A barren land, covered with dry cracked clay soils and ashes. Red-brown hills in contrast to the whimsical gray horizon. Unusual rock formations overshadow the bleak plains with fossilized and charred remains. A dead silence hand in hand with the seemingly lifeless landscape. The only thing that seems to be missing here is an alien spacecraft.

No, let’s be honest right away: this is not Mars. This is Bisti Badlands. A remnant of what used to be a swamp forest with countless plants and animal species. Almost unbelievable, isn’t it? Yet the numerous fossils, including various of dinosaurs, are proof of this.

The further you step into this wilderness, the weirder the feeling you experience. It’s hard to describe this bizarre landscape. It’s not as idyllic as the Wind River Range, not as overwhelming as the Grand Canyon and not as exciting as Zion. Yet, this alien landschape with remarkable rock formations is fascinating. There is such a mysterious atmosphere. The seclusion and crying coyotes in the background even make it a bit creepy. But one thing is for sure: Bisti Badlands is one of the most photogenic places on earth!

Bisti Badlands Canyon

How to get there?

Bisti Badlands is a protected wilderness area in northwest New Mexico, about 36 mile south of Farmington. It is part of the Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The area is open to visitors year-round and there is no entrance fee. Camping is also allowed at no cost and without the need of a permit. Please note that there are no facilities available.

From State Highway 371, a passable gravel road (Road 2797) takes you to the undeveloped parking lot, after roughly 3 mile. Through a small gate along the fence you enter the wilderness. The Gateway Wash is the starting point of your next adventure. From here you can discover this extraordinary scenery by wandering along and over the hills, gorges and hoodoos.

Parking lot GPS info:

Latitude: 36° 15′ 33.0″ N (36.259178)
Longitude: 108° 15′ 06.2″ W (-108.251736)

Although Bisti Badlands is relatively easy to reach, this is still a little visited area. Almost unbelievable, but a nice bonus! Chances are you don’t have to share this unique alien landscape with anyone. The solitude intensifies the experience.

Bisti Badlands solitude

However, this also requires additional caution. Do not head into the wilderness unprepared. A GPS (or smartphone with GPS) is definitely recommended. Your orientation skills will be challenged, as there are no routes or markings. If you don’t have a GPS with you, use the sun to orient yourself. Know that the parking lot is located west of the badlands. In the evening, you can follow the sun to return to your car. Also, carry enough water, especially if you visit the Badlands during the summer.

Some pictures

Although there are no trails, you may find some unofficial sights. With a GPS you can quickly locate them: Chocolate hoodoos, Cracked Eggs, Bisti Arch, Bisti Rock Garden, … But please go ahead and find your own favorite place!

Bisti Badlands soil

Bisti Badlands panorama

Bisti Badlands

Bisti Badlands Canyon

Bisti Badlands Cracked Eggs

Bisti Badlands