Free camping on the rim of Mills Canyon, NM

Mills Canyon Vlog – Vanife

I really enjoyed this campground. It is located in the Kiowa National Grasslands just an hour east of Raton NM. For a free campsite its pretty fancy. This one had level slips, pit toilets, picnic tables, fire rings and a grill. Also the site was very easy to get to. There is a lower National Forest campground in the bottom of the canyon but the drive was rough, narrow, and to steep for my 2wd minivan. I would recommend a 4wd if you want to camp at the one in the bottom. I did ride my bike down there and truthfully I liked the one on the rim better and that one’s a piece of cake to access.

I went for an off trail hike and explored the rim of the canyon near the campground after getting camp set up. The canyon rim twisted and turned until I finally got some good views. I love hiking canyon rims.

 Views of the Mills Canyon.

So it turns out this place is a rock climbers destination. Here is a layback bouldering wall that clearly had chalk marks. You can see the criss cross of logs to allow them to put down a bouldering mat. The thought of bringing my climbing shoes did go through my mind but didn’t bring them. Who would have thought my second destination had some amazing bouldering?

 Another one of the bouldering rocks I found. The rock was very high quality wil lots of pockets and crimp holds.

 So It turns out there is some history in this area. In 1881 there was a thriving fruit orchard in the bottom of the canyon that was built by Melvin Mills. The Canadian river flows below and supplied water for apple, plum, apricot, cherry, and walnut trees. There was a massive flood in 1904 and destroyed the orchard for good. I could see some fruit trees remaining but its early April so no leaves or fruit on the trees yet.

 I took my bike to the bottom of the canyon and explored the remnants of the Mills Ranch. Knock.. Knock. Anybody home?

 Ruins of an old bunk house.

A couple of bedrooms at one point.

 I thought this old brick was cool. I wonder if they are still in business?

This old ranch for the orchard was at the bottom of the canyon. I did a bike ride down to the bottom of the canyon on my mountain bike to check it out. Definitely worth it.

 Panoramic of the rocks behind the ranch. There was an alcove back there.

So this is what I’m talking about! Ever since I started living in my van the sunsets have been my favorite part! The further south I go the longer the sunsets are. Mills Canyon campground you did not disappoint!! 

Here I am taking another stroll down to the rim of the canyon in the morning. There was a little bit of wind but other than that I had great weather.

Better shot of the campground where you can see the picnic table, and fire pit. There was firewood all over the place but th a stage 2 fire ban was in effect and I was unable to take advantage. 

I got up early and made my way to Albuquerque NM, to meet my friend Paul Chen. I got to see this gorgeous sunrise on my way out of the grasslands. 

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