Recreation Guidelines and Information
Play It Safe, Recreate Responsibly
Hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, hunters, OHV users and other public lands users all have certain things in common, including a love of the outdoors. OHV users must stay on existing or designated roads and trails unless an area is specifically open for cross-country travel. Please pack in and pack out from areas that do not have trash containers. Because not all areas have drinking water, bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat. Be sure to check weather conditions before entering primitive areas. View BLM's Backcountry Guidelines or download BLM's Have a Safe Trip Brochure for information on how to be prepared and stay safe when spending time in the backcountry. Enjoy your time out on your public lands and take care of them so you and future generations can continue to share experiences!
Following these simple rules and guidelines will help ensure that every visitor to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands enjoys a quality experience. These rules and guidelines are in place for your safety and the continued health of the land. Breaking the rules can lead to a fine and/or prison. Special authorizations for events and activities can be obtained from all the BLM field offices.
Maps & Information
You can purchase land status, topographic, recreation site and U.S. Forest Service maps from the Public Lands Information Center and some field offices during business hours. Maps and information are also available:
Access to Public Lands
Most public lands administered by BLM are open year round to public use. The public can use these lands for recreation unless the lands have been officially closed to protect resource values, wildlife habitat, or because of fire danger or other emergency hazards.
Public roads, thoroughfares or waterways may be used to gain access to public lands. The public cannot cross private lands to reach public land if no public thoroughfare exists. The landowner’s permission must be obtained before crossing private lands to reach public lands.
Leasing does not alter or restrict authorized public use; therefore, lessees, permittees, and mining claim holders cannot maintain locked gates, signs, or other devices on public lands without written permission from the Bureau. Any questions concerning access, locked gates and blocked roads should be referred to the appropriate BLM Field Office.
Special Land Management Designations
Some of our public lands have been designated Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, National Monuments and National Scenic or Historic Trails. Areas of Critical Environmental Concern protect biological, archaeological and scenic values while providing quality recreation opportunities. Wilderness areas are pristine areas open to only primitive types of recreation, such as hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, and primitive camping. They generally contain ecological, geological, educational, historical, scientific and scenic values. National Conservation Areas, National Monuments and National Scenic or Historic Trails are Congressional designations for the protection of scenic, historic, geological, and ecological values. The areas are also open to recreation. Other areas have been set aside for recreational use by off-highway vehicles. Each of our recreation websites has links to specific guidelines and rules.
Camping is allowed on most BLM-managed public lands and is a great way to experience the outdoors. You may camp at developed campgrounds that contain a variety of amenities for your convenience and the protection of resources, or you can rough it in any of the rest of the dispersed public lands in the state unless a field office or an area has specific restrictions. BLM-managed public lands provide habitat for a variety of wildlife. In order to minimize disturbance to these indigenous creatures, please do not park or camp within 300 yards of any water source used by wildlife or domestic livestock. When you are camping in a developed area please use the specifically marked sites.
Whether in a developed campground or at a dispersed site, you may usually camp in an area for up to 14 days before having to move at least 25 miles from your original spot. You may not return to that area for 28 consecutive days. There is a 7-day limit if you are camping at a developed recreation area in either the Albuquerque or Taos field office.
If you are camping in a developed site and are in a group with more than two vehicles or 10 people, please use a group site or two campsites. Please respect other campers and keep the quiet hours of 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., or those posted. Horses, llamas and other livestock are not allowed in campgrounds or picnic areas unless BLM has provided facilities for that use. Monies from fees charged at developed campgrounds are used to maintain those areas for everyone's enjoyment. Avoid a citation or fine by being responsible and paying your share.
Leave campground equipment where you find it and use the designated spots for your tent, trailer and other gear. If you leave personal property unattended for more than 24 hours in a day-use area, or 3 days in other areas, it may be considered abandoned and disposed of by BLM.
FeesMost BLM offices in New Mexico sell National Parks and Federal Lands Recreation Passes. Be sure to call ahead to ensure the office has passes on hand. These passes admit pass holder's and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per vehicle fee areas and pass holder +3 adults, not to exceed 4 adults, at per person fee areas. (Children under 16 always admitted free). The Senior and Access Passes will allow entry as well as provide the pass holder a 50 percent discount on some Expanded Amenity Fees. Senior and Access Passes may only be signed by the qualified individual.
A day use and/or camping fee is charged at some BLM Recreation Sites in New Mexico. Day use fees at BLM sites around the state vary from $3.00-$5.00 per vehicle, per day. Please see individual recreation site links for specific fee site information.
