Tag Archives: Campgrounds

Las Petacas Campground

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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. According to http://enchantedcircle.org/, 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…

This is the bridge in Las Petacas campground that spans the Rio de Fernando de Taos. Can you see the water only inches from the bottom of the bridge?

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.

The waters of the Rio Fernando de Taos were quite high in early May of 2017.

This is the building which houses the pit toilet in the Las Petacas Campground.

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 (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/carson/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=44098&actid=29) gives the GPS coordinates of Las Petacas campground as Latitude : 36.382 and Longitude: -105.5214

 

Big Tesuque Campground

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The Man and I were going to be in Santa Fe for a few days, so I got on the Free Campsites website and found us a beautiful, free campground on the outskirts of the city.

If you’ve never used Free Campsites (https://freecampsites.net/), you should check out the website the next time you need to stay somewhere overnight. Whether you want to boondock one evening or plan a multi-stop vacation, Free Campsites can help you find what you need. The website moves beyond Wal-Marts and truck stops and focuses on public land.

According to the site,

Our community provides the best free camping information available. Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. We give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.

We believe that free camping areas are often the most beautiful and peaceful camp sites. Our focus is on public lands. You own these lands and you are entitled to use them. We especially like camping on Forest Service land, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) areas, WMA’s (Wildlife Management Areas) and county or city parks.

Contrary to the name of the website, not all camping spots listed on the Free Campsites websites are actually free. Some sites included cost up to $15 or so, which is still quite a bit less expensive than the average RV park. Of course, I’m cheap (like my mawmaw, about whom my father said more than once, she could hold onto a nickel so tight the buffalo would moan), so it’s a rare penny I spend to park my van and sleep. However, Free Campsites gives the option of inexpensive campgrounds to travelers who like the extra amenities offered and have a bit of spending money to put down.

I’ve used the Free Campsites listings on my laptop quite a bit but recently installed the free app on my (Android) phone so I can use it on the go. The app is a little slow, but I blame that on my 3G phone.

This photo shows NM Hwy 475, aka the Santa Fe Scenic Byway, as it snakes up the mountain.

When I looked at the options for free camping near Santa Fe, I found several spots on Highway 475, aka the Santa Fe Scenic Byway. (Read more about the Santa Fe Scenic Byway here: https://www.newmexico.org/things-to-do/scenic-byways/santa-fe-national-forest/.)

We chose to stay at the Big Tesuque (pronounced [tuh-SOO-key], according to http://encyclopediaofsantafe.com/pages/words/tesuque.html) Campground. It’s part of the Santa Fe National Forest. The campground’s GPS coordinates are 35.76917, -105.80861, and it’s located near milepost 13. It’s small but does include two pit toilets and bear-proof trash cans. There is no drinking water available there. (Learn more about the campground at https://freecampsites.net/#!13966&query=sitedetails.)

The campground is really intended for people in tents; there’s no space to park vehicles at the camp sites. The parking area has room for about a dozen vehicles. Campers are meant to park in the small lot, then carry their equipment and supplies up to the sites to unpack and set up.

We simply parked the van in the parking area. When we were ready to cook, we unfolded one of our tables next to the van and set up our stove and equipment. Only four or five cars pulled into the campground’s parking area during our stay, and nobody else spent the night. Even during busy times, I think it would be fine for a van dweller to take an empty parking space and stay there for the night.

Even if we had been tent campers, the entire campground was covered in snow while we were there! It was May 1, but there were several inches of snow all over the camping area. I guess at over 9700 feet in elevation, snow can come late into the spring. Despite the snow, it wasn’t too cold out, at least until the sun set. After dark, we hunkered down in bed and got to sleep early.

I was quite impressed with the cleanliness of the restroom I used. It even had plenty of toilet paper! (Were I a better campground reporter, I would have checked both restrooms for cleanliness and toilet paper.) Although Big Tesuque Campground has no camp host, someone was cleaning, restocking toilet paper, and scrubbing the pit toilet, even during the slow season.

My favorite feature of the campground was the brook/creek/stream/river (one of these days I am going to learn what makes those bodies of water different) running alongside it. There were even two small waterfalls of sorts where the water tumbled down to lower levels. The sound of flowing water helps me sleep peacefully, and I had a very good night in the parking lot of the Big Tesuque Campground.

Snow! Trees! Waterfalls! All at the Big Tesuque Campground, less than 20 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza.

I took all of the photos in this post.