Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Bisti Badlands – Farmington, New Mexico

Located in the dry desert In northwestern New Mexico, the Bisti Badlands (formerly Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness) offer one of the closest approaches to an unknown alien world as found here on earth.

The area takes its name not only from the striking rock formations that litter the landscape (“bisti” is a Navajo term that means “among the adobe formations”), but also from the petroglyphs of a crane (bird, no construction machinery), which were found in the area – “De-Na-Zin” is the Navajo word for the animal.

The blasted landscape is covered with strange, undulating mushroom shapes made of colored sandstone and slate. Giant hoodoos (tall, thin crags) and tiny mazes of strange stone shapes were created by eons of water and moisture peeling away on a softer layer of ash, creating improbable, top-heavy curiosities. Petrified wood can also be found here and there.

Although it looks like a pre-made set for a science fiction or fantasy production, the area hasn’t been used widely for filming, with the exception of the 1977 film Sorcerer.

Know before you go

The best access point for Bisti is State Highway 371 on Road 7297, approximately 40 miles south of Farmington. Follow gravel road 7297 east for about 3 km to a T-junction and turn left. Travel almost a mile to the Bisti Access Parking Area.

Note that there are almost no amenities in the parking lot or anywhere – no water, no visitor center, no cell phone coverage. There are toilets (pit toilets) in the parking lot, but you should bring your own toilet paper. You need to be fully prepared to be on your own. It can be extremely hot here during the day and very cold at night. The area where the strange rock formations are located is about 1.5 miles from the parking lot and there are no hiking trails, signs, or signposts. It would be very easy to get lost here if you are not careful. Reliable GPS is an absolute must.

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