Happy Accident

Happy Accidents – Our review of Red Rock Park, NM

This windy, rainy Saturday was dragging on and on. We’d fought rain and wind for two days. Earlier we’d literally been run off the road by a truck who’s driver apparently couldn’t judge distance for shit! A moment before his trailer came through my side window I decided the shoulder of the road might be my best option. Our reward for perseverance was to wake up this morning to extreme wind conditions forecast across New Mexico from the Texas border to just west of Albuquerque, so we thought it best to get across the state as quickly as possible. Eight hours later we looked for shelter and came upon one of those “Happy Accidents” in Red Rock Park, New Mexico!
According to their website “Red Rock Park is the crown jewel of Gallup’s parks and recreation system. Cradled by spectacular red cliffs formed over 200 million years ago in the Age of the Dinosaurs, the park combines a glimpse into past civilizations with modern amenities to serve the needs of contemporary residents and guests.”

Tempo had worked her magic once again using iPad apps and Google to find Red Rock Park, located just east of Gallup, NM about a mile north of Interstate 40 and the Historic Route 66. The park literature reports rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, loose rocks, no marked trails…oh, and electricity and water. Sounded like a great place!

Happy Accidents

Heavy rain immediately preceded our arrival leaving the camp sites covered in a coat of silty, red sand. To say the campground looked “washed out” would be an understatement. After a brief search we found a suitable site, crossed our fingers and set up camp. What concerned me was the loose, wet, red sand. I knew that asphalt was under the sand, but, I was not sure if the squishy sand would throw off my auto-levelers. They held, but, all night long I dreamt of our rig sliding down the valley on a slurry of red sand.

Since we were only here for the night I opted to plug into electric and to use house water, which I had filled to two-thirds prior to leaving Dallas (approximately 75 gallons). We’d only been out two days and operated in water ration mode so our other tanks were fine. The park has a dump station if needed. As always, I used a Progressive EMS at the power box. This park is very old and the electric boxes looked worn out so I was taking no chances. Checking the forecast I noting the night would be cold with a chance of snow and more rain. Great!

Happy Accidents

The park is reported to have rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, loose rocks, no marked trails…oh, and electricity and water. Sounded like a great place!

We downed a couple of Deep Ellum craft beers and cranked up our portable, electric heater before bedding down. With thoughts of adventure ahead we drifted off to sleep…this was our experience.

Keep it up:

  • The park is beautiful in a very subtle way. The red cliffs embrace the park and hiking trails abound. We were only a mile or so from the interstate, but, we felt like we’d stepped “off the grid”.
  • No registration is required. Since we arrived slightly past office hours we simply found a spot and set up camp. About thirty minutes later a very nice park employee came along and collected the camp fee. She also provided hand-outs with park information, rules (many of which we later had to break) and warnings of wild animals and snakes.
  • This park is clean. Waste cans are everywhere and I didn’t see a spec of trash on the grounds. While we didn’t use any of the facilities (our rig is fully self-contained) I suspect they are in the same condition as the grounds.
  • Easy to locate. We found this park with no problem at all. From the highway we simply followed the signs and drove straight in on paved roads. We have a 36′ rig (with 3′ of bike rack on the back) and had no problem navigating the roads heading to and inside of the park.
  • Quiet. I’m not sure whether the cold, windy conditions were responsible for the peace and quiet or if the park is always this way, but, this place is like a church (of course it’s considered part of Church Rock, New Mexico). They even took up a collection!

Do better:

  • Erratic electricity! During the night, around 2:00 AM or so, our EMS shut off the electricity to our rig. Earlier, I drifted off to sleep with the sound of the electric heater in my ears. When the heater shut off, I had only the wind and rain sounds to keep me company. The change in pitch awakened me, I realized I was very cold and the power was off. By this time the temp inside had dropped to 50 or so. That doesn’t sound low, but, when we left Dallas two days before, the temp was 86. We were NOT used to the cold and I wasn’t about to go out in the dark night and freezing rain to investigate. I had to break the park rules and turn on the generator for heat. The next morning (noting light snow on the ground) I looked at the error codes on the EMS noting the electrical hook up had low voltage and a faulty ground. I guess the rain caused the faulty ground to become visible to the EMS.
  • This is a fair weather park. The design of the campground perimeter does not prevent the muddy run-off from the red cliffs from entering the camp-sites, thereby creating a semi-dangerous situation, given the suspect electrical hook-ups. As you can see from the pictures, our camp site is covered in sand and water. Our site, however, was in better condition than others. In fact another camper had to change sites after the rain because his had filled up with red mud.


New Mexico is called “The Land of Enchantment” and that is certainly with case for this mysterious and inviting park. I only wish the conditions had been favorable for hiking, but, the rain made trekking across the wet, red sand too chippy at this stage of our trip. We still had a long way to travel and didn’t need any emergency room detours. If you’re looking for  a beautiful area to camp for the night (or two nights!) Red Rock is a great alternative to an RV park or even boon docking! I guess you can call it one of those Happy Accidents!

Happy Accidents

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Hi, I'm Gonzo (call sign "Ironman"). I like to think of myself as an ordinary guy making the "next thing" happen now. I live and work in Texas with my wife, call sign "Tempo" and our fur babies AussieOne, Red and Griz (call signs of course). Together we make up a merry band of travelers wandering in search of extraordinary experiences, good wine and the occasional craft beer. Thank you for your interest in our blog! Cheers!

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