-Annual Pass: Valid for entrance or standard amenity fees at Federal Recreation sites for pass holder and occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle OR pass holder and three persons (16 and older) where per person fees are charged. NOT covered: camping, tours, special recreation permits, etc. MAY NOT cover: organized groups or concession facilities or activities. NOT responsible for misplaced, lost, or stolen cards.
The pass may be obtained by visiting a BLM office in person. The Annual Pass costs $80.00. Please call ahead to ensure the BLM office has passes on hand.
OR call the nearest BLM office for instructions on purchasing by mail
-Senior Pass: a lifetime pass available to individuals 62 years or older, must be a u.s. Citizen or permanent resident. Must be presented in person. Valid for entrance or standard amenity fees at Federal recreation sites for pass holder and occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle OR pass holder and three persons (16 and older) where per person fees are charged. NOT covered: camping, tours, special recreation permit fees, etc. MAY NOT cover: organized groups or concession facilities or activities. MAY entitle holder to 50% discount on certain fees. NOT responsible for misplaced, lost or stolen cards.
The pass may be obtained by visiting a BLM office in person. You will be required to provide a copy of your driver's license or other identification that contains your birth date and signature. The Senior Pass costs $10.00. Please call ahead to ensure the BLM office has passes on hand.
-Access Pass: a free lifetime pass available to individuals who are a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident and medically determined to have a permanent disability that severely limits one or more major life activities. Must be presented in person. Valid for entrance and standard amenity fees at Federal recreation sites for pass holder and occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle OR pass holder and three persons (16 and older) where per person fees are charged. NOT covered: camping, tours, special recreation permit fees, etc. MAY NOT cover: organized groups or concession facilities or activities. MAY entitle holder to 50% discount on certain fees. NOT responsible for misplaced, lost or stolen cards.
The pass may be obtained by visiting a BLM office in person. You will be required to provide proof of the type of Federal disability being collected, i.e., copy of letter from Social Security regarding benefits, or a physician's statement as to disability. This pass is free to all who qualify. Please call ahead to ensure the BLM office has passes on hand.
BLM requires Special Recreation Permits (SRPs) for commercial activities or special events on public lands.
Be careful with fire at all times! Areas can be devastated by thoughtlessness or indifference on the part of anyone - hunter, camper, local resident or visitor. New Mexico often suffers from drought, making the risk of fire very high, and it is up to all of us to protect our lands. Here are some easy rules and guidelines to follow:
- Check fire conditions before heading out by calling the appropriate field office, or look up the most recent information at www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire/.
- Obey all fire use restrictions issued by the State of New Mexico or the BLM.
- You may not collect wood when in a developed campsite. However, you may use "dead and down" wood for small personal campfires on the rest of BLM managed lands if there are no other fire restrictions.
- Always build fires in the stove, grill, fireplace or ring provided in developed campgrounds.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Carry a shovel and water with you and be sure all fires are "dead out" before you leave.
- Consider cooking on a camp stove rather than over a fire.
- Crush cigarettes in ashtrays rather than tossing them out.
- Do not burn trash or material that produces toxic or hazardous material.
- Consider building smaller fires instead of large ones.
Pets are often part of our families and come with us when we are out having a good time. If you like to bring your pets with you, and are in a designated area, keep safety in mind at all times. Be sure they are restrained, always on a leash that must be no longer than 6 feet, and secured to a fixed object or under your control when in a developed recreation area. Pets may not harass, molest or injure humans, wildlife or livestock. Your pet may not go on some designated nature and interpretive trails unless it is trained to assist you if you have a handicap - please check at the trailhead before your hike. Please scoop the poop and dispose of it in a sanitary manner while in developed sites.
Hunting dogs may be used on public lands, but dogs must be under control of their handler at all times.
Health & Safety
Call 911 for an immediate emergency. If you need urgent BLM Law Enforcement assistance, a law enforcement officer can be reached at 505.761.8938.
Alcohol & Drugs
The operation of any vehicle or firearm, maintaining a campfire, and other recreational activities requires skill and good judgment. Alcohol and drugs impair both. You become a danger to yourself and others when you take drugs or drink alcohol.
Laws regarding Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), open containers and giving or buying alcohol for someone under the age of 21 apply everywhere in the state, even if you are on a back-country trail. The penalties are the same, including jail time and the loss of your driver’s license.
Possession or use of illegal drugs on public lands is against the law.
White water users must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life preserver (Type I, III, or V - no horse collar types) while on the river. On flat lakes you must have a flotation device on board for each passenger. Please check the local field office for current conditions.
