NFS Campground Review – Columbine Canyon, Questa, NM

Enjoying a glass by the stream next to our RV site at Columbine Canyon

A lovely forest campground next to a running stream near Questa on the Enchanted Circle in NE New Mexico.

Link to campground here: Columbine Canyon, Carson Forest, NM
Link to map location here: Columbine Canyon, Carson Forest, NM

  1. Site Quality = 4/5
    Very nice site quality here, especially for a National Forest. All sites are paved with a good selection of larger and relatively flat ones. The entrance to the campground has a small circle of 8 large, perfectly flat open sites easily accessible to big rigs, but with limited shade/privacy. The remainder of the campground runs away from the main road up alongside a creek and has more private and dispersed forested sites of varying size/flatness. On left a selection of back-ins (#10-17 or so), with pull-throughs on right (#21 onwards), several of which can accommodate larger rigs. All sites have good separation, lovely “sitting areas” with picnic table and fire-pit, while some even have direct stream-access (e.g. #26/27). No hookups.
  2.  Facilities = 2/5
    Very basic facilities here. There are several sets of pit toilets, kept nicely clean and several water spigots. Access to the stream and many (many) miles of hiking directly from camp. No showers or dump station.
  3. Location = 5/5
    Another lovely location. You are deep in the woods here, shielded from the wind and right next to miles of wonderful hiking. Short drive to popular Red River as well as to visit other sights (e.g. Wild Rivers BLM).
  4. Pet Friendliness = 5/5
    Great pet playground. The stream provides wonderful refreshment, plus there are literally days worth of hiking in Carson National Forest on the trails directly from camp.

Overall Rating = 4
 Camp deep in the woods next to the calming song of a running stream!

Summary: There are 5 forest campgrounds on the Northern End of the Enchanted Circle between Red River and Questa, but Columbine Canyon is by far the most accessible, quietest and nicest in our opinion. Set beautifully in the forest right alongside a running stream, the campground has both fully open sites as well as more private forested sites. All are paved with good access, nice separation and a selection large and flat enough for bigger rigs. There are lovely “sitting areas” and even a few sites with direct stream access (we thought our site #26 by far the nicest of the lot). The surrounding area has plenty to do and see including Red River, Wild Rivers BLM and literally days worth of hiking (there is access to at least 40 miles or so directly from the campground). This is a typical primitive forest campground with no hookups and no dump station but it feels wonderfully peaceful and secluded. It also has full protection from those famous New Mexico winds, a rarity in the area. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and would most certainly come again.

Extra Info:  Verizon extended network with a few bars, so you’ll get a slow 1X connection, but no more. Sites cost $15/night (no hookups). All 27 sites are first-come-first-serve. Several on-site water spigots, but NO dump station.

Extra, Extra Info: More Remote? If you’re looking for something more remote El Aguaje Campground at Wild Rivers BLM has plenty of room for big rigs and allows camping right on the upper rim of the gorgeous Rio Grande Canyon for $7/night (no hookups). Very few people seem to go there.

Extra, Extra, Extra Info: Boondocking? There is aparently a lovely boondocking spot nearer to Taos off Forest Service road 9 at Cebola Mesa. Official RV size limit is 32′, but we weren’t able to make it over there to check if they take bigger. If anyone goes, let me know!

View from front of campground down right-side of loop. Pull-through #27 on left. You can just (barely) see our RV peeking out in pull-through #26 behind it.
Another view down campground loop from the upper side. Site #22 in front, with an RV in site #23 behind it.
Typical back-in site (#12 shown)
View down campground loop showing one of vault toilets and site #14 behind it
View from top of loop. You can just see site #17 hidden on left.
View of “circle” at front of campground with sites #1-8
View of one of large, spacious and flat back-in sites in lower circle. Site #3 shown.
View of our very spacious and private “sitting area” by site #26. Although you can’t see it in the pic, the stream runs directly on the left.
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

    • libertatemamo says

      Honestly I don’t worry terribly about it. Giardia is not completely understood in dogs, and it’s thought many carry the organism (the same way we humans all carry e-coli), but only very few develop any problems. Even if a dog gets giardia, as long as the dog is asymptomatic. many vets don’t treat it. And, water is often not the only way a dog gets infected. If we’re in a clean and remote environment I don’t worry too much about, but that may just be me.
      You can read more about it here:

  1. says

    We are at the Columbine Campground right now! I am researching going to El Aguaje next, and when I googled it, this review came up. I think we’ll head there today. On a side note, one of our dogs had giardia once, and it was awful! She came to us with it from the pound. So I know at least one of our dogs is susceptible to it – no creek swimming for her!

    • libertatemamo says

      Hope you enjoy it!! We totally loved the campground! Sorry to hear about your doggie’s bout w/ giardia…it is pretty aweful if it hits.


  1. […] If you are considering a camping trip in this area, I would suggest going mid-week to avoid the crowds.  If that isn’t possible, backpack into the wilderness or make it a day trip for fishing.  The whole loop of the enchanted circle is not to be missed.  Years ago we stayed at Columbine Canyon Campground and it still remains one of my favorite camping memories (but maybe that’s because we were on our honeymoon?!)  Here’s a great blog with an in-depth review of Columbine.  […]

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