Three Rivers Lincoln National Forest Campground

Diana Northup in campsite 3
This campground is notable for the large trees which separate the various campsites and the spectacular vistas of Sierra Blanca and the Tularosa basin. Additionally, it is near the Three Rivers Petroglyph hike.

Campground data:

Controlling agency: Lincoln National Forest; Smokey Bear Ranger District
Official URL:forest service campground web page
Region: South-central; Sacramento mountains.
CG elevation: 6335ft; 1931m
Campsite count: 12.
Visual density: 3.33. Most sites have a similar visual density.
Fee: $6.00.
Season: All year.
Dogs: Yes.
Horses: Yes. corrals available
Handicapped accessible: Yes.
General tent notes: Nice tent areas, but bring a ground cloth to protect your tent bottom from the gravel.
RV max length: 26ft; 8m
RV parking surface: gravel
RV pull-through spaces? Unknown.
Campground facilities: trash can(s), vault toilet(s), fire pit, tent pads, water.
Campground attractions: hiking, wilderness access, scenery, history (at the nearby petroglyph site.), stream (Only some times of the year.), year-round access.

When we visited it:

Date: 2007-04-01
Cleanliness: 8. Camp site cleanliness ranged from at least 100 small pieces of litter in one campsite to as few as three in another.


Waypoint Type Description
LNF3RIVCGCampgroundThree Rivers Lincoln National Forest campground


Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Lincoln National Forest, Smokey Bear and Sacramento Ranger Districts US Forest Service 2003 1:126720 N from Amazon (purchase) Smokey Bear Ranger Distict
Ruidoso BLM 1985 1:100000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
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:

On US 54 between Carizozo and Tularosa, between mile posts 96 and 96 is a large sign indicating a turn to the east on Otero county road B030, also known as Three Rivers Road and forest road 579.

At about five miles, you pass the entrance to the Three Rivers Petroglyph site and the corresponding BLM campground.

Continue past it, remaining on the main road. Signs point the way at every junction, but in general, you are always following the primary road. At 7.3 miles, you follow the sign and go right down a dip, across an arroyo, and the road becomes gravel. At 8.3 miles, another county road (Otero B035) takes off to the right. You do not want this road; instead, go straight, and a sign just past the cattle guard indicates that you are on the correct road.

12.6 miles from US 54, the road dead-ends in the campground.

Note that the speed limit on US 54 is 55mph. The highway patrol strictly enforce this limit; we often see people pulled over. Many (five or six on our last trip) damaged guardrails attest to the wisdom of the limit.

No short text

About the campground:

campsite 2
Here is an example showing the large trees (primarily aligator-bark juniper) separating the campsites. Most, but not all, of the campsites have these shade shelters.
Many of the sites are well-set up for tents, with smooth, level areas. This example is from campsite 4. The area is gravel, so you want to bring a ground cloth to protect your tent bottom.
gravel tent area in campsite 4
site 12 and its tent area
Site 12 has the tent site up a couple of steps from the picnic area. You can see it to the right of the juniper behind the shade.
This campground is also the trailhead for forest trail 44 into the White Mountain Wilderness. People bring horses, and these corrals are available for them.
horse in a corral

Plants we saw around the campground:

Reader comments about this campground:

On Thu Jun 21 20:23:56 2007 Bob from Tulsa, OK said:
We tent camped at this campground in July 2004. Very scenic site overlooking the Tularosa Valley. Clean, quiet campground. This is a great place to get away from the crowds. Seems to be popular with horseback riders. We've always meant to return, but we have not been able to yet.

On Thu Jul 12 22:02:33 2007 Austin BacaRay from LAS CRUCES said:
Me and my Boy Scout troop. Troop 66 . I loved this site it was very clean and to come back.

On Tue Sep 25 08:17:58 2007 Pat Rasmussen from Alamogordo, New Mexico said:
We hike the 3-rivers trail at least once a year and it is especially beautiful in the late spring while the water from the snow runoff is still flowing. The campground is clean and quiet and the campground host is friendly and knowledgeable about the whole white mountain wilderness. Come visit us!