There are a number of caves on public lands throughout the state, especially in southeastern New Mexico. Wear a safety helmet with chin straps and carry at least three sources of light when exploring caves. We share the caves with bats, so please don't disturb them at any time. The Roswell and Carlsbad Field Offices require permits to enter most caves in those areas. Please contact those offices to obtain permits and a seasonal schedule detailing when caves are open.
For more caving information you can call a BLM Field Office. The National Speleological Society is very active in southern New Mexico and also a good resource.
Climbing can be a very dangerous sport. Always use appropriate safety gear. Check your foot- and hand-holds for loose rocks or anything that might make you slip. If you start slipping you should stay calm and hang on to your bungee and slide down.
Possessing or using fireworks is not allowed on BLM lands.
Trash containers are provided in most BLM campgrounds. Please use them. Improperly discarded refuse attracts flies, insects, animals, and can cause unsanitary conditions. When no garbage containers are available, the standard rule applies: pack it in, pack it out. The garbage containers are not for domestic trash dumping!
It is your responsibility to know any BLM restrictions and where they apply. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish regulates hunting and fishing on public lands. In addition the Sykes Act requires you have a “Habitat Improvement Validation” stamp as well as a hunting license when on BLM managed lands in New Mexico.
Hunting and fishing rules and regulations are outlined in the New Mexico Fishing Rules and Information and the New Mexico Big Game and Small Game Hunting Proclamations. The Game and Fish Big Game and Furbearer Rules also list some restrictions on BLM managed lands. These publications are available at some of the BLM field offices, New Mexico Game and Fish Offices, sporting goods stores and online at http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/.
Hunting and trapping near developed recreation sites and areas is not allowed. Remember, it's illegal to shoot from or across any graded or public road or to shoot from a motor vehicle. We recommend leaving a trip schedule with someone and wearing adequate clothing.
There are numerous trails and roads to ride across BLM managed public lands in New Mexico. Always wear appropriate safety gear, and please refrain from riding cross-country if not on a designated road or trail.
Dispose of waste, gray water, sewage and sewage treatment chemicals from self-contained toilets at authorized facilities provided for that purpose. Please don't dig or maintain any pit toilet. Shower in provided facilities. Please do not use any improved or developed water-source, pump, faucet, fountain or restroom sinks as bathing facilities. The same rules apply if you are cleaning fish, game or other food, clothing or household articles.
Each agency that manages federal land has its own rules, regulations and laws regarding vehicle use. Vehicle use opportunities vary by area. Generally, vehicles are fine to use on public lands if they are kept on roads and obvious vehicle trails. Please practice Leave No Trace ethics. Driving off such roads and trails is prohibited on most public lands, however, some areas are designated as open to all vehicle use, and you may drive cross-country in such areas. In other areas, vehicle use may be limited to designated routes, or prohibited altogether, to protect sensitive natural resource values. In addition, all off-highway vehicles (OHVs) must be registered with the State if you are operating them on public lands. Visit your local BLM office for maps and information on open and restricted areas.
Wearing your seat belt is required by law. Make only emergency repairs to vehicles while on public lands and always operate your OHV with an approved spark arrester and muffler.
You can normally park or camp up to 100 yards off any existing or designated road while on BLM managed public lands, but in recreation areas and sites you are limited to the area adjacent to the route. Check with the local field office for individual area restrictions. Remember, you are responsible for any resource damage caused by you or your vehicle when you pull off to the side of the road.
Operate, park and leave motorized vehicles so you do not create a safety hazard, interfere with other users, interfere with BLM employees doing their job or block normal and emergency traffic movement.
If you observe destruction of the environment, public or private property while in the outdoors, you may notify the proper authorities by calling the local BLM office at the end of this booklet or an on-duty law enforcement officer at 505.761.8938. If there is an immediate threat to your safety call 911.
You may carry weapons on public lands, however, carrying concealed weapons without a permit is against state law, as is discharging firearms or other weapons near developed recreation sites and areas.
Always use a backdrop when target shooting. Don't shoot in restricted areas and pick up your cartridges, shells and target when finished. Also, shooting glass, including bottles, is considered littering and is not allowed. State laws apply at all times.
Archaeology & Cultural Resources
Gathering or collecting historical or archaeological artifacts including arrowheads, potshards, and paleontological resources, including vertebrate fossils, on public lands is illegal. Violators may be prosecuted under a variety of federal laws. Vandalizing, defacing or removing scientific, cultural or historical items from sites is also prohibited.