Hiking at the Bisti Badlands

The following post is about my recent hike at the Bisti Badlands, New Mexico, and the photographs I captured during the trip. All photos were taken with a wide angle lens (Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS). Select photos have been added to Southwest Scenery album.


Bisti Badlands

The Bisti Wilderness Area (Bisti) is located in San Juan county, which is in the north-western region of New Mexico . It is currently under BLM (Bureau of Land Management) control, neighboring private Navajo lands. The area is accessed by NM State Hwy 371, which runs in between Farmington and Thoreau (Intersecting with I-40). Living so many years in and around New Mexico, I never visited the Bisti Badlands. In my mind it was always somewhere far or, according to the different reviews and hiking guides, it simply wasn’t the right time of the year to go there – too rainy, too muddy, too hot, too cold, too windy, etc. It was also never in the area of my usual travel routes.

Couple weeks ago I got a few days off, and we started looking into hikes close by. Decision was to hike through the Bisti Badlands. The Bisti is in a remote area, and there are not many guides or detailed maps of location available in the internet. The few websites that I found suggested to map the coordinates on a GPS device, and use it during the hike. It is, most likely, easy to miss the spots without having their locations mapped. I found the detailed hike guide on the Bisti, and mapped the suggested locations on my GPS device.



Purple line shows the route per the coordinates I mapped, green line is the actual hike we did. The planned hike was approximately 5.6 miles. Sunset time for July 16th was at 8:30 pm. We covered most of the points of interest, eventually hiking 4.6 miles in 2:09 hrs. We arrived at Bisti at 6:35 pm, and were back at the starting point by 8:50 pm.



It was raining on the way to the Bisti Badlands. We were skeptical about the hike, and were considering cancelling it if the rain and wind wouldn’t stop. 10 miles to Bisti the sky started clearing up, giving us some hope. We arrived at the parking, changed, and started the hike. Dense rainy clouds were on the both north and south side of the Bisti. Less dense clouds were above the Bisti, stretching from west to east. Above photograph shows the clouds on the south side, right after entering the Bisti area.



Initial views are not that impressive; there are few formations around, but mostly flats and the wash floor are in sight. GPS still shows that we are far from the main attraction points of the Bisti.



Flakes of petrified wood are covering the ground.



Further in our hike we started to see balanced rocks. Here is a harder rock resting on a softer, more erosion-prone layer of rock. As the time passes, the wind and water erode the softer rock, and create a mushroom looking rock formation.



The sky started to clear up, closer we got to the “Wings”.



More of the Bisti Wings.



Sun through the small hoodoos.



Different geological formations.



More hoodoos.



Perfectly smooth rock, in the size of a basketball, with the smallest Arch I’ve ever seen in the background.



At around 7:45 pm we made it to the Cracked Eggs. The Cracked Eggs – the weird, alien looking rock formations – are the one of the main attractions of the Bisti.  They are remnants of limestone tubes, slowly eroding into egg shapes.



This place is surreal. The terrain looks like straight from a sci-fi movie with the rocks resembling alien eggs, cocoons, petrified rib cages, etc.



Above photograph of the Cracked Eggs at the sunset was the last one taken before we decide to head back to the car. It took us about half an hour to walk approximately 2 miles back to the parking. Our walk back was following the main wash. We got to the car right before the dusk.

The trip to the Bisti Badlands was definitely worth it. We got lucky with the weather; even though it was July, the temperature was in mid 70’s F (mid 20’s C) due to the rain and clouds around the area. While we were there, it didn’t rain on us, the ground was mostly dry, and the wind was tolerable. I will definitely come back to the Bisti one day.

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