Camping in Mexico is in revival. If you have followed the news, some areas have wildly fluctuated from being overly safe to
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
- Can you free camp in Mexico?
- Camping Etiquette in Mexico
- Tips for Camping in Mexico
Top Picks for Camping in Mexico
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 illuminant blue rivers and thundering cascades. Favorites: Minas Viejas, Puente de Dios, and Media Luna Laguna.
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.
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.
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.
Best Places to Camp in Mexico
Camping in La Huasteca
This bio region probably offers the most unique camping experience in all of Mexico; not necessarily for the campgrounds or amenities – which are rustic and adventurous – but for the amazing natural wonders that can be found at almost every turn. The water is luminescent blue due to the rich mineral content that the water collects during its journey from the Sierra Madre. You can truly feel like an explorer.
The best part is that you can camp in almost every natural site. Some of the top camping experiences include:
- Camping next to a 60m waterfall in Minas Veijas
- River-side camping in Tamaposo (Cabanas Adventuras has the best spot, at Playita Amor, just down from Puente de Dios)
- Camping along the transparent blue river at Cascada Salto de M
- Camping next to the rapids of Micos Cascadas.
Those are the renown camping spots. Almost anywhere that has a spring, a waterfall or a touristic site in Huasteca, you’ll find a collection of campgrounds nearby, for example:
- Camping next to the Cave of Swallows to see them exit at sunrise.
- Camping near the surrealistic garden of Xilitla.
- Find the purest water at Nacimiento de Huichihuayan, the source or “birthplace” of Xilitla’s water.
Camping in Media Luna, San Luis Potosi
This campground in Mexico has a long history – 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 year-round. There are numerous channels that feed off a grand lagoon, meaning many campers get the joy of waking up to the transparent river in front of their tent.
While it’s one of the larger campsites in Mexico, it is also popular, even for day trips. During holidays and weekends it fills up quickly, even maxing its limit of 2,200 people – meaning you may have to wait at the entrance until someone leaves. It is much quieter if you camp during the week or colder months.
Camping at Mil Cascadas de Granada
In under two hours’ drive from Mexico City, Mil Cascadas is a hidden oasis tucked into the mountains. The Granados river rolls it way down more than 2km of calcified cascades and rock formations, creating a watery trek of waterfalls and swimming pools. Though they may not total a ‘Thousand Waterfalls’– as the name translates – there are hundreds to explore.
The camping facilities are basic, but the location makes up for it. You can spend the day swimming in turquoise water pools, jump from waterfall to waterfall, or explore a cave that has a subterranean river. The best time to visit is around September to February, when water levels are low enough to do all the activities.
The main campsite is at the top of the waterfalls, but you can also camp next to the river if you’re prepared for a 20-minute downhill hike – a donkey and the local kids are more than happy to help carry things for a small fee.
We explain more in our guide to ‘Camping Sites Near Mexico City.”
Las Estacas Campground
Las Estacas is one of the most popular campsites in Mexico, just two hours from Mexico City and next to the touristic town of Tepotzlan. The first reason is its 1km of crystalline river that flows through the immaculate grounds – deep enough to scuba dive and zipline into, yet transparent enough you could count the pebbles on the river floor.
The other reason is the top-notch amenities and services – this is the luxury of campsites in Mexico. Inside the grounds there is a hotel, cabins, glamping (with breakfast brought to your tepee!), restaurants and bars, a spa, small shops, kiddie pools, free grills, and pretty much anything else you need – even a dog hotel. Next to this is a fenced-off grassy area for 300 campers, with amazing bathroom facilities, although there are no views. Naturally, the camping prices are higher than usual and the security is strict.
If you don’t have camping equipment, you can rent pretty much everything – and they’ll even put up the tent for you (then again, for the same price, you could almost buy everything).
On the weekends and holidays, tents pop up as quick as mushrooms. If you want to escape to nature, this isn’t the campground for you. But it still deserves a mention for being a natural wonder, even if you only do it once in your life.
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.
Grutas de Tolantongo Campsite
This thermal spring almost glows blue from the intensely rich mineral water. Tolantongo is a long-time tourism favorite, with man-made pools built into the side of a mountain to replicate the natural calcium pools – and plenty of organized tours to take you there.
This is a hotspot camping site in Mexico – it’s only three hours from the city, and you can camp right next to the spectacular river. But that also means it gets packed on weekends and holidays, so aim for a weekday if you want something more peaceful.
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.
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 in Mineral de Chico
Just two hours from Mexico City, you’ll can be surrounded by conifer forests and intriguing rock formations. Once you enter this green area, you’ll see a campground almost every 10 minutes, many offering hiking paths and basic services. The camping areas are:
- El Cedral Dam
- Valle Diego Mateo
- Las Ventanas,
- Parque Ecoturístico El Cerezo (Llano Grande and Valle de los Enamorados)
- Campamento Conejos
- Campamento Cedros.
There are also plenty of cabins and hotels (see a full list of accommodation options here).
It’s higher in altitude than Mexico City, meaning warm sunny days and chilly temperatures at night – a jacket is a must. Some favorites are Diego Mateo (drive past the main camping area, next to the dam), El Cedral Dam and Las Ventanas.
Camping in Sierra Gorda
Around six hours from Mexico City, and three hours from Queretaro, you enter the biosphere of this amazing region, with transparent rivers and
Hidden in the mountainous landscape of Sierra Gorda snakes this vivid blue river. It’s so clear and clean you can see straight to the bottom, and long enough that several campgrounds have sprouted up along its shores. In the holiday season – especially Easter – it is packed with campers and locals alike, many of who free-camp on the river shores.
A favorite is Campamento Los Sauces, where you can pitch a tent under its mango trees with river views. Across the river sits Camping La Huerta, with direct access to the river. Around the ‘Juntas Del Conca – the “joint” of two rivers – you can find several more campgrounds, such as Las Brisas and Platanal de la Playita. Several hotels and establishments also offer camping inside their grounds, such as Cabana 3 Rios, Villa Riviera and Villa Los Pinos.
This is the river that leads you to the famous ‘God’s Bridge’ (Puente de Dios), which is 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.
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 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.
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.
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.