The Bisti (pronounced bis-tie) is one of our go-to places for day hikes in the spring or late fall. (It gets really hot out there in the summer!) This high desert wilderness contains unique rock formations, huge petrified logs and plenty of opportunity to wander around and explore. The photos in this article were taken during a number of different visits. This area is so vast you can go back time after time and find new wonders every time.
Managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area covers 45,000 acres of badlands just south of Farmington, New Mexico. Translated from the Navajo language, Bisti means “a large area of shale hills” and De-Na-Zin comes from the Navajo words for “cranes.”
Since this is a Wilderness Area, it is closed to motorized vehicles and mechanical forms of transportation (including mountain bikes). Also prohibited are campfires, collecting fossils or petrified wood, climbing on delicate geologic features, traveling in groups of more than eight people and trespassing on adjacent tribal lands.
There are no trails and no water sources so even a day hike requires some preparation. There is virtually no shade and the desert sun gets hot year-round so carrying an ample supply of water is crucial. The trailheads are off regularly maintained roads but those roads are not paved and can become extremely slick and impassable when wet.
This weird landscape of strange rock formations is created from interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal and silt. Hoodoos formed by the weathering of the sandstone appear in many shapes.
There are two main washes in the Bisti and both run east to west. The main parking area provides access to Alamo wash. If you stay in the main wash area, you can readily find your way back to your vehicle. Going into the hills on either side of the wash (particularly the north side) is like being in a maze. There are many dead ends and you can easily lose your sense of direction so a GPS is a good idea.
The “Cracked Eggs”, petrified logs and hoodoos within Alamo wash are the reward for a hot desert hike.
South of Alamo wash are the Chocolate hoodoos and named and unnamed formations of all kinds.
We have hiked in the Bisti many times and were most recently determined to locate the “Bisti Wings” in the northern area. It took us three different attempts to be successful. The first time we didn’t go nearly far enough out of Alamo wash. The second time I think we were actually quite close. However, we do pretty much know our hiking distance limit and our dog was getting tired so we headed back out.
The third time, we were really determined. It took some scrambling, and Tom, at one point, climbed up to a hilltop to get a better look around.
It seemed almost as if they were hiding, but we did find the Wings. Voila! We then had to make our way down into a wash to really get the benefit for photos.
Heading back out, we took a couple of dead ends and had to backtrack a bit but the sense of satisfaction was well-earned.
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area is an otherworldly and fascinating place to visit.
For more information: https://www.blm.gov/visit/bisti-de-na-zin-wilderness