek. This campsite is located within the Carson National Forest’s Canjilon Ranger District. This is a high elevation location.

11. Paid Site – Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Boondocking – El Rito Creek

Address
County Road 437
Vallecitos, New Mexico
GPS: 36.579431, -106.168588
Elevation: 8009′

Management Public – Forest Service

El Rito Creek is open Apr-Nov. This free campsite is located within the Carson National Forest’s El Rito Ranger District. This is a high elevation location.

12. Paid Site – Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Camping Spots – Tres Piedras

Address
Tres Piedras, New Mexico
GPS: 36.655331, -105.977997
Elevation: 8240′

Management Public – Forest Service (USDA) (Unofficial)

The road in is Dirt and 0.25 miles from a paved road. Tres Piedras is open Year Round. There are 6-15 campsites at this location. You may stay 14 at Tres Piedras. Open Ponderosa forest at the foot of the largest of the rock formations in Tres Piedras.

13. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Boondocking – Mesa Public Access near Taos, NM

Address
Tres Piedras, New Mexico
GPS: 36.55611, -105.77014
Elevation: 7169′

Management Public – Bureau of Land Management

The road in is Dirt. Mesa Public Access near Taos, NM is open year round. You may stay 14 days at Mesa Public Access near Taos, NM. Rutted dirt road with pullouts. Signage for monument as you come on 64 from the north/west – will update with the other direction. Shows on Google maps as “Montoso Road.” To the east it apparently goes in several miles to the canyon. With my low clearance I didn’t go that far; but there are several sites that are big rig accessible.

14. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Boondocking Locations – Cebolla Mesa

Address
Forest Road #9
Questa, New Mexico
GPS: 36.640555, -105.684872
Elevation: 7382′

Management Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Dirt and 3.4 miles from a paved road. Cebolla Mesa is open May – October. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 35 feet. Cebolla Mesa is in the Carson National Forest. Located in northern New Mexico, the 1.5 million acres include part of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, with elevations ranging from 6,000 feet to the 13,161 foot Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico. Named for the famed American Pioneer Kit Carson, there a numerous recreational opportunities available within the National Forest no matter the season.

Top 10 Trails to Hike in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking #1. Black Rock Hot Springs Trail

1. Black Rock Hot Springs Trail. - Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Free Boondocking

This trailer was relatively easy for us to hike on, although it was very rocky and had a very steep descent towards springs. We had a swim in the springs, where the main pool had a temperature of about 99 degrees Fahrenheit, which was kind of perfect. The adjacent pools were not as warm as they were mixed with the river water. The Pools had a depth of about three to four feet and could hold up to five adults. It was clothing optional, and many locals did dive into the pools naked.

Length: 0.3 mi
Elevation gain: 68 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, Bird watching, Dog friendly, Hot springs, River, Views, Wildlife, Scramble

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking #2. Trader’s Trail

2. Trader's Trail. - Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Free Boondocking

This was a quick, easy hike as we enjoyed the long mountain views of the Wheeler Peak and the Eastern ranges of Taos. The pictures on this trail are not as appealing as those on the other trails, not to mention the large amounts of dog poop on the first half-mile of the trail. The view of the desert did provide us with some fantastic opportunities to take pictures though.

Length: 3.3 mi
Elevation gain: 337 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, Walking, Running, No shade

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking #3. The Rift Valley Loop Trails

3. The Rift Valley Loop Trails - Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking

The 7.2km trail is mostly flat, so it was not as challenging as we hoped. We did get to see some beautiful sagebrush desert, prickly pear, Indian brush, and some stripped Whiptail lizards. Apart from the plants and the animals, there was a fantastic view of the Gorge. This trail was not challenging at all, so if you are searching for a challenge, we recommend you hike other trails at the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.

Length: 10.3 mi
Elevation gain: 879 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Horseback riding, Mountain biking, Walking, Running, Dog friendly, Views, Wildlife, Muddy, Snow

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking #4. Pescado Trail

4. Pescado Trail- Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking

We began this trail at the entrance Pay Station. The trail was flat for the first mile, so it was an easy hike. From then on, there was a steep descent through the Ponderosa, where we saw some pretty rock formations. There was a picnic table 10 minutes away from the parking lot where we took a short break before soldiering on. The trail was splendid as it was shaded, and we got to see all sorts of flowers and birds.

