May 2017 – There’s a wonderful natural treasure to be found in northwestern New Mexico at the Bisti Badlands — or Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness — just 40 miles south of Farmington.
We had a very magical experience in this exotic location five years ago and we wanted to get back once again.
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a huge area filled with crazy rock formations that resemble everything from spacecraft to furniture to alien eggs. Because it is a wilderness area, there are no trails and no vehicles are allowed either. The only way to see it is to walk on in and start exploring.
The hoodoos and colorful mounds make for a great day of fun just getting lost in a maze of crazy shapes, and on our last visit we roamed all over the place climbing up and over red and black and orange striped conical hills that easily stood 50 to 100 feet high.
But the “prize” in Bisti Badlands, if there can be such a thing, is the tiny group of stones that look like alien creatures emerging from their cracked egg shells.
This is a favorite area for photographers, and we headed out in the late afternoon as the shadows were getting long.
Some of the rocks look very much like eggs sitting on a dish or embryonic alien life forms emerging from the shell.
Each one is a little different, and some look as though they might come to life.
As we wandered around the perimeter of these fantastic rock formations and crouched down to see them up close, I suddenly heard Mark yell “Help!”
I turned around and saw his hand reaching out… he’d been swallowed up by an alien egg!
Not really, of course, but these little guys were very engaging and we were having lots of fun getting photos of them and playing with effects.
Sometimes we couldn’t help but get in the photo in one way or another, even if it was just a shadow of ourselves.
As the hours went by, one by one, each egg lost the sun’s golden glow. Then the setting sun threw some pretty colors across the sky.
One of the things I love most about these alien egg rocks is that each one is decorated with a different pattern on its surface.
Some have a wonderful pattern that seems very deliberate, as if carved by a divine hand.
Some are very bold, with definite lines and carvings.
Others have finer lines and have started to fade in places.
And some don’t have any decorations at all.
Decorations or no, you just can’t beat seeing one of these crazy egg rocks set off by a pink sunset.
And then, with a flash from the west, the sun was gone.
We decided to stick around to see what this other-worldly place looked like at night.
A few stars began to twinkle in the rich light of dusk. The moon was rising and looked like a huge street light above us. Mark was using his favorite wide angle lens and it made a fabulous starburst out of the moon!
Back at the trailer when we were going through our photos, Mark emailed this cool shot to a friend who’s a video arts and Photoshop expert. Suddenly he got an email back that looked a little spooky!
As a gag, he emailed the revised photo to another good friend who is also a photographer and Photoshop expert, and suddenly it came back looking even spookier!
But before we could play with our photos in the rig, we had to get back out of Bisti Badlands in the dark.
I was glad the moon was so bright. Like our old days of sailing on our boat when we made long ocean passages at night, the moon was like a very dear friend in the sky. The eggs around us were easy to see, and it even cast shadows on the ground.
Even with the moon so bright, more and more stars began to appear in the sky above us.
Hiking out in the dark was quite a thrill. We heard some coyotes very close by and were hoping to catch a glimpse of them, but they must have caught our scent and heard our footsteps because they soon headed off into the night.
Every so often we could see the lights of a power plant in the distance, keeping us more or less on track! We ended up scaling a few more deep washes on the way out than on the way in, but we made it out just fine!
Some notes and a word of caution for folks heading to Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness with RVs:
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is a very special place that is well worth a detour to visit.
RVs are allowed to park overnight in the fenced off parking area which can hold a few truck campers or perhaps 3-4 larger RVs. The “RV” end of the parking lot can get very muddy when it rains and the ruts from RVs that had been there during recent rains were quite deep.
This parking area is located about 3 miles down a dirt road off of Route 371. When we went to Bisti Badlands in late September of 2012, the 3 mile dirt road was well graded and it wasn’t difficult to drive on with our fifth wheel trailer.
Now, however, it appears that the road has not been graded in a very long time, and it is absolutely terrible. We drove at 3-9 mph the entire way in both directions, no joke. Not only was everything in our rig badly shaken up but we discovered the locking nut on one of the bolts that goes through the equalizer in our fifth wheel suspension actually fell off. Without a locking nut, the bolt had worked itself almost all the way out during our drive in. Luckily, Mark was able to fix this right there in the dirt parking lot. More on that coming soon!
More importantly, it seems that Bisti Badlands has been “discovered.”
In 2012 we were the only RV there for one night and we had just one companion RV another night. This year the parking area was quite busy every night with cars, vans, truck campers and short Class C’s crammed in, and lots of people came in cars to hike for the day as well.
In 2012 there were no footprints beyond the gate into the wilderness area, and this year there were footprints everywhere, especially leading to the eggs, and there were lots of people out hiking. In 2012 there were a few boondocking areas down the road, but now there are markers at those spots saying “No Vehicles.”
As we were packing to leave Bisti Badlands on a Saturday morning, four cars arrived and joined the RVs that had stayed overnight. During the 45 minutes it took us to drive the dirt road out to the highway, 12 more cars and trucks passed us on their way in. I have no idea if or how all those vehicles could fit in the parking lot!
So…. if you own a bigger RV, it might be wise to leave it in Farmington and make a day trip to Bisti Badlands in the tow vehicle or toad. Mid-week will be quieter than weekends, especially during the peak seasons of spring and fall.
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More info about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands):
The website for the BLM is undergoing many changes and doesn’t have information about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness at the moment. We describe how we found the eggs on our previous visit at this link.
Location of Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Parking Area – Interactive Google Maps
If you go into the Bisti Wilderness with a friend or spouse, it’s a good idea to stick close together or take a set of two-way radios. We used both our radios and a hand-held compass. A hand-held GPS can be a helpful tool too (although we just used our compass). We also used all three of our Lumintop flashlights (reviews HERE (searchlight) and HERE (pocket flashlights).
Other blog posts from New Mexico:
- Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, New Mexico – A Dog’s Eye View!
- Valles Caldera National Preserve & a Spring Blizzard in New Mexico!
- Bandelier National Monument – Fun Pueblo Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico!
- Tent Rocks National Monument (Kasha-Katuwe) – Hiking Slots & Spires!
- Aztec Ruins National Monument – Whispers from the Ancients in New Mexico!
- City of Rocks State Park, NM – RV Camping in the Hoodoos!
- It IS Rocket Science at White Sands Missile Park in NM
- Tatum, New Mexico – Metal Art Magic
- Roswell, New Mexico – Aliens, UFO’s, Spaceships and more!
- White Sands National Monument – New Mexico’s Desert Dunes!
- Bisti Badlands NM – Mysterious rocks and an alien egg factory!
- New Mexico – Just Started and In a Hurry!
Night hikes and starry skies:
- A Las Vegas Light Show — WOW!!
- Spring in Sarasota FL + Bryce Canyon’s Night Skies – in Trailer Life
- Grand Canyon’s North Rim – Magnificent & Intimate by Day or Night!
- Waterton Lakes Nat’l Park – Starry Skies, the Milky Way & Wildflowers
- Canyonlands National Park UT – Island in the Sky (and Night Skies!)
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