Can You Camp Anywhere in the Lincoln National Forest?

The Lincoln National Forest is a beautiful destination for outdoor lovers, offering majestic scenery and challenging terrain. But the question of whether you can camp anywhere in the forest is a bit more complicated.

The short answer is that camping is allowed in certain areas of the Lincoln National Forest, with some restrictions. The forest is divided into four zones, and each zone has its own set of regulations governing camping. These regulations are in place to protect the environment and preserve the area for everyone to enjoy.

The first zone, the White Mountain Zone, extends from the Colorado border to the northern boundary of Taos County. The East Zone stretches from there to the Texas border.

Both zones allow camping in designated areas only, such as campgrounds and dispersed sites. Campers must obtain a permit from a ranger station before camping in either zone.

Camping Regulations:

In both zones, all campsites must be at least 100 feet away from any water source and at least 200 feet away from any road or trailhead. Fires are only allowed within designated fire rings and must be attended at all times. Campers should also practice Leave No Trace principles while they are in the forest.

Backcountry Camping:

The Lincoln National Forest also allows backcountry camping in certain areas of the West and South Zones with a valid permit from a ranger station. This type of camping involves setting up camp off-trail or away from developed recreation sites and requires special precautions for safety and environmental protection.


Camping within Lincoln National Forest can be an enjoyable experience with some preparation and planning. While you can’t camp just anywhere within the forest, there are designated areas where it’s allowed with applicable permits or permissions. Be sure to check with rangers before setting up camp so that you can do your part to help protect this beautiful national treasure.

Photo of author

Jennifer Watson