Special Places

Some of the finest mountain scenery in the Southwest is found in the 1.5 million acres covered by the Carson National Forest. Elevations rise from 6,000 feet to 13,161 feet at Wheeler Peak, the highest in New Mexico. Our objective is to maintain that natural beauty.

For our visitors' situational awareness

The Carson National Forest closed on May 19 due to extreme fire danger. There is no public access allowed on any part of the forest. Trails, campgrounds, recreation sites, picnic sites and dispersed camping areas are closed. The forest is expected to reopen when significant moisture is received and conditions have improved.

Landcape picture of beautiful wilderness forest

Some of the most picturesque and beautiful natural scenery on the Carson National Forest can be seen on the Wilderness Areas  of  the Carson National Forest.


Highlighted Areas

Hopewell Lake Campground

View of Hopewell Lake through the trees with rolling hills in the background.

Hopewell Lake Campground sits next to its scenic namesake lake between Tres Piedras and Tierra Amarilla in northern New Mexico. Visitors enjoy horseback riding, hiking, fishing and canoeing.

Natural Features: Hopewell Lake is a small, man-made lake, set high in the Carson National Forest at an elevation of 9,500 feet. A forest of conifer and aspen trees covers the area and offers partial shade in the campground.

Recreation: The 14-acre lake is perfect for canoeing and is regularly stocked with rainbow and brook trout. Several trails begin in the campground and are popular with horseback riders and hikers.

Facilities: The campground contains a group day-use shelter and overnight campsite, as well as several family overnight sites.  Horse corrals and water troughs are on-site.

Fish Your National Forests: This site can be accessed by Passenger Car; Fish available include: Trout; Types of fishing available include: Shore, Motorized boat, Float tube, Fly, Spin, Bait; 

El Rito Campground

El Rito Creek surrouned by evergreen trees.


Located near the town of El Rito, this area is often crowded in summer due to its popularity. The campground is situated along the bank of the El Rito Creek. 11 campsites at 7600 feet with excellent hiking and fishing access.  

Echo Amphitheater Picnic Site

Echo Amphitheater is a natural amphitheater located on the Carson National Forest in Rio Arriba County, in northern New Mexico.  The sandstone cliff is known for its unique echoing auditory properties. The red vertical stripes down the otherwise horizontally stratified cliff wall are streaks of mineral varnish that provides a colorful contrast to the sandstone cliff. This colorful geological feature combined with its unusual auditory properties no doubt fed the legend of myth associated with the Echo Amphitheater.

View more photos on the Carson National Forest Flickr site.

Valle Vidal Unit

The Valle Vidal has two campgrounds, McCrystal and Cimarron, and numerous parking areas for those heading into the backcountry. The McCrystal campground sits at 8,100 ft., it has 55 units for camping and can accommodate a trailer 32’ and under.

The Cimarron campground sits at 9,400 ft., it has 32 camping units and can also accommodate a trailer 32’ and under.

Recreational Information on the Valle Vidal Unit

Elliott Barker Trail

In the summer months the trail is popular for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking.  The trail is open to snowmobiles, cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

Summer and fall for hiking, mountain biking and horseback and winter and early spring for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.


Recreation Areas