A paved road circles Mesa Campground, which offers views of Lake Roberts below. Photograph by Jay Hemphill.

DO: Make a plan, then a backup plan. Public-land use skyrocketed last year, and that trend is expected to continue, so be prepared with an alternative in case your destination is full. 

DON’T: Make new fire rings. Consider bringing a portable firepit instead.  

DO: Douse campfires with water until the ashes are cold to the touch. Check fire restrictions (nmfireinfo.com) for bans on fires and charcoal grills. 

DON’T: Burn trash. That just leaves a mess behind for the next person. 

DO: Pack out your trash—even if there are bins available. “The trash problem is huge, so you’d be doing a major service by taking it with you,” says Lynn Bjorklund, a recreation team leader for the Santa Fe National Forest. 

DO: Take care of your business. In heavily used camping areas, human waste is becoming an issue for people and wildlife. The long-standing recommendation is to bury it deep, but even then animals might dig it up. “The perfect solution is yet to come,” Bjorklund says. In the meantime, make good use of pit toilets. 

DO: Get a current map from the Bureau of Land Management, National Forest Service, or other relevant agency showing roads that are open to vehicles, or use the Avenza app’s free downloadable maps. 

DON’T: Leave designated roads and trails, even in off-road vehicles. 

DO: Expect a ticket from law enforcement if you’re caught doing so.  

DO: Make a difference by following these tips. “If you like public lands, we need you to preserve them,” says Mickey Figueroa, a natural-resource specialist who works in the Jemez Mountains.

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