Need to Know

Two bull elk fight using their antlers.
Two bull elk fighting, using their antlers

NPS Photo / Dan Williams

REQUIRED: Special Use Permit to Hunt Valles Caldera

After being issued a NMDGF hunting license, each hunter must obtain a special use permit with Valles Caldera National Preserve prior to their hunt.

Hunting information packets will be mailed out to all hunters one month prior to their scheduled hunt. In addition to entrance fees, hunters are required to pay a $35 special use permit cost recovery fee.


Hunting Special Use Permit (SUP)

Hunters are required to attend a hunt orientation prior to their hunt. Minors must have a parent or legal guardian present at the orientation. An information packet with the date and time of the orientations will be mailed out to hunters one month prior to their schedule hunt.

Hunters who are participating in the elk hunt close to Thanksgiving Day should be aware that the preserve and administrative offices are closed on Thanksgiving Day.

  • The is a $35 SUP cost recovery fee required.
  • Additionally, hunters are required to pay the entrance fee or show their America the Beautiful pass or Valles Cadera annual pass. (Entrance fees are currently suspended.)
    • Please note some hunts span more than 7 days, so the hunter would have to pay for more than one entrance fee if he/she is hunting in the park for more than 7 consecutive days.
    • If members of the hunt party arrive in separate vehicles, an entrance fee is required for EACH vehicle.

The hunting special use permit provides the hunter with

  • The combination to the hunting gate locks will be given out during the required orientation, and 24-hour access to the preserve begins after 4:00 AM the day the hunt begins. The hunter is responsible for properly closing and locking gate after use and will not open gate for, nor distribute gate combination to anyone outside of the hunter’s party.
  • Vehicle entry, when road conditions are favorable, through the Valle Grande, Sulphur Creek, and Banco Bonito gates. (Banco only permits access to the parking/camping area.)
  • Vehicle access, when road conditions are favorable, along the backcountry vehicle route and the 08 road from Sulphur Gate to Valle San Antonio.
  • Overnight camping access.
  • The equestrian permit to use horses or pack animals.
  • Conditions of the permit, with which the hunter and members of the hunt part must comply.

The hunt permit expires on the last day of the hunt or once an animal has been harvested and removed, whichever comes first. However, the entrance fee remains valid for 7 consecutive days for park activities such as hiking, biking, equestrian, and fishing.

The hunting permit does not grant exclusive use of an area; hunting activities may not interfere with other visitor activity. The hunting special use permit can be revoked immediately if a hunter or any member of the hunter's party violates any rule or regulation.

The hunter must turn in his/her special use permit at the end of the hunt. During hours of operation it can be left at the Valle Grande entrance station. After hours the permit can be left in the metal boxes across from the entrance station, at the second Sulphur gate entrance, at the Banco Bonito gate entrance, or the Redondo gate entrance.


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Each hunter will receive a brief orientation at the Banco Bonito staging area, located near mile marker 30 on NM State Route 4.

  • Hunters are required to read, fill out, and sign both SUP's and to bring them with you to the orientation.
  • Hunters must bring their New Mexico Department of Game & Fish hunting license and Habitat Management & Access Validation (HMAV) stamp.
  • If using the E-Tag option, hunters will need to save their hunting license prior to leaving cell service so they can show their license anytime they are asked to do so. (Cell service is spotty and non-existent in many areas of the preserve.)
  • Preserve staff will inform the hunter of any road conditions and closures or safety hazards.
  • The hunter will receive a hunting site bulletin containing the map and general information.
  • There will be a demonstration on how to properly unlock/lock gate access to reduce the possibility of another hunter being locked in or out of the preserve.
  • The hunter will be reminded that preserve visitors have access to the hunting areas during the hunts and that the safety of all is important.
  • We are no longer requiring every member of the hunt party to attend the orientation.
    • However, the hunter is responsible for relaying the rules and conditions of the SUP to each member of the hunt party and that the SUP can be revoked if any member of the hunt party fails to comply.

AFTER the orientation, the hunter receives his/her SUP with gate combination and vehicle tag(s).



There is no extra day or vehicle access set aside specifically for scouting under the hunting special use permit. A hunter may access the preserve prior to his/her hunt for "scouting" purposes, but must adhere to the same rules and access that any member of the public has.


Hunt Party

A hunter is allowed to bring a maximum of five additional people, for a hunt party maximum of six people, --OR-- the number of passengers legally permitted in your vehicle, whichever is fewer.

  • Each member of the hunt party is responsible for knowing the rules. Non-compliance can result in the hunter's SUP being revoked.
  • If members of the hunt party arrive in a separate vehicle than the hunter, then they are required to pay the entrance fee or show their America the Beautiful pass or Valles Caldera annual pass. (Please note some hunts span for more than seven days and will require a second entrance fee if accessing the preserve for more than seven consecutive days).
  • Only one vehicle per hunt party is permitted access into the backcountry. (Exception is when the hunter is using an approved outfitter or guide).

