U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Cibola National Forest

New Mexico

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Forest Information

The Cibola (see-ba-la) National Forest, located in west central New Mexico, is comprised of 1,625,542 acres. There are 18 developed campgrounds of which 8 met the selection criteria.

From highways crisscrossing the Cibola National Forest's scattered sections, one might think there is little fun to be found. Don't be deceived. Besides the pure pleasure of watching seasons change, the Cibola National Forest offers camping locations from the most developed level to "throw-down" dispersed style campgrounds, hikes through spectacular scenery, fishing, and exploring archeological sites.

Perhaps it's the surrounding desert arid lowlands that make the change in seasons so magnificent on Mt. Taylor or in the Manzano and Sandia mountains. At such lofty reaches, spring brings a rebirth to the mountain meadows in shades of green and the wild flowers' rainbow colors. The lush dark greens of summer are caressed by gentle cool evening breezes. Then autumn explodes with brisk winds and a burst of colors. The aspen, oak, and maple are glorious in their fall finery. And a mantle of white, crisp mountain air, and winter's fun for the Forest's visitors rounds out the potential fun to be found in this U.S. Mexico National Forest.

Within a comfortable driving distance of Gallup, NM is one of the few Forest Service campgrounds in the region featuring full-hookups for recreational vehicles (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts. It is McGaffey campground. The number of hookup sites is limited. Since reservations are not accepted early arrival is recommended. The campground has a dual personality with hookup sites separated from the more traditional non-hookup sites. Surrounded by mature Ponderosa pine at the edge of a large meadow and about half-a- mile from a rainbow trout stocked lake, this is a campground for long weekends.

McGaffey campground is located in the western Zuni Mountains. At the other end, tucked in at the top of a mountain valley, is Ojo Redondo campground, a great car and tent camping location. It is a long drive down a forest road that skirts canyons and meadows to this sweet little campground. This route boasts some spectacular scenery and much wildlife along the way offering many opportunities for great viewing. It is not unusual to see mule deer grazing on Post Office Flat or to spot a Merriam's turkey roosting in a stand of Ponderosa pine.

Actually, the abundant wildlife near Ojo Redondo is not unusual for the Cibola National Forest. The diversity of topography and climates found within the Forest's boundaries provide a healthy environment for varied and robust wildlife populations. It is not unusual to see (except, of course, during hunting seasons) quail, squirrel, deer, elk, bear, turkey, antelope, rabbit, prairie dogs, coyotes, and a number of small mammals which are a food source of raptors ranging from the small Kestrel falcon to the golden eagle.

While most of the Cibola's developed campgrounds offer wildlife opportunities for bird watchers, Water Canyon campground is perhaps the favorite. This campground provides excellent opportunities to observe Cibola's various species of woodpeckers. Water Canyon campground is located in the Magdalena Mountains, named by the earlier miners/settlers who saw a woman's profile in the rocks. These mountains, along with the Datil, Bear, and San Mateo mountains, contain some 200 miles of maintained foot and horseback trails, giving Forest visitors excellent opportunities to explore the Forest and its many secrets.

One special secret contained in the Cibola National Forest is the evidence of those who lived here long, long ago. The area with the most ancient reminders of a human presence is close to the Forest's more rustic campgrounds. Don't be deceived by the gentle appearance of the eastern slopes, the Manzano Mountain and its wilderness. The gentle appearance hides some challenging terrain and delightfully primitive areas. The Red Canyon, Fourth of July, and New Canyon campgrounds are convenient as a home base for hikers interested in exploring the 70-mile network of trails found in the Manzano Mountain Wilderness.

Besides providing easy access to the Wilderness, these campgrounds can be a home base to explore some of the area's archeological sites. More than 9,000 years of artifacts left by humans either passing or living within the Forest's boundaries can be explored. Some nearby sites to visit are: Sandia Cave, Tijeras Pueblo, and Jaral Cabin. Further afield are El Morro and Chaco Canyon National Monuments near the campgrounds found in the Zuni Mountains, such as Ojo Redondo and McGaffey. (Contact the supervisor's office for more information and ask about the "Passport to the Past" program.)

The Cibola National Forest is a surprisingly diverse forest with a wide variety of history, recreational opportunities, topography, and potential fun. High meadows, secluded canyons, towering peaks, and open desert each offer different recreational opportunities for visitors to the Cibola National Forest. Come on and enjoy this Forest time and again.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 2113 Osuna Rd., NE Suite A Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113 505-346-3900 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Magdalena Box 45 Magdalena, New Mexico 87825 505-854-2281 Mountainair P.O.B. 69 Mountainair, New Mexico 87036-0069 505-847-2990 Mt. Taylor 1800 Lobo Canyon Rd. Grants, New Mexico 87020 505-287-8833 Sandia 11776 Hwy. 337 Tijeras, New Mexico 87059 505-281-3304

Fred and Suzi Dow