Outdoor Recreation Opportunities in Smokey Bear Ranger District

The Smokey Bear Ranger District offers many different recreation opportunities for all seasons. Find where to view scenery, have a picnic, horseback ride, hunt, OHV ride, hike, ski, mountain bike, and camp near Ruidoso in Lincoln National Forest

Most campgrounds and day-use picnic areas are open from mid-spring through mid-fall and are closed in winter in response to low visitation and freezing temperatures.

Many campsites in developed campgrounds are available on a first come-first served basis, but some can be reserved in advance. National Forest visitors can go online to the www.Recreation.gov website and select the name of the facility they wish to reserve or call the reservation service at 1-877-444-6777.

Viewing Scenery

A number of scenic vistas (or viewing areas) offer stunning views of the lands in the area. Chief among this is Windy Point Vista located near Ski Apache along road (NM521).  Note, this road is not for the faint of heart, in summer or in winter.

Areas for Viewing Scenery at Smokey Bear Ranger District:




You may picnic anywhere on Lincoln National Forest lands but we do have a few developed sites that offer lovely day picnic spots.  

Areas for Picnicking at Smokey Bear Ranger District

Group Picnicking

The Cedar Creek Picnic Area offers a reservation only group picnic area utilizing all of the facilities at the site and especially the class Civilian Conservation Corps built pavilion.

Areas for Group Picnicking at Smokey Bear RD


Horseback riding

Horse Riding

Pack animals such as horses and mules are allowed on most of the trails within the Lincoln.  Please be mindful that they may be sharing the trail with pedestrians and motorized vehicles so plan accordingly.

Areas for Horse Riding at Smokey Bear RD


This is where the link will jump to

Small Game Hunting

Please check with the NM Game & Fish Department for information on times and types of hunts.

No motorized access is allowed for purposes of game retrieval are allowed on the Lincoln.

Big Game Hunting

Please check with the NM Game & Fish Department for information on times and types of hunts.

No motorized access is allowed for purposes of game retrieval are allowed on the Lincoln.


OHV Trail Riding

OHV Trail Riding

The Smokey Bear offers a small selection of trails for use with Off Highway Vehicles (OHV's) including motorcycles and ATV's <50" wide.  For alternatives other than trail riding, all OHV's are allowed on any open dirt road within the Forest.

Areas for OHV Trail Riding at Smokey Bear RD


Winter Sports

Winter Sports


Ski Apache, located just north of Sierra Blanca (White Mountain) is the southern most downhill ski resort open annual in the US.  Multiple slopes and difficulty levels abound.

Areas for Skiing/Snowboarding at Smokey Bear RD





Areas for Backpacking at Smokey Bear RD


Day Hiking:

All of the trails on the Smokey Bear Ranger District are considered 'day-hiking' trails as at least portions of them can easily be hiked in a days time.  

Areas for Day Hiking at Smokey Bear RD



Camping & Cabins

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed or "road-side" camping is allowed throughout the Lincoln National Forest.  You may drive to park your RV no more than 300' from an open road designated for such use. Please check with one of our offices to obtain a free Motor Vehicle Use Map which details exactly what roads you are allowed to disperse camp along.  Most roads, outside of US and State Highways are available for this use.  Please be mindful that there are many private land inholdings within the Forest.

The cost to camp at an established campground site varies between $6.00 and $22.00 per single camp unit. Large group picnic and campsites are also available. The largest group campsite, Upper Fir Group Campground, can accommodate up to 120 people. The largest group picnic site, Cedar Creek Picnic Area, can accommodate 40 people.  Fees for these sites vary depending on the number of people.

Visit Recreation.gov for detailed information about locations and fees.

Areas for Dispersed Camping at Smokey Bear RD

Group Camping

The Smokey Bear Ranger District offers 1 reservation only group camping site (Sam Tobias Memorial Campground).  This campground is designed from larger groups and as such the cost is proportional to the number of users.  Please check with the Ranger Station or on this web site for specifics on group camping.

Areas for Group Camping at Smokey Bear RD

Campground Camping

Using our Developed Campgrounds:

We offer campground camping across the district to varying levels of development.  Many are located in and around the Village of Ruidoso with a handful a bit further out.  No electricity is available at any Lincoln National Forest Campground.

Areas for Campground Camping at Smokey Bear RD