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.

Landscape 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

Smoke Notice

Fire crews are planning to implement prescribed fire projects on the El Rito and Canjilon ranger districts in fall 2023. Visitors may notice smoke during implementation. Potential dates will be posted to Alerts & Notices as timeframes are identified based on weather and conditions.

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

Smoke Alert

Fire crews are planning to implement the McCrystal Rock Prescribed Fire at some point in late summer or early fall 2023. The project will temporarily close McCrystal Campground. Visitors may notice smoke during implementation. Potential dates will be posted on Alerts & Notices as timeframes are identified based on weather and conditions.

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

Elliot 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