Where is there an area of weird, alien looking landscape that we’ve never heard of? In New Mexico, of course. Bisti Badlands wilderness is in the northwest part of the state and is managed by the BLM.
We spent a full day and over 8 miles exploring on foot through the valleys, up and down the hills and trying not to get stuck somewhere.
We drove north on HWY 371 from the I-40. The terrain was scenic and then leveled out to rocky, grassy countryside. The drive from I-40 is a little over an hour. From 371 turn onto CO 7290 and there are signs directing you from the highway.
The camp area
When planning to head here, the only overnight areas I identified Was the parking area. However, if you continue north past the parking access there is BLM land that can be utilized for camping. We arrived to the parking area and decided to just stay put. The proximity to our next days hike would be ideal. We were alone until pretty late at night when another camper arrived.
- GPS: 36.259423 , -108.251504 (Google map link)
- Easy to locate: Yes. We approached from HWY 371 northbound and turnoff was well marked.
- Public Land: Yes
- Cell: 2 bars Verizon, 2-3 bars T-Mobile, 2 bars Google fi. Connection was spotty however. One day it was great and the next evening and morning it wasn’t as strong. Was sufficient to grab email etc.
- Crowded: not at all
- Clean: mostly clean
- Would we stay here again: Yes
Our only regret was being unable to locate specific features. The area is vast and we were dependent on an old map at the trail head. The map named areas with specific features but wasn’t specific with the locations. Wandering around without any markers or trail guidance made it challenging to find them.
We did locate the rock garden only because it was so large. We found one great petrified stump by chance. After spotting a well traveled horse trail that climbed up and up and up followed by a long bluffside walk. Of course, from there, we figured out we had no way down due to the deep canyons below. We hoofed it all the way back along the bluff and relocated another horse trail winding our way to the valley below. We never did find the petrified forest; there were additional petrified tree pieces scattered around on the north side of the wilderness too..they were no longer stumps unfortunately.
If we return, I’ll reach out to the blm website or local office and see if there’s a better/newer map. It’d be more exciting to locate the named sites after a long sometimes challenging hike than just wandering around for what seemed like hours!
The surprise find
Wild horses! They were walking through the area near the parking access and Steve spotted them while walking Mr. Cooper.
In the end, it was just too cold of a time to be there overnight. The daytime temps proved to be comfortable for hiking the hills but we’d prefer to be there again when it’s not quite so cold. December just isn’t the right time. Also recommend to be careful with parking if there has been rain. The mud is extremely sticky.
Where to next
South and not so cold!