Oliver Lee State Park

Set against the Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico sits a quiet camping oasis called Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. This rustic campground served as the perfect home for us during our Alamogordo, New Mexico, explorations.New Mexico State Parks

This open year round 640 acre park is located just 15 miles (25 Km) south of the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico and 27 miles (43 Km) from the White Sands National Monument.

New Mexico State Parks

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, New Mexico

Not only was it convenient for us to visit the dunes at White Sands National Monument from this location, the on site hiking trails were quite enjoyable. The Riparian Nature Trail is an easy hiking trail that meanders within the Dog Canyon along a trickling creek.  The constant source of water flowage year round is a rare treat considering the area receives less 12 inches of rain a year.

Dog Canyon New Mexico

Along the trail – water flowing through Dog Canyon

Along the way are unusual natural plants and a historical marker …. remnants of a solitary life long ago.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park

Francois-Jean Rochas, aka Frenchy, was a French immigrant who lived alone at Dog Canyon from 1886 -1894.  In 1894, Frenchy was mysteriously found dead in his cabin from a gun shot wound to the chest.  His legacy lives on in these walls – Frenchy’s cabin.Frenchy's cabinNew Mexico camping

After my stroll on the Riparian Trail, I started UP the Dog Canyon National Recreation Trail.  This is a 5 1/2 mile one way challenging trail (round trip 11 miles).  The trail rises about 3,100 feet and offers spectacular views of the Tularosa Basin and Lincoln National Forest.Piparian TrailIt was getting late in the day when I embarked on a “stroll” and I did so without water or phone (plus I didn’t let hubby know where I was going …. well, I told him one thing, but did another – quite normal around our household 😉 )  That said, I only climbed as high as indicated in the photo below.  I would’ve loved to have gone further and if we had stayed another day, you can bet that trail would’ve been on the agenda ….. ah, most likely somewhat abbreviated though.

hiking in New Mexico

Dog Canyon Trail at Oliver Lee State Park

So what did we think of Oliver Lee Memorial State Park?  Overall we enjoyed our stay very much, but do note many of the sites will need some assistance in the leveling department.  This was the first time in months I had to work some magic to get us level.Camping in New MexicoBy raising the stair side of the RV to level up meant that bottom step made for a good glute workout.  Certainly higher than normal.

New Mexico state parks

that first step makes for a good glute workout!

There’s a total of 44 campsites at Oliver Lee but only 7 are reserveable.  The rest are all on a first come, first serve basis.  18 sites have electric and some with water.  All the sites have nice views and are well spaced.RVing in New MexicoWe wouldn’t have a problem fitting our 31′ 5th wheel into any of the sites but larger rigs would need to be a little more site selective or at least experienced with maneuvering.  For a more in-depth review you can click here and read Nina’s review on the park.  Although, unlike her experience with the showers, we had very little warm water and it was definitely not hot…. tepid at best.  Hey, at least we smelled nice after a cold shower!New Mexico state parks

Would we stay here again?  In a heart beat, but then again …..  we like remote and rustic 🙂

Camco 44505 Leveling Blocks – 10 pack
Camco 45322 Vinyl Wheel & Tire Protector, 2 pack (27″-29″ Diameter, Arctic White)




36 thoughts on “Oliver Lee State Park

  1. Ah yes, one of our fondest memories from NM. Too bad the showers weren’t warm. If I recall they are solar-powered (?) so maybe the weaker winter sun has the showers colder.


    • Those were my very thoughts regarding the solar-powered showers…. especially since I took my shower when the sun was down. Ah, at least I was clean and it was refreshing 🙂

  2. We also loved Oliver Lee and would go back without hesitation. We attempted the hike you spoke of but to be honest reached an area that made us pucker and decided to save it for another time when we might find more courage LOL!!

    • Believe me, if it had been earlier in the day I definitely would’ve hiked further, but I didn’t want to be hiking ‘down’ with questionable lighting…. next time I’ll start early!

  3. That hike looks aggressive and a lot of fun all at the same time. Thanks for the sunshine – I needed it today. I am counting on you, and Hildi, to get me through winter with your adventures. Thank you in advance. Keep the warm sunshiny photos and adventure coming!

