U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Lincoln National Forest

New Mexico

Custom Search

Forest Information

The Lincoln National Forest, comprised of 1,103,441 acres, is located in southern New Mexico. There are 19 developed campgrounds of which 10 met the selection criteria.

The landscape of the Lincoln National Forest varies from breathtaking peaks and valleys outlined by Ponderosa pines to rugged canyons and gentle sloping foothills dotted with Pinyon pine. Elevations in the Forest range from 4,200 feet, at the base of the Sacramento Mountains, to more than 11,500 feet in the White Mountain Wilderness. And the climate can be a rather nippy atop Sierra Blanca to downright hot along the Forest's western escarpment in a single day. With these variations in climate, elevation, and landscape, visitors to the Lincoln National Forest will find a wide diversity in recreational opportunities and camping locations.

The Lincoln National Forest rises from the Tularosa Valley (at one place there is a 5000 feet vertical cliff!) in the west then slopes gently eastward to the Pecos River. The Pecos River is fed by four perennial streams in the Forest: Rio Bonito, Rio Ruidoso, Rio Penasco and the Sacramento River. While fishing is not very good along these rivers, each provides an excellent place to relax, cool off a bit, and enjoy a little wildlife viewing. From mule deer, black bear, porcupines, bobcats, to fox, skunk, squirrel, mice, and 200 different species of birds, the Forest abounds with wildlife. It is not unusual to observe a herd of elk heading for water in the early morning light near Deerhead campground or hear a turkey gobble in the woods around Saddle campground.

One fairly common sight in the Lincoln National Forest is black bear. It was, after all, the birthplace of Smokey Bear. Early May 1950, a fire crew brought a badly singed and burned black bear cub back to their fire camp. Initially named "Hotfoot" for the burns on his buttocks and feet, Smokey received the care and attention he needed. In return, Smokey Bear became the Forest Service's symbol for fire prevention. Smokey Bear and his "Only you can prevent forest fires" slogan are now recognized around the world. After a long and productive life, Smokey was returned home and rests in peace in a small park that bears his name in the town of Capitan.

With over 200-miles of trails throughout the Lincoln National Forest visitors can enjoy leisurely walks or challenging hikes while experiencing the Forest first-hand. Convenient to the campgrounds around Cloudcroft, NM is a small but pleasant network of trails developed through the Rails-to-Trails program. The Trestle Trail, of the Cloud-Climbing Rail Trail network, is accessed from the Trestle Recreation Area. One short paved trail provides visitors with a breathtaking view of the Tularosa Valley and White Sands National Monument. A more challenging trail leads to Devil's Elbow Overlook where visitors can view the amazing feats of construction performed by those early railroad crews. A third and, at 2.5-miles, longest trail ends at the Mexican Canyon Trestle. One of the Forest's more challenging trails is the Three River Trails out of Three Rivers campground, a pleasantly remote camping location for recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhomes. South Fork Trail, out of the South Fork campground, and Crest Trail, off of Forest Route 117 near Skyline campground, also offer challenging strolls for weekend hikers.

One nice feature of the Lincoln National Forest and its campgrounds is the abundance of mature trees. Douglas fir, Pinyon pine, Aspen, oak, Red maple and Ponderosa pine are everywhere. During the fall, when the leaves change color, the Forest is spectacular. But in the summer, the sweet scent of the Ponderosa pine on a warm afternoon breeze is just as pleasant.

Along with the hiking and exploration within the Lincoln National Forest, there are a number of day trip activities that can be enjoyed. The National Solar Observatory, off the Sunspot Scenic Byway (State Route 6563), near Sleepy Grass campground, offers self-guided tours of an active observatory. The research scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff are very approachable and willing to answer questions from all. If a visitor is interested in a unique feature of nature, the White Sands National Monument is within an easy drive of the Forest. This 275-square mile area of wavelike gypsum dunes is the largest of its kind in the world. One can drive or hike to explore the snow white dunes, from morning until nightfall. Special programs are offered during the summer months. Check their web site for more information. And for those visitors who enjoy exploring an ancient culture, there is the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, eight miles from the Three Rivers campground. Here, some 20,000 individual carvings can be found scattered among the jumble of rocks. Some of the carvings are identifiable: the rattlesnake, the hunter, big horn sheep can all be read. While the meaning of other symbols is lost, all the carvings are magnificent in their simple beauty.

Lincoln National Forest is a land of Ponderosa pine, ancient history, western adventures, spectacular beauty and quiet reflection. The Forest's developed campgrounds provide access to the many varied and diverse recreation opportunities found there. Come and enjoy the chance for the totally delightful experiences awaiting you in the Lincoln National Forest.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 3463 Las Palomas Rd. Alamogordo, New Mexico 88310 575-434-7200 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Guadalupe 114 S. Halagueno Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220 575-885-4181 Sacramento #4 Lost Lodge Rd. Cloudcroft, New Mexico 88317 575-682-2551 Smokey Bear 901 Mechem Dr. Ruidoso, New Mexico 88345 575-257-4095

Fred and Suzi Dow