Free Boondocking: Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge Camping Guide

Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge is one of our favorite boondocking spots from our travels so far. It’s a beautiful location and is perfect for a few nights stay.

In this post, I want to share all of the information you might need to know about Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge camping.

Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

We have actually been RV boondocking on three different occasions now, almost exactly a year apart each.

Our first visit was from 6/27/19 to 6/30/19, our second visit was from 7/1/20 to 7/3/20, and our third visit was from 5/16/21-5/19/21.

A 5th wheel RV and truck camping at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

Where is Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge Located?

The Maxwell Wildlife Refuge is located just outside of Maxwell, NM.

It is a short distance off of Interstate 25, about 35 miles south of the Colorado border.

This easy-access location makes it a great place to stop overnight or for a day or two when you’re passing through northeast New Mexico, especially since there’s not much in the area.

We like to stop here on our way from Texas to Colorado.

The GPS coordinates are 36.58196258544922, -104.58983612060547

The refuge encompasses 3,699 acres according to the Fish and Wildlife Service website, but camping is only permitted in the Lake 13 area.

However, there was plenty of room, and we never felt crowded.

A couple standing on their RV while camping at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

What Kind of RVs can Boondock at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge?

Some boondocking locations are definitely only suited for smaller vehicles and trailers, but that is not the case with Maxwell Wildlife Refuge. I would say that any size rig would be acceptable.

While we were staying there, we saw everything from buses to fifth wheels and vans. Tent camping is also permitted.

We have camped here with a 42′ fifth wheel, as well as our current 37′ fifth wheel and we didn’t have any issues either time.

Multiple RVs boondocking at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

Is Maxwell Wildlife Refuge Difficult to Access?

The first time we went, our GPS had us turn down one of the side roads in the refuge, and there were some low-hanging branches we had to avoid.

We found out later that there was a main entrance just a little further down that was much better.

Our recommendation is to enter where the main sign is off of County Road 505. Reference the image below to see what the sign looks like…you can’t miss it.

The roads in the refuge are all gravel and are easy to navigate. Some areas just require a slower speed.

The permitted camping area is just off of the main gravel road and is surrounded by a gravel circle drive for easy on-and-off access.

The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge entrance sign

Are There Any Amenities at the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge Camping Sites?

There are no RV hookups (no water, no electricity, and no sewer) but there are outhouses on site.

Picnic tables and trash cans are provided, and there is also a small boat ramp.

Please leave with everything you brought in. They even have trash cans provided for the camper’s use.

There are no individual sites, but instead, it is one large, flat, grassy area and you can park anywhere you’d like.

There’s also a small shaded area closer to the boat ramp that would be suitable for a tent or a small RV.

No open fires are permitted.

A picnic table next to an RV at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

What Activities Are There to Do at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge?

Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge offers several different activities.

Our favorite thing to do here is obviously just camping but we also enjoyed kayaking when the lake was full.

Camping is allowed in the area adjacent to Lake 13, and you are asked to please limit your stay to 3 nights or less.

There is a fishing lake, and fishing with a permit is allowed at Lake 13 from March 1st to October 31st.

We saw quite a few people fishing the lake when we were there in 2019. In 2020 however, the lake was extremely dry and there were not many people out fishing.

In May 2021, the lake was completely dried up. Check the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge website for current lake conditions.

Kayaking, boating, etc., are permitted on the lake as well. We enjoyed kayaking during our first visit and found it a peaceful and relaxing area!

Wildlife viewing is another great activity for the area! We saw mule deer, antelope, elk, multiple species of birds, and lots of bugs.

Swimming, hunting, and off-road vehicles are not permitted. There is a visitor center, although we have never stopped at it.

Camping during a storm with a rainbow at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

Is There Reliable Cell Service at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge?


We found the AT&T cell service to be excellent! We could work during our stay and even stream videos without any issues.


We did not have good service on our Verizon phone.

A truck and RV parked next to the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge sign

Are There Any Amenities Near Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge?

Maxwell, NM

The small town of Maxwell, NM is about 10 minutes away and has a small gas station/convenience store where you can find some necessities. They offer gasoline and diesel.

Springer, NM

The town of Springer, NM is about 26 minutes south and has a few small grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations.

Raton, NM

Raton, NM is a larger town about 35 minutes north and offers multiple grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations.

Watch Our YouTube Review of Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge Camping

We hope you enjoy staying at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge as much as we have. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out.

Happy camping!

Much Love, Janae xoxo
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Janae, alongside her husband, Tucker, has turned the world into her playground. Having lived and traveled in an RV for over four years, she has trekked through 22 US national parks, ventured across 28 states, and explored the natural beauty of 12 countries. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been when she witnessed Iceland's shimmering Northern Lights, explored the rugged terrains of Southern Utah, and traveled across Ireland for almost two months. A lover of adventure and couple travel, Janae's writings have been featured in notable travel websites and magazines, and she has collected an online community of over 30,000 passionate fellow travelers.

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