    • Well I’m not sure this polar vortex will be bypassing me as much as I had hoped, but non the less the Texas Gulf Coast is still better than Chicago on the weather front.
      Hiking in the west is rarely flat and aggressive seems to be more the norm…. love the challenge 🙂

  4. We will be stopping in Alamogordo on our way back to Texas this winter. Thanks for the great posts about the area. I pinned this post to remind us where we should stay. Can’t wait to get out on those trails.

    Enjoy your weekend.

    • Awesome Marsha. I think you’ll really enjoy it. Should you decide to camp at Oliver Lee, make a reservation for site #2 – if it’s not available then I would wing it. We stayed in #26 (a non-reserveable site). Stay warm 🙂

  5. Loved the moon peeking through…a sweet surprise. I just know how exciting it must be to bring a days worth of photos up on the big screen…you sure have the best backdrops.

    • Thank you C. The other day I shot around 400 pics and then deleted more than 100. I was never good about deleting but I’m getting better 😉 Sure wish this weather would pass so I can go exploring here on Galveston Island!

  6. Ingrid, be careful with that first step down…I forgot we were that high at Goose Island and went to dump our dishwater out after dark and dumped myself and the water into one big muddy mess…Both my feet swelled up and got black and blue..I could barely walk but could bear some weight.. I refused to go to the ER..Apparently no broken bones, but I didn’t do any walks with Den for 3 weeks…LOL

    • Oh, Donna…. that had to be horrible. I got in the habit of holding the handrail (which I rarely do) and thank goodness I caught myself more than once from tumbling. We really try avoiding leveling in that direction but this campground didn’t give us a lot of options.
      We’re in Galveston now enjoying the polar vortex – NOT!!! Hope this weather moves on soon or it’ll be the heck with the birds, on to desert plants 😆

  7. An unintended long hike always results when there are lots of photo ops. I can relate 🙂 And that first pic is just too cool.
    I was looking at that State park when we were there but was out of our way then. Now when we get back we can check it out as you have given us an excellent preview.

    • Thanks ML. It was late afternoon as I started climbing that hill/mtn and when I looked up I could see the moon starting to rise. I did my best to capture it but like so many other things in life, the photo doesn’t do the moment justice. See you soon 🙂

  8. This is a timely post for me, I’m reading a novel of the old west – Hard Country – that takes place exactly where you are right now! One of the characters is Oliver Lee and much of the action takes place near the White Sands, Dog Canyon, in the Tularosa Basin and the old town of Lincoln! Your post brings the pages of the book to life…..

  9. Ingrid, thanks for the photos and info on this park — it’s so helpful for our next trip to the area! I’ve learned my lesson (I hope) about being prepared for hikes. I’ve too often taken off on “just a short walk” only to end up hiking for miles. Now, I never leave without water, windbreaker, flashlight, and chocolate! 🙂

    • Chocolate??? A gal after my own heart. I’m usually good about stopping myself on the trail when I know I’m not properly prepared for a ‘hike’, but will admit some ‘short’ walks have extended longer than planned. I think Oliver Lee Memorial SP is a place you guys would really enjoy

  10. Ingrid I think this post will be very helpful for those who are planning to camp and hike there. I particularly like your photo where the trail is to the side. Great perspective.

  11. Wanted to ask if White Sands allows RV camping at all? I can’t remember. Was never an option for us when we visited with the kids when they were small. I’m thinking they do not permit it there. That looks like a nice campground where you stayed, and I enjoyed seeing your photos, as always. It has always amazed me how different the Alamogordo and Cloudcroft areas are to be so close together. I wrote a post back in the fall of 2012 about our visit to Cloudcroft with a few pics, as it was our first time time boondock in our new-to-us RV. Glad you enjoyed your visit to this neat area! I think you can actually hike from Cloudcroft down to the bottom of the mountain, but that is probably beyond my ability at this point! haha

    • No, you can’t camp at the White Sands which is such a bummer. Gosh, I’d be happy staying in a parking lot near the visitor center but such is not the case. Oliver Lee CG was about 24 miles away from the dunes. Nice rustic CG. And yes I was surprised by the diversity from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft in such a short distance. Cloudcroft was cold the day we were there and we weren’t prepared so we didn’t stay long.

      • Well, that’s too bad they have no camping at all there. If you want to camp in the sand sometime, check out Monahans Sandhills State Park near Pecos. It is literally right off of the interstate, and we had fun over-nighting there. Very different, as you literally park among the sandhills, very similar to White Sands.

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