INTRO

Top 5 For Camping in Mexico

La Huasteca

With more than 10 waterfalls within two hours of each other, you are spoilt for choice for camping sites, many of which allow you to camp right next to illuminating blue rivers and thundering cascades. Favorites: Minas Viejas, Puente de Dios, and Media Luna Laguna.

Sierra Gorda

There are several natural camping pockets that take you off the beaten path, and land you right in the middle of nature. The choice is between vistas of mountain ranges or transparent rivers. Favorites: Rio Ayutla, Cuatro Palos, Rio Escanela.

Mil
Cascadas

What makes
this oasis special is the range of activities: rappelling, swimming in a subterranean river, and waterfall jumping. With 2km of river and waterfalls to explore, you can seek out your own private swimming hole.

Tulum

With its bohemian beach vibe taking center stage, it’s not surprising that Tulum has the most campgrounds in all of Riviera Maya. When your choice is between camping next to a beach or a cenote, you can’t go wrong.

Grutas de Tolantongo

With the water temperature at a balmy year-round, this is a hotspot camping ground. If you go during the week, though, you can almost have it to yourself.

About Mexican Camping

Camping in Mexico is in revival. If you have followed the news, some areas have wildly fluctuated from being overly safe to being too dangerous to camp. Then there are the locals who can’t shake the trauma of having lived through Mexico’s crime– and some will dead set warn you against any type of camping in Mexico.

But the atmosphere in Mexico’s campgrounds suggests otherwise. Some campsites in Mexico have become so popular you can’t even find a place to pitch your tent or park your RV during the holidays and high season – some Mexican campsites even have to cap their visitor intake, and we’re talking about limits of 2,000+ people.

So what’s the reality today? Is camping in Mexico safe or unsafe?

Similar to what we suggest in our article “Is Mexico Safe to Travel”, it’s never black or white. The locals’ warnings should be taken into account to some extent, and you should keep yourself up-to-date with local news.

The trick is knowing where are the safest places to camp in Mexico – which we list below – and what precautions you should take to stay safe. Because certainly, camping in Mexico will bring you up-close-and-personal with the most amazing natural wonders.

For more, read our articles on:

  • Is it safe to travel in Mexico?
  • Can you free camp in Mexico?
  • Camping Etiquette in Mexico
  • Tips for Camping in Mexico

Best Places To Camp In Mexico

Camping in La Huasteca

This bio region offers the most unique camping experiences in Mexico; the campgrounds and amenities are rustic, but there are amazing natural wonders at almost every turn. The water is luminescent blue due to the rich minerals that the water collects during its journey from the Sierra Madre.

The best part is that sites offer waterfront camping. Some top experiences include:

  • Camping next to a 60m waterfall in Minas Viejas
  • River-side camping in Tamaposo (Cabanas Adventuras has the best spot, at Playita Amor, downstream from Puente de Dios)
  • Waking up to the transparent river downstream Cascada el Meco.
  • Falling asleep to sounds of rapids at Cascadas Micos.
  • Camping at the Cave of Swallows to see them exit at sunrise.

These are some of the more renown sites, but you can camp pretty much anywhere that has a spring, waterfall or touristic site. We list more in our La Huasteca article.

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Grutas de Tolantongo Campsite

This thermal spring glows bright blue from the intensely rich mineral water. It’s a large protected park with wonders spread across its mountainous valley. There’s a natural steam tunnel, plus thermal pools that reach some 80m into a cave. Swim to the end, and you can stand and massage your shoulders under hot cascades that pound through the limestone cave roof. 

Tolantongo is a long-time tourism favorite, and has mass amenities for hundreds of campers and weekenders. This includes hotels and man-made calcium pools on the side of a mountain with filled with natural thermal water.

It’s only three hours from the city, and you can camp right on the spectacular riverfront. But its popularity also means it gets packed on weekends and main holidays, so aim for a weekday for something more private.

Across the river is another campsite, La Gloria, which is smaller and sometimes less crowded. You can cross between the two via a bridge, but must pay entrance fees.

Camping in Media Luna, San Luis Potosi

This Mexican campsite comes with a historical background – diving into the depths of its thermal waters you can find mammoth bones and petrified forests to prove it. Its balmy water stays at around 28 degrees Celsius year-round. There are numerous channels that feed off the moon-shaped lagoon (hence the name), meaning many campers get the joy of riverfront camping.

It’s one of the larger campsites in Mexico and has been popular for decades, even for day trips. During holidays and weekends it fills up quickly, even maxing its limit of 2,200 people. This means you may have to wait at the entrance until someone leaves.

If you camp off-season or during the week, however, you might even have the campground to yourself.

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Camping in Sierra Gorda

Six hours from Mexico City and three hours from Queretaro, you enter this unique biosphere, with transparent rivers and varied biodiversity. There are camp grounds all through the region, but some of the top spots are Rio Ayutla, Rio Escanela, Cascada El Chuveje, and Cuatro Palos. You can see other campsites and cabins in Queretaro here and here. Read more things to do in Sierra Gorda.

Rio Ayutla

Hidden in the mountainous landscape of Sierra Gorda snakes this vivid blue river. It’s so clear and clean you see straight to the bottom, and long enough that several campgrounds line both shores. It gets packed on holidays – especially Easter – with campers and locals alike, many who free-camp along the river.

