Red Canyon

No short text A pair of campgrounds in a ponderosa pine forest with a (often dry) stream near the upper camp. With plenty of campsites, this campground will only be full on the busiest of weekends.

This campground is the trailhead for three trails which can be used to make two loops. One of these loops is the Red Canyon/Spruce Spring loop.

Campground data:

Controlling agency: Cibola National Forest; Mountainair Ranger District
Official URL:Forest service web page
Region: Central; Manzano Mountains.
CG elevation: 7811ft; 2381m
Campsite count: 50.
Visual density: 9.30. Site 3 has a visual density of 11, site 18 has a visual density of 5, and site 34 has a visual density of 12.
Fee: $7.00.
Season: April 01 to October 31.
Dogs: Yes.
Horses: Yes. There is a horse campground. These campsites have small corrals.
Handicapped accessible: Yes.
RV max length: 22ft; 7m
RV parking surface: dirt
RV pull-through spaces? Yes.
RV parking notes: Some spaces are pull-through, not all
General notes: Trailheads are at the horse camp (a trail connects the two camps).

The non-horse campground has a group fire pit. Sites 24 and 25 are double sites. The Albuquerque Journal has an article about this campground.

Campground facilities: water (Water connections exist at the bathrooms and at many of the campsites, but they were not hooked up when we visited), trash can(s), vault toilet(s), fire pit (Not all campsites have them).
Campground attractions: wilderness access, wildflowers, hiking.

When we visited it:

Date: 2000-07-15 2005-08-14
Cleanliness: 9. 7. I found 24 small pieces of litter in site 18 and 16 in site 34.
General notes: Vault toilets were smelly.

In the horse camp, the only occupant was playing LOUD music (maybe explaining why they were the only occupant of the campground?).


Waypoint Type Description
RCCGHCCampgroundRed Canyon horse campground
RCCGCampgroundRed Canyon campground


Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah Automobile Club of Southern California 1998 1:0 N from Amazon (purchase) Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the campground:

From Albuquerque, take Interstate 40 East to exit 175 for South NM 337. Take 337 south. From the stoplight, head 28.7 miles south on NM 337 through Chilili until the road ends at a T intersection with NM 55. Turn right (west) and continue another 12 miles passing through Tajique and Torreon to the town of Manzano. Watch for a sign (and then follow it :-) which says: Manzano State Park; Red Canyon Campground; NM 131. After going 2.4 miles on NM 131, you are at the entrance to Manzano Mountains state park.

Turn right; you are now on a one-lane paved road. 0.5 mi down the road you get to the forest boundary and the road turns to gravel. A few small side roads branch off, but remain on the main road for 1.8 miles, where you will see a sign for the Red Canyon campground.

You have two choices for places to camp. If you choose the (upper) horse camp, you will be camping at the trailheads for three trails. If you choose the lower camp, you add about 0.4mi to your hike. RV camping is at the lower campground. Otherwise, (unless you have horses) there is little to distinguish the two campgrounds.

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About the campground:

Campsite 2
The campsites are in a ponderosa forest. This is campsite 2. It is listed as a tent site, but we really did not see much difference between the tent and RV campsites. The tent sites did not appear to be any better suited for tents than many of the others, although a few of the non-tent sites were not very flat other than the parking area.
Here is a photo of campsite 4.
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Here is campsite 9. Somebody left with a campfire still burning.
Sites 19 and 20 have parking right beside each other. Great for friends camping together.
Campsites 19 and 20
About 0.4mi away from the main camping area is the horse camp with campsites 39--50.

Many of the sites are close together. This would be great if you are with some friends at the neighboring campsite. What looks like the best campsite is at the end of the loop on the right, right as you begin turning to the left to go around the loop.

The picture shows a campsite with our truck parked in it. You can see the van in the neighboring site as well. There are three campsites in this photo.

At the horse camp, but not a part of the fee area is also a picnic area with six picnic sites and a group area with four tables and one serving table. The trail between this part of the campground and the non-horse campground leaves from this picnic area. Two of the trailheads are near the picnic area as well.

A stream runs along the edge of the campground. It was dry when we were camping.

Plants we saw around the campground:

Reader comments about this campground:

On Sun Aug 3 07:32:50 2003 Anonymous from Albuq. NM said:
Red Canyon is a beautiful forest setting. We watched and heard a storm roll in. Sites were fairly close together. We were saddened to be awoken shortly after sunrise by the engines of ATVs rather than that of the birds singing. The ATV traffic grew remarkably as the morning wore on. This and the dust created prompted us to pack up and leave much earlier than planned.

On Tue Feb 21 09:06:00 2006 John Reynolds from Tijeras, NM said:
Instead of $5.00, the fee is now $7.00. Also, the Manzano Hawk Watch Site is within five miles of this camp; keep this in mind if you're planning to go camping during hawk migration season.

On Thu May 17 19:07:51 2007 Steve from Albuquerque, NM said:
Red Canyon is one of my favorite spots to camp. The best part is the west trail that follows the stream. It's a beautiful little stream with small waterfalls and pools. There are a few places where the trail crosses the stream.

On Mon Jul 14 09:31:36 2008 Mike from Albuquerque said:
As a result of the fires in the Manzano Moutains, Red Canyon is now day use only and is closed to camping. This should reopen as the monsoon season approaches and more moisture falls on the forest.