Hunting Outfitters and Guides

Valles Caldera National Preserve allows but does not provide outfitter or guide services. Only authorized outfitters or guides are permitted to conduct business within the preserve. To work with a guide, please visit our listing of permitted hunting guides. To become authorized, outfitters and guides must first register with the NMDGF and then obtain a commercial use authorization through the Valles Caldera National Preserve.


Vehicle Access

Each hunter is limited to one vehicle in the backcountry, and may be accompanied by up to five individuals or the number of individuals the vehicle can legally hold, whichever is lower. An additional support vehicle/trailer may be used in the backcountry in relation to the use of horses or other pack animals. Exception is when the hunter is using an approved outfitter/guide.

  • A vehicle tag with the hunter's name and hunting SUP number is to be displayed on the dash of all vehicles used by the hunt party, including vehicles that are to be left in the Valle Grande entrance station or the Banco Bonito parking lots.
  • Subject to seasonal road closures, the hunter is authorized to operate a motor vehicle only on the designated backcountry vehicle route, as shown on the hunting map, and into the Banco Bonito parking/camping area.
    • Roadways and trails may be closed intermittently due to weather, for resource protection, or for administrative use. Permittee must check in with the Entrance Station for any changes or updates when there is a change in weather on a regular basis.
  • Vehicles must stay on established public roadways and parking areas and adhere to all speed limits (20 MPH on open roads, 10 MPH near Entrance Station and Cabin District) and traffic conditions. No vehicles shall be driven off of established roadways in the park to retrieve game or for any other purpose. Off-road travel is prohibited.
  • Hunters are encouraged to park in the designated parking areas, but may park alongside the designated route as long as they are parked safely off to the side, and not blocking access to roads, trails, or gates.
    • The permittee may temporarily park in pull-outs along the side of authorized motor vehicle routes when retrieving game.
  • Hunters must adhere to all speed limits and traffic conditions.
  • Vehicles used in the park are limited to street-legal passenger carrying vehicles. All vehicles will have current registration and insurance. The use of ATVs/UTVs and snowmobiles is prohibited.
  • The use of motorized wheeled vehicles, electric bicycles, and/or motorized carts of all types are permitted only on roads open to the public motorized vehicles.
  • Horses, pack animals, and mountain bikes may be used on trails to pack out harvested animals. Several hunters during past hunts have used bikes with carts/trailers attached.

Rules and Regulations

Hunters are asked to be familiar with both the state and federal rules and regulations concerning hunting in New Mexico and Valles Caldera National Preserve. Hunters are responsible for knowing all regulations before hunting. Please note that many preserve visitors are unaware that hunting activities occur within the park.

Information on New Mexico hunting regulations can be found on the NMDGF website. National Park Service regulations are not contained in the NMDGF rules and regulations guides. Below are some of the park-specific regulations of which hunters will need to be aware.

  • Hunters must have in their immediate possession their NMDGF hunting license and Valles Caldera hunting special use permit.
  • Hunting is allowed within the boundaries of the park, except in areas closed to hunting as described in the superintendent's compendium and on the hunting map. Knowing location and rules are the hunter's responsibility.
    • If any injured game enters the "No Hunting" area or an area closed to the public, the hunter shall notify park or NMDGF law enforcement before entering the area(s).
  • Hunting is prohibited within 50 feet of all developed areas including, but not limited to, buildings, parking areas, and trail heads.
  • While hunting in the park, the permitee and all members of the hunt party must wear a minimum of 244 square inches of blaze orange during rifle hunts. The blaze orange requirement does not apply to hunters using a shotgun or archery equipment.
  • Target shooting or the sighting in of weapons, including bow and arrow, is prohibited.
  • Tree stands are prohibited.
  • Hunters may bring their own game cart for game retrieval.
    • Hunters may also use pack animals and mountain bikes with carts.
    • The park does not have staff available to assist hunters with tracking wounded elk or with packing out harvested animals.
  • Hunters are allowed to harvest tagged or radio-collared animals. Hunters are required to return any tags and collars to the Entrance Station.
  • Initial taxidermy processing is authorized but cannot involve the use of any chemical treatments.
  • All hunters are required to submit location within preserve where their game was harvested.
  • Turkey Hunting:
    • The use of any shotgun, including muzzle-loading shotguns using shot only, and bow and arrow or crossbow and bolt is authorized; No centerfire or rim-fire rifle or handgun is allowed.
    • It is illegal to shoot a turkey roosting in a tree or on a structure.
    • The bag limit for spring season turkey within the park is one (1) animal. The beard and patch of feather surrounding the beard must remain on the bird until it is delivered to the place where it will be consumed or placed in final storage.
  • Elk Hunting:
    • Hunters are required to submit an incisor (front tooth) from their elk to assist elk research and monitoring efforts within the preserve.
    • Elk must be field dressed and their entrails and parts left a minimum of 25 feet from any road or trail. Initial taxidermy processing is authorized, but cannot involve the use of any chemical treatments.
  • Dogs are not permitted on the park to track wounded or dead game. Learn more about pets and service animals.
  • Collection of antlers, plants, minerals (including obsidian), and cultural artifacts is strictly prohibited. Natural and cultural features will not be disturbed, damaged, altered, or removed from the preserve. This includes cutting, tying, and/or removing vegetation.
  • Game cameras are not permitted.
  • Photographing/filming of wildlife is permitted only when wildlife is viewed in its natural state. For commercial filming and photography (for advertising or other purposes), contact the Commercial Use Authorization coordinator as a separate Special Use Permit may be required for this activity.
  • The hunter is responsible for any cleanup costs required as a result of spills or accidents resulting from his/her activities on the preserve. The hunter is also responsible for any costs and charges associated with the restoration of the resource due to disturbed natural, cultural, and/or historic resources. Cleanup will be conducted in accordance with all applicable federal and state environmental laws.
  • Remember, safety is your responsibility.
  • Information EVERY visitor needs to know.


