I’ve never spent the night in Las Petacas Campground, but I did walk through it in mid-May of 2017 before the gate was open and while the waters of the adjacent stream were high.
Las Petacas (which means “the flasks ” according to Babelfish.com) Campground is located at an elevation of 7,400 feet, next to a stream called Rio Fernando de Taos on US Highway 64. This scenic highway is known as the Enchanted Circle and connects Taos, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River, Questa, and Arroyo Hondo. The Enchanted Circle is an
the 83-mile loop through mountains, valleys, mesa, and national forest… all unique to Northern New Mexico.
The Enchanted Circle is centered around Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the state. Culture and outdoor recreation are abundant around the Enchanted Circle…
When I say the campground is next to the highway, I mean it is right next to the highway. Although I’ve never stayed the night in Las Petecas, I’ve slept in my van in other pullouts on the same highway. There wasn’t much traffic during the pre-Memorial Day times I stayed in the area, and vehicles virtually ceased traveling down the road by nine or ten o’clock at night. Highway noise is probably pretty low in the campground after dark.
The campground is small–only nine camp sites–and is sandwiched between the highway and a stream. In the middle of the campground, a small footbridge crosses the stream. Sites 3 and 4 are located across the water and are accessible via the bridge. Most of the sites are visible to the highway, but the two end sites and the sites across the stream offer the most privacy. Because of the water source, there are many trees on the river side of the campground.
The sites on each end of the camping area could accommodate a van or a small pull-behind camper or a small-to-medium Class C RV. While a pull-behind camper or vehicle couldn’t make it across the bridge to take one of the sites across the river, the parking area for those sites could accommodate a van or a small Class C. About half of the sites in the middle of the highway side of the river have large, flat parking areas adequate for a van or small-to-medium Class Cs, but other sites offer barely any room to park, which might make camping out of a vehicle tricky.
The stream–Rio Fernando de Taos–was quite high when I visited the campground. While the water was not flowing over the bridge, it was flowing just a few inches below. People who’d lived in the area for years were surprised at how high the water was. It flowed rapidly; I wouldn’t have tried to ford it, even if it hadn’t consisted of icy snowmelt.
There is no camp host at Las Petacas Campground, but it does boast a pit toilet in one of those little Forest Service restroom buildings. The restroom was unlocked the day I was there, even though the campground wasn’t yet officially open. The restroom was stocked with toilet paper and appeared clean, although since I didn’t actually use the facility, I didn’t lift the lid to see how clean or dirty the risers and seat were. However, because there was toilet paper on the roll and the floor wasn’t filthy, I knew someone had been coming around to service the area.
Las Petacas Campground is a fee area. It costs $6 per night to camp there. Payment in on the honor system, with pay envelopes provided at the info board. A campsite may be occupied for 14 days. (I’m not sure if that means a campsite can only be occupied for 14 consecutive days or 14 days within a certain period of time or what.)
I think $6 is a fair price to pay to stay at a campground with a pit toilet in a busy tourist area. (The campground is only four miles from the town of Taos.) Of course, free would be better, but cheap is sometimes ok too. I would stay at this campground if I had a few dollars to spend and wanted to be close to Taos. I think it would be a pretty, tranquil place to hang out during the day and to sleep at night.
I took all the photos in this post.
The Forest Service website gives the GPS coordinates of Las Petacas campground as Latitude : 36.382 and Longitude: -105.5214.