On Tue Jan 8 15:24:38 2008 Hayley from Phoenix, AZ said:
We originally planned on spending one night at the campsite and ended up staying for a week. A great place to explore the White Mountain Wilderness and the nearby town of Tularosa was a delight as well. We plan on returning this coming week and have been looking forward to the visit all year. We highly recommend this campsite and the camp host is very kind and knows all there is to know about the area.

On Tue Feb 26 15:41:16 2008 Anonymous from Somewhere said:
This place is fantastic! We are here now, week of 2/24, and it's beautiful. A little cool and windy, but nice. There are two other campers, and some dayhikers parked nearby. Good place for car camping or small RVs. Best RV sites are 4, 6 and 7, and the group area.

Camp host is not nosy, just a nice guy who likes people. His dogs are cool too.

Thanks for the fantastic directions. Road coming in was fine for our 24' 5th wheel. Anything bigger though would be a little tricky once getting here, sites are not very level, and short.

Only one water spigot is working right now and pressure is low. Might want to fill your tank before arriving.

At $6 a night, what a deal!

On Mon Jul 28 17:46:06 2008 Elizabeth and Jon from el paso said:
I just came back from my very first camping trip at the Three Rivers Campground in New Mexico and met some of the kindest people: Jon, the park ranger and his companion Christy. My boyfriend and I along with two friends of ours were hit by a terrible storm while out camping and they came to our rescue, providing us with food, shelter, and dry clothing. They really went above and beyond the call of duty and we are eternally greatful for their kindness. We highly recommend this campground!!

On Mon Aug 18 11:03:34 2008 Shaunna from Las Cruces New Mexico said:
Great time! Only campers there. Trail was washed out, but we had no problem finding the trail. We saw two bears in two miles, one one three rivers trail and one on dry canyon. One was all black, and one had a black face and legs with a blonde body. Beautiful!!!

On Tue Mar 24 18:34:38 2009 Amber, Max & Thomas from Santa Fe, NM said:
What a beautiful place! We just got back from a camping trip and had a great time. We live in NM and are always on the lookout for camping spots off the beaten path. This time of year, it can get pretty cold at night, so make sure to bring lots of warm clothes and extra blankets for sleeping. I highly recommend this place and the Volunteer who works at this campground is very nice and helpful. Beautiful hike up the river and Sue at the Trading Post makes great coffee.

On Mon Jul 6 02:06:02 2009 Tai from El Paso, TX said:
some friends and i went camping the weekend of 27 June 09, a couple days after the trail had been flooded out. it made the hike interesting to say the least! we didn't even make it past 6 miles b/c of thunder and heavy rain. but we're going back in a couple weeks to try again. the campsite was great though! i was the first one up there and i decided on site 12 b/c it would accommodate the group. a very nice spot.

the campgrounds host John is super friendly and takes great care of the campground.

i think it's a fabulous place to hike, and next time i'm remembering my rain jacket. i left it in the tent, much to my chagrin in the rain.

On Sat May 8 20:38:19 2010 The Dude from Alamogordo said:
This is a great place. I like the fact its open all year.

I prefer to TENT camp in the snow or rain. I was there several times between Nov 2009 and Jan 2010. Almost every time it snowed. The temperature at night was about 22 deg and about 35 in the day. What a blast. I am very well equipped for cold weather tent camping. You wont find other people when its snowing or raining and thats why I like it. The wife and dogs also like it.

If you spook easily the coyotes can freak you out. There are several family's and they are very active at night. The howling is awesome as its only about 75 yards or less from the tent (dont let the dogs loose at night). You know when momma comes home with the food (several times a night) when the pups start crying / whining (VERY loud and exciting). If you want to bring a firearm to feel more secure its not a problem but always remember "SAFETY FIRST" This is a campground not a shooting range. However you may see some hunters as this is a national forest and hunting is allowed certain times of the year (Winter mostly I believe). From the campsite we can see and hear the small herds of Elk.