Length: 3.4 mi
Elevation gain: 728 ft
Route type: Out & back

Fishing, Hiking, Forest, River, Views

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking #5. North Hondo Ridge Trail

5. North Hondo Ridge Trail - Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking

We hiked this trail in the winter, so we had to do it counterclockwise to avoid the winds, which blew a little strong. There was no snow on the trail, and had very little shade. It did provide us with a great view of the Rio Grande and the surrounding mountains.

Length: 3.5 mi
Elevation gain: 334 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Hiking, Mountain biking, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Views

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking #6. Chiflo Trail

6. Chiflo Trail

We walked this trail as we headed down to the river from Mesa. It was a lovely walk even though it was in the snow. The trail did have two picnic shelters, one below the Rim and one by the river. The water in the river had a relatively slow current, so we decided to go for a quick dip.

Length: 0.7 mi
Elevation gain: 334 ft
Route type: Out & bac
Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Forest, River, Views

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking #7. La Junta Trail to Lookout Point

7. La Junta Trail to Lookout Point - Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

We had a fantastic time hiking this trail as it was primarily flat with a few ups and downs. The view of the river below was incredible, not to mention the beautiful rocks. The trail was a little chilly as it was exposed to the wind. There were a few mountain bikers along the way, but the trail was generally empty. It was well marked; hence it was pretty easy to follow.

Length: 0.3 mi
Elevation gain: 9 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Walking, Paved, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No shade.

8. West Rim Petaca Point Trail

8. West Rim Petaca Point Trail - Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

The trail has no shade or coverage, so it is best to avoid it during summer. Part of the trail is along the service road, and it does not go along the Rim, so we did not get to experience the views of the Gorge until we reached the Point. The wait was worth it, though, as we had a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains and the Mesa once we arrived at the Point.

Length: 7.8 mi
Elevation gain: 403 ft
Route type: Out & back

Backpacking, Hiking, Views, Wildlife, No shade

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking #9. La Vista de Questa Trail

9. La Vista de Questa Trail - Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

We hiked this trail in the afternoon, and it was a pretty nice walk. The first mile was flat and had little to no shade. We had some lunch on the lower observation point and proceeded to the upper observation Point, where there was a bench to rest on while we enjoyed the view. The trail did get steep in some parts, but it was not a challenging climb overall. We did not encounter any people all through, so it is a good trail if you want to avoid crowds.

Length: 3.8 mi
Elevation gain: 629 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No shade

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Hiking #10. Rio Grande Gorge West Rim Trail

10. Rio Grande Gorge West Rim Trail - Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

We decided to make this trail in the morning as the vendors on the trailhead were setting up their tables to sell their crafts. This trail has picnic tables overlooking the Gorge, which was a good place for us to sit and refresh. The trail was relatively easy, and we enjoyed the fresh air and some great views. There were some benches along the way where we took some much-needed breaks before moving on.

Length: 3.7 mi
Elevation gain: 236 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, Kid friendly, Hiking, Horseback riding, Mountain biking, Running, No shade

The Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument is a delightful place to be if you love hiking. The sheer number of trails provides you with varying options. It is also a perfect place for mountain bikers, and if you a looking for white water raft, they have got you sorted too.

Activities in the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.

1. Fishing -The Rio Grande River is one of Colorado’s largest and most popular rivers. It is a fun river to fish in as it has spectacular access and holds some large trout such as the Truchas Grandes. The campgrounds along the rivers of the Rio Grande del Norte National monument make it a good place to spend a few days and fish as you relax and enjoy the high-altitude scenery.

2. White Water Rafting – At the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, White water rafting is the most enjoyable outdoor activity in northern New Mexico during the spring and summer months. The adventure starts at the Colorado border, to the remote Razor Blades section, to the Iconic Taos box canyon, and finally ends at the Rio Grande del Norte Racecourse. The Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument offers family floats and world-class white water rafting experiences.

3. Mountain Biking and Hiking – The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument has excellent trails where you can take your bike for a ride and have a good time. Hikers can also enjoy these fantastic trails.


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