A favorite is Campamento Los Sauces, where you can camp under mango trees with river views. Across the river, Camping La Huerta has direct river access. At the ‘Juntas Del Conca – the “joint” of two rivers – there are more campgrounds, such as Las Brisas and Platanal de la Playita. Some hotels and establishments allow camping inside their grounds, such as Cabana 3 Rios, Villa Riviera and Villa Los Pinos.

Rio Escanela

This river leads you to the famous ‘God’s Bridge’ (Puente de Dios), one of the best waterfalls and hiking trails in Sierra Gorda. While campers are welcome to set-up a tent anywhere along the river, there is no security at night. During rainy season, free-campers should be especially aware of flash flooding.

A safer option is to camp at the start of the hiking trail or in the nearby town, where you can find security and camping on the river, such as Campamento Pena La Glora.

Cascada El Chuveje

While the other rivers in the area tend to be clearer and more spectacular, camping in the grounds of Cascada El Chuveje offers that free-camping feeling but with a secure and controlled entrance.

Once inside the grounds, it’s about a 30-minute hike to reach the waterfall at the end – and you can camp anywhere along the river that leads you there. Just find your own little corner among the rocks and trees, and you’re good to go. There are no facilities or toilets in the grounds, only at the entrance.

Cuatro Palos

For spectacular views across valleys and mountain tops, this lookout emotes a mystic feeling. You can camp off the beaten track, and you may even have the sunrise to yourself. Sometimes the clouds form deep below you, giving you the feeling that you are camping on top of the world. With a local guide, you can ask about the unique edible plants that grow in this area. The most popular point is Cerro de la Media Luna.

Camping at Nevada de Toluca Volcanco

This extinct volcano is an escape from Mexico City in 2 hours. During the day you can hike around the rim and the crater lake, and at night, you can roast marshmallows under a starry sky.

At 4,680m above sea level, at night the temperatures usually fall to near zero or less, so campers must be prepared if you don’t want to freeze. The campground area can be reached by car, is dog friendly, has firewood for sale, and has basic bathrooms. You can also rent a cabin. It typically snows from the end of November to January, so plan your trip during the warmer months.

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Camping in Mineral de Chico

In just two hours, you can swap Mexico City’s chaos for conifer forests and imposing rock formations. Once you enter the natural park area, you’ll see a campground almost every 10 minutes, many offering hiking paths and basic services. The main camping areas are:

There are also plenty of cabins and hotels (see a full list of accommodation options here).

It’s high altitude, meaning warm days and chilly nights – a jacket is a must. Some favorites are Diego Mateo (tip: drive past the main camping area to the dam), El Cedral Dam and Las Ventanas.

Camping on the Iztaccíhuatl Volcanco

Iztaccihuatl is the dormant volcano next to the active volcano Popocatepetl, just 70km outside of Mexico City. Popocatepetl has perked up recently, and campers may even see lava at night. Legends say that the peak of Iztaccihuatl – which looks like a sleeping women – is the Tlaxcaltecan princess of the same name, watched over by her warrior lover, Popocatepetl.

There are some camping areas inside the Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park, the most popular being the Altzomoni shelter which can only be reached by hiking. There are a few small food stands on the trail, otherwise, you generally need to take everything with you. For an easier option, there are also camping and cabin sites around the base.

The clearest skies are from October to March, although it is colder and busier. During this time, you may need to reserve your camping spot (check here). At certain points throughout the year, you can sometimes find tour groups offering one-night, star-gazing camping trips, with everything organized for you.

Unfortunately, there is little security and assaults to mountaineers have happened. It is recommended to always camp in a group, or with a tour.

Camping at Los Dinamos

There are several grand forest areas within or close to Mexico City’s boundaries that offer camping:

  • Los Dinamos
  • Desierto de los Leones
  • Parque Ejidal San Nicolas Totolapan
  • Parque Nacional Cumbres del Ajusco
  • Zempoala Lagoons.

The bonus of Los Dinamos is that you can camp next to a river. You have to contend with day-hikers, but nighttime is pretty peaceful. At Paidos Campamentos, between Zona II and III, you can fall asleep to sounds of the bubbling stream. It’s close enough to restaurants and other facilities, but far enough that you can feel like you’re in nature. In mushroom season, they offer guided tours with an expert who explains the different mushroom types and advises on which ones you can pick and eat.

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Camping in Nanacampila

In this region there is natural wonder: thousands of fireflies frantically mate from June to August, creating a spectacle that looks like a thousand Christmas lights. Many private landowners have set up camping facilities on their properties, usually combined with a night tour to experience this phenomenon. At night-time, you’ll also be accompanied by the stray firefly as you sit around the campfire.

Camping in Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi

This once abandoned town is a mystic experience in itself, but camping around here has become particularly important as a zone for trying peyote and ayahuasca. Try Botanical Garden Camping.

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Camping in Guanajuato

Guanajuato is a must-see city in itself, but close to the center you can escape its bustle by camping in Reserva Natural Las Palomas.

Among the oak trees and chirps of migratory birds you can find excellent hiking and great weather almost year-round, although nights can get chilly.

Camping in Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahila

This natural area is renown for its crystal blue springs, lakes,
underground rivers, mountain landscapes and endemic species. It’s not the most
accessible area, but it gets a mention because it’s also near another of other
of Mexico’s natural wonders, the eerie landscape of the white Gypsum Dunes. Plus,
with virtually no light pollution and a desert surrounding, nothing compares to
the night sky views. You can find camping areas around the Balneario Rio
Mezquites.

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