The camp host John is a very nice guy. He is not nosy as some other poster commented. Its for your own safety when he comes to see you before you hike up the trail. Local conditions may have changed or some danger in the area may exist.

I haven't gone very far up the trail but the mile or so I did was REALLY cool. There is usually some water running and the dogs really like splashing around in it. If you feel adventurous you can go all the way up to ski apache area on the trail (Bring a mule or horse).

On Sun Jul 18 18:40:01 2010 Vince from Las Cruces said:
The road to the campground is paved/gravel well maintained until you get 5 miles from the CG. There is little shade except the picnic table area. We went in June and it was HOT....the relief was the creek which was much cooler and fun to hike around....we spent most of the days here. Make sure your fuel tank is full to run the generator during all allowable hours. We had a good time here and will probably go again....earlier in the year. Possible great winter site. The camp host is very knowledgeable and a good guy.

On Fri Nov 5 14:02:06 2010 from USA said:
Contrary to the information provided by the Forest Service, there are at least two sites that can handle large RVs. We travel with a Sierra 3500 Dually bumper pulling a 36' travel trailer, and Site #4 fit us AND our Savana van pulling our two-horse trailer, and was pretty level to boot. Nothing on the roads coming in prohibit this either. Corrals are nearby, though not at all level, water for the horses is nearby. Not the tidiest horse camp we've ever been in, but certainly not the worst, either. Call campground host John for availability.

On Thu Jun 2 13:39:01 2011 Anonymous from Somewhere said:
We camped here on our honeymoon in 2006 in a tent. Campground very clean and beautiful, not crowded. Well worth the extra drive. We were camped at the highest point when a thunderstorm blew in, very sudden and dangerous. The camp host appeared right away to help us move to a safer location, it was wonderful. He was very friendly but understanding when people wanted privacy instead of chatting. We are planning to return this summer.

On Wed Jun 29 08:19:45 2016 Peacock Family from Edgewood said:
Very nice campground. There have been many improvements made to the sight since I was a kid. It doesn't interfere with nature however. As soon as you are out of the campground the area is very clean and primitive. Was packed the weekend we can so get here early in the weekend.

On Wed Jun 29 08:19:48 2016 Peacock Family from Edgewood said:
Very nice campground. There have been many improvements made to the sight since I was a kid. It doesn't interfere with nature however. As soon as you are out of the campground the area is very clean and primitive. Was packed the weekend we can so get here early in the weekend.

On Tue Mar 21 15:12:29 2017 Daniel from El Paso, Texas said:
Camped out March 10-12 2017 at Site 8 with a nice view to the west. Hiked two miles up Trail 44. Came back following weekend and campground sites were all taken. "Retreated" to Petroglyph Monument and camped there. Sadly, campfires are not allowed. Only charcoal in grills. Our site had no grill!!

On Thu Aug 30 18:55:18 2018 Roger & Joyce from Ruidoso Downs, NM said:
What a beautiful and wonderful experience we had at this campground. All sites were well maintained and clean. The walking trails were great. Bryan, our campground host was a major plus in making our stay extremely enjoyable. Thank you for hiring such a high caliber and knowledgeable person. We are already looking forward to a return trip.

On Fri Sep 7 17:00:02 2018 Hector from Socorro TX said:
I went up over Labor Day weekend, wasn’t sure what to expect but I had a very relaxing and enjoyable experience. The place is very nice to stay yet about my horse and we wondered around, went up the trail towards crest Trail but it was a little sheer drops in certain areas near the stream. It was a little scary for a colt stallion. The grounds keeper and his wife are very nice make the rounds to make sure the place is in order. It is the site I will be coming back too Before winter comes. There was so much to see but I ran out of time and wanted to give my horse a break. I would gauge the trail difficult for trail riding Up the backside of Sierra Blanca. It is a road less traveled but very much worth the trip. They do have male female restrooms. They have horse corrals, they could use some maintenance, I might bring a weedeater and a rake next visit. All the camping spots have a fire ring a picnic table and a porch.

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