On Tue Aug 26 15:09:42 2008 brave camper from Abq, NM said:
Very pretty campsite! We camped August 22-24, 2008 We were interuppted by a LARGE party in our campground. It started with the loud music @ 7p. Adding 50 or so people throughout the evening. Music even louder. The group got very loud, we didn't sleep, and it finally wrapped up at 4:30AM. We proceeded to go to Quarai Ruins not far and used thier phone (ours has no reception outside of ABQ) to call a Ranger. They came out later that afternoon when we were back at camp. The ranger(s) ended up kicking them out and charging everyone still there 400 dollars in fines. 150 both for littering and disturbing the peace and 200 for no permit. There were no permits at the lower loop but there were some at the upper loop. We found out later that everyone in the camp complained when the ranger drove in. I'm so glad we called and let this be a warning to any other you-know-whats that this behavior won't be tolerated! :) Our next two days were wonderful. We even saw a deer a couple times in the AM.

On Tue Sep 23 14:47:28 2008 Jasmine from Albuquerque said:
We stayed at Red Canyon for Labor Day weekend 2008 and we loved it. Lower campground was about half full and everyone behaved themselves. The campground was very clean. Rate is $7 per day. No water.

On Fri Aug 21 16:33:41 2009 Markox from Albuquerque, NM said:
Stayed Thursday night, August 20. Gorgeous weather. Stayed in the upper campground in spot #45. Campground was very nice, clean, quiet - just us 2. Saw Mama bear and 2 cubs, a deer, 7 turkeys, 2 turkey vultures, a huge mouse, many squirrels and numerous species of birds. The stars were awesome. All in all, it was one of the best camping times I've had in a long time.

On Tue Sep 15 16:09:20 2009 Joe from Belen said:
It's a nice place. I think the wildlife descriptions may be a little over the top. There are deer and bears in the Manzanos. As for the huge moose...maybe he saw a large man that was a member of the moose lodge? I don't even think elk have been seen in the Manzanos for many years. I'm not sure that there have ever been moose in the state of NM.

On Wed Sep 16 08:02:41 2009 The Webmaster from Albuquerque, NM said:
There have been moose seen further north in NM (there are herds that were transplanted into Colorado, and they occasionally wander into NM); the last one was in the mis-1990s; see Colorado Moose in New Mexico for details. Nothing I have read (other than the comment above) mentions moose being seen as far south as the Manzano mountains.

On Mon Oct 5 10:25:19 2009 Lesa from Corrales said:
With regards to the comments on a moose being seen I believe the person wrote huge MOUSE not moose.

On Thu Jun 3 14:40:39 2010 Andy from nm said:
Stayed two nights at the lower campground- it was very nice. The creek next to the site was flowing and quite full. There were two other groups there each night, two of which were RV campers. There is no water at the site and a conversation with a ranger made it sound like it would be that way indefinitely. There is water at the state park campground just a few miles down the road. Saw lots of Western Tanagers, a few Jays, a woodpecker and a few ravens. The ranger said a cougar was in the area and it was wise to hike in groups.

On Sat Jul 10 12:05:45 2010 Jim from ireland said:
In June 99 we stayed at Red Canyon for fathers day weekend, had a very good time as plenty to explore close by. The stream at upper campground was still flowing beautifully cool. I have hiked from this camp during the week and almost no one is around. Just a quick memory, in March 1997, a month before I moved my family to Alb from NYC, I was in ALB for a week to rent an apartment, look for a job, open a bank acct, etc, etc,. I was staying at a cheap hotel on central and in the evenings driving around trying to get my bearings in new surroundings. One clear night ( they were all clear) I drove to Tijeras took a right and drove down the back of the Manzanos. The map was pretty good and the rental car was ok, the smell of cedar and pinon ( still cant type that tilde!!!)driving though Escobosa, Chillili, Torreon was heavenly. Even though it was pitch dark and I was in a place I had never been in before I followed the signs to the Red Canyon campground when I spied it from the main road. Self doubt began to creep in as snow drifts began to appear along the roadside, followed by complete snow cover on the shady side of the road. Thankfully it was still cold enough for the Manzano mud( which I would discover in years ahead) not to be around yet. Pulling up at the upper Red Canyon campground I hopped out of the car only to be awestruck be the spectacle in the skies! Brilliant stars and planets, no natural light at all, and a strange thing in the sky( only later I would find out it was the Hale-Bopp comet). The snow was reflected brilliant white, the stream was at full rushing song and the sky staggering. I spent the best part of an hour slouching about the upper campground with my head tilted towards the sky. No people, no commotion, inner space to think and dream and wonder. I left and drove like hell the hour plus to ALB with a hugh smile on my face. The following month we moved to NM and the Manzanos always stayed my favorite place. Fron the friendliness of the people, to the beauty and open spaces. Now a continent and a half away I can still treasure my many memories of Red Canyon.


On Mon Aug 22 22:34:52 2011 Samara La BelleFeil from Albuquerque, NM said:
I went to Red Canyon about 15 years ago and it was quite a busy spot. This time most of the week besides one or two hikers or picnic family, there was nothing but quiet. There was a couple of louder RVs come on Friday but overall they were not too bad considering all. Just a bit bothersome that out of a whole loop being empty that they took the 2 closest to us.

We had plenty of visiting Foxes, Skunks and Finches to make it at least some what pleasant. We did some hiking on all the trails and it was sparse enough that we could pick trails that no one else was on.

The ranger was quite pleased to sit and chat a bit about the area and it's history which was nice. He did warn us that there had been quite a bit of bear activities but none bothered us or came into the campground while we were there.

We did some tent camping and though there was some rain that kept us indoors for part of a couple of days, it was enough to keep things cool enough to enjoy it. There was some wasps around so be careful for that but that was mostly on the upper loop.

There creek was dry even after the rains so take plenty of your own water. The state park that is nearby is closed for the season which may have helped on the low amount of people coming by.

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