New Mexico

Learn about camping and boondocking in New Mexico

New Mexico Rest Area Rules

New Mexico Rest Area Rules


Is overnight parking permitted at New Mexico rest areas? Are you allowed to sleep in your vehicle at a New Mexico rest area? How many hours can you stay at a New Mexico rest area? Is camping allowed at New Mexico rest areas?

new mexico rest area glenrio
Glenrio Welcome Center, I-40, New Mexico

New Mexico Rest Area Rules

The State of Mexico has adopted a small set of laws with respect to staying at highway rest areas. These laws only address how many hours you can remain at a rest area…

No person shall remain, or willfully allow any property under his control to remain, in any publicly owned and controlled rest and recreation area or sanitary or tourist information facility, which area or facility is located immediately adjacent to a public highway and is intended for use by persons travelling the highway, for more than twenty-four hours in any three-day period, unless otherwise provided by law.

You can read the full set of these laws (and there isn’t a whole lot more to the above) at, “Rules for Using Rest Areas in New Mexico“.

Rules Posted at New Mexico Rest Areas

In addition to the law mentioned above, each rest area in New Mexico includes a sign that posts the following additional rules…


  1. Rest and relax. This safety rest area was constructed for the use of New Mexico’s highway traveler.
  2. Thank you for being considerate of others:
    1. Please keep pets on a leash and exercise your pets only in designated areas
    2. All vehicles including motorcycles must remain in parking areas
    3. Please place all trash in receptacle provided
    4. All firearms must remain in vehicles
  3. Please note that camping is not permitted
  4. Poisonous snakes and insects inhabit the area
  5. The following activities are prohibited in the rest area:
    1. Consumption of alcoholic beverages
    2. Defacing/vandalizing of any kind
    3. Unloading of livestock
    4. Dumping of sewage, household trash
    5. Unauthorized selling or advertising
    6. Salvaging from trash receptacles
    7. Remaining in this rest area or facility for more than 24 hours
    8. Smoking in rest rooms
  6. Help us keep our highway safe and protect yourself by resting sufficiently before resuming your travel. Make use of New Mexico’s other rest areas provided statewide.

How Long Can You Stay at a New Mexico Rest Area?

You can remain for no more than 24 hours in any three-day period. This does not mean that the 24 hour period resets as soon as you arrive at the next rest area. It means that the 24-hour period continues as you drive through the state, visiting one rest area after another. The State of New Mexico believes you should be able to drive from one end of the state to the other in 24 hours. Hence, they don’t want you staying at each rest area for longer than necessary.

It can be confusing, but keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible for a highway patrol officer to know how much of that 24-hour period you’ve already exhausted.

Is Overnight Parking Allowed at New Mexico Rest Areas?

Yes it is. Because these rest areas are open 24 hours a day, and because you can stay a maximum of 24 hours in a three-day period, you can effectively park overnight at a rest area.

Can You Sleep in Your Vehicle at a New Mexico Rest Area?

Yes. The State of New Mexico has stated in its rules posted at each rest area (See Rule 6), that they want you to “protect yourself by resting sufficiently before resuming your travel”. This implies being allowed to sleep long enough to resume driving safely. Otherwise, the State has not issued any other rules that prohibit sleeping in your vehicle at a rest area.

Is Camping Permitted at New Mexico Rest Areas?

No. Camping is not permitted at New Mexico rest areas. Rule 3 in the rules posted at each rest area states this clearly.

However, there is a gray area between resting at a rest area and recreational camping. Camping could be construed as rolling out your awning, spreading out a patio mat, setting up patio chairs, or firing up your barbecue grill. On the other hand, if you remain inside your vehicle, keep all of your belongings inside as well, and don’t make any loud noise, you could argue that you’re simply trying to rest up.

Where Can I Find a Map of All New Mexico Rest Areas?

You can find a map of all New Mexico rest areas.

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