People often associate the word “badlands” with South Dakota. Few realize that the surreal formations found in New Mexico’s Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness rival those of Badlands National Park.
This little known wilderness, near Chaco Culture National Historical Park, is a place that literally leaves you gawping.
Roaming across the 41,170 acres of the Bisti Badlands makes you feel like you’ve climbed inside the pages of a fantasy novel.
The land varies from undulating grasslands to hills and rock formations streaked with shades of white, gray, black, and red.
This wilderness area has a stark yet unique beauty.
The land consists of layers of shale, sandstone, mudstone, coal, and silt. Over time, erosion has formed the hoodoos and pinnacles you see today.
Some of the shapes resemble mushrooms…
…Others look more like eggs, or perhaps flower buds beginning to bloom.
Between 70-54 million years ago, this was a swampland and dinosaurs inhabited the area. Scientists have unearthed numerous fossils here.
Today you’re more likely to encounter raptors and other birds of prey, along with small animals and reptiles.
This is BLM land and it truly is a wilderness. There are no marked trails, just washes like this one.
Follow Gateway Wash from the parking lot into the badlands.
After a short hike down a slope, you are free to delve into Bisti’s hidden world.
Please don’t climb on the fragile formations or remove any petrified wood.
It’s a good idea to bring plenty of water, food, layers of clothing, and sunscreen. Since there are literally no services available, you need to pack in and pack out.
The roads in are gravel and – in one section – essentially packed sand. Don’t attempt to visit Bisti when the weather is bad and make a note of directions before you start out because you’re likely to lose cell reception before arrival.
Going completely off grid is part of the appeal of this place.
The wilderness area is free and always open.
This video shows you what it’s like to hike through this incredible wilderness.