Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

photo-Cosmic CG sign

Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary (CCIDSS) is the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary located on National Forest System lands and also in North America. International Dark Sky Sanctuaries are lands possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights.  For more information on dark skies or the International Dark Sky Association -

The CCIDSS offers a 360-degree, unobstructed view of the night sky, and often hosts “star parties” in cooperation with the partner group “Friends of the Cosmic Campground.” This site is situated where there is little light pollution and low development.

Night vision is necessary to enjoy the night sky. In order to preserve the quality of night sky viewing for fellow star gazers visitors are asked to respect several ground rules including:

  • No parking on the observation pads
  • No camp fires on observation pads
  • No white flashlights – recommend using a red filter over the lens
  • Try to arrive before dark, that way your headlights won’t distort your night vision
  • We recommend no generator use between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

CCIDSS is a primitive campground with minimal site amenities including an information kiosk, a pit toilet, and four concrete telescope/observation pads. Currently, there is very minimal shade available however, future planning developments intend to erect a shade pavilion as well as improve individual campsite amenities as funding comes available.

photo showing road into Cosmic Campground photo of telescope observation pads Blue Horse Head Nebula Milky Way Rising Setting Milky Way

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Open 24/7, however, courtesy suggestions include arriving and setting up camp prior to dusk and discourages the use of bright lights/campfires when other visitors are enjoying the night sky.
Reservations: No reservations are necessary. First come, first served. All Gila NF camping is subject to the 14 day stay limit.
Area Amenities: Tent camping,Camping trailer,Toilets,Parking
Fees  No fee for this campground
Open Season: Year round
Usage: Light
Best Season: Spring/Fall/Winter or dark phase of the moon each month
  • No parking on the telescope observation pads.
  • No campfires on the telescope observation pads.
  • No white flashflights -- recommend using a red filter
  • Try to arrive before dark
  • Recommend no generator use between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
Closest Towns: The closest community is Alma, NM about eight miles south of the campground. There is a combination convenience store, gas station and Alma Café there.
Water: No
Restroom: Vault
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Glenwood Ranger District Phone:  (575)539-2481

General Information


The campground is located 8 miles north of Alma, NM off US Highway 180. There is a brown Forest Service sign opposite the entrance; about half way between milepost 37 & 38 and marked by the “Friends of the Cosmic Campground” signs. Turn, cross the cattle guard, and drive about 1.3 miles.  Cosmic CG Locator Map


 Please do not park on the telescope pads.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Camping & Cabins

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Nature Viewing

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Toilets Vault
Tent camping
Camping trailer
Areas & Activities


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  Elevation : 
5,364 feet