At this time, camping within the preserve is limited to special use permits. The hunting SUP allows hunters access within the preserve for primitive camping and backcountry dispersed camping.

There are additional camping opportunities on the neighboring Bandelier National Monument and Santa Fe National Forest several of which are less than 15 minutes from the preserve's main entrance.

Primitive Camping (Banco Bonito)

If the hunter is camping out of an RV, travel trailer, pick-up camper, or prefers to be in close proximity of his/her vehicle, then Banco Bonito is the only location permitted for those types of camping.

  • Preserve access to set up camping site will be permitted after the required orientation.
  • Campsites may be set up in the open parking areas or within 100 feet inside treeline. RVs, trailers, etc. are restricted to the open parking areas only.
  • Vehicle traffic beyond the parking areas is not allowed.
  • Open wood or charcoal fires are not permitted. Personally owned gas grills are allowed. Any fire restrictions in effect will supersede fire use.
  • All trash must be disposed of and packed out. Burning, burying, or leaving trash or toilet paper is prohibited.
  • All food, garbage, and any scented articles (such as tooth paste, lip balm, insect repellent, first aid kits, etc.) must be properly secured day and night. The use of animal resistant food canisters or NPS bear box is required. When using a canister, place all required items in the container, lock the lid, and leave it 50 feet from your campsite. When using the provided NPS bear box, place all required items in the box and lock. Securing food and other scented items in a vehicle is prohibited.
  • Washing dishes and bathing must occur at least 100 feet away from any water source and only use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
  • The use of the provided vault toilet or personal restroom in RV/camp trailer is required within the Bano Bonito camping area.
  • A drip/containment barrier is required with the use of a generator.
  • All members of the hunt party must adhere to campground quiet hours of 10:00 pm–6:00 am. Generators may not be run during quiet hours.
  • Pets are not allowed in the Banco Bonito primitive camping area or in the backcountry.

Backcountry Dispersed Camping (Tent Only)

If the hunter is willing to hike out with his/her camping gear, then backcountry dispersed camping is allowed throughout the backcountry of the preserve. Camping using an RV, travel trailer, pop-up, horse trailer with living quarters, or similar equipment is only permitted at Banco Bonito.

  • Preserve access to set up camping site will be permitted after the required orientation.
  • A backcountry camping permit is required for all overnight backcountry use and MUST be in the hunter's possession while in the backcountry. The hunter must report back with location of camp site to help inform the future establishment of designated backcountry campsites and for emergency purposes.
  • Camping within ½ mile of any road or trail is prohibited.
  • Camp on durable surfaces at least 100 feet from any water source and 300 feet from other campers. When possible, camp in previously used campsites. Hunters and members of the hunt party are prohibited from making campsite "improvements."
  • Wood or charcoal fires of any type are prohibited. Sterno, gas, or compressed gas backpack stoves are permitted.
  • All food, trash, clothing, equipment, or personal items must be packed out. Burning, burying, or leaving trash or toilet paper is prohibited.
  • All food, garbage, and any scented articles (such as tooth paste, lip balm, insect repellent, first aid kits, etc.) must be properly secured day and night. The use of animal resistant food canisters is required. (Canisters will be available to rent for a nominal fee at the Valle Grande Entrance Station.) When using a canister, place all required items in the container, lock the lid, and leave it 50 feet from your campsite. Securing food and other scented items in a vehicle is prohibited.
  • Washing dishes and bathing must occur at least 100 feet away from any water source and only use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
  • Use provided vault and portable toilets when possible. When not possible, deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6-8 inches deep at least 100 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished. Toilet paper and hygiene products must be packed out.
  • Pets are not allowed in the backcountry.

Last updated: February 16, 2024

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