Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Bisti Badlands ~ New Mexico’s Most Hidden Gem

Bisti Badlands – AKA De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area

Have you heard of Bisti Badlands? Hardly anyone we talked to after we shared some pictures had not ever heard of this place. So it’s perfect! We love finding these hidden gems! We came upon the Bisti Badlands by complete mistake. What a beautiful mistake! We really strive to find and take the roads less traveled. Finding the “off the beaten path” places is always our goal. We enjoy and cherish the popular places, but finding, experiencing, and then sharing something unique and different is thrilling. 

Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations made of interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt here at the Bisti Badlands. The weathering of the sandstone forms hoodoos – weathered rock in the form of pinnacles, spires, cap rocks, and other unusual forms. Fossils occur in this sedimentary landform. 

We both agree this is truly the most unique and interesting place we’ve ever been. The rock formations made us feel as if we were on another planet. Surely not in the middle of New Mexico. We’re pretty sure this is how the moon must look.

The only way into this area is to hike from the parking lot / trailhead. There are no off-road vehicles allowed here. Not even bicycles. You can start to see some interesting formations about one and a half miles in. There are no marked trails. Below I will list some of the GPS coordinates from our hike to the best areas. There are more areas you can find but these are the most popular and most scenic areas. We hiked on a Saturday and saw hardly anyone out there. Hiking here, in our opinion, was very easy!! Very flat, and unless you want to climb, it’s not required to get to these areas. 


For now, (2019) you do need to follow these directions. If you come from the other way, the road is blocked. It was washed out at least a year or two ago and is still closed. Drive NM 371 just under 36 miles south of Farmington (from the San Juan River crossing) or just under 45 miles north of Crownpoint (from the intersection of 371 and Navajo Service Route 9), and turn east on Road 7297 (a gravel road). Travel down Road 7297 for approximately 2 miles to a T-intersection and turn left. Travel just under one mile to the Bisti Access Parking Area.

You’ll see a lot of petrified wood here. Which was Justin’s favorite. There are several petrified trees still intact just where they fell, or so we assume. You can still see the rings in the trees. It’s pretty impressive! We wondered how much was still to be uncovered under the land we are walking on. Just a mysterious and wonderful place!


There are several areas to dry camp down the gravel road before you get to the main parking lot. But if you have a big rig, our recommendation is to go all the way to the parking lot and stay there. Some of the dips to get to some of the pull-off areas were pretty steep for us. If you have a toy hauler and sit a little higher, you may be able to make it. We arrived on a Friday afternoon. Not usual for us. We like to do these sorts of things on weekdays. But even arriving on a Friday afternoon, there was plenty of room!

The parking area and road are located on BLM land. The hiking area of Bisti Badlands is Wilderness area. There is a difference in rules. 


Dogs are allowed. And there doesn’t seem to be a leash law here. We actually didn’t see any dogs on leashes here so if you have a problem with that, leave your dog at home, or inside the RV if it’s cool enough. We are huge leash law supporters, so unfortunately our pup had to stay in the RV, as she is not other dog friendly. Also, watch your step, when dogs aren’t on leashes, owners aren’t paying much attention and therefore not cleaning up after their pups.


  • There are no facilities, come prepared.
  • This is a true wilderness area, there are no marked trails.
  • Bring lots of water. Especially if it’s hot. We visited in March, and the temps were just in the high 50s. Perfect for hiking in our opinion.
  • Good hiking shoes are a must. To see all the areas we did, you’ll hike more than 4 miles. We didn’t see everything, but if you wanted to, you could hike as much as 8 miles here. We saw so many people walking in with slip-on shoes and no water, and the closest thing you’ll see is still 1.5 miles in so even if you only go that far, that’s still 3 miles round trip. Please bring water, snacks, and wear the right shoes. 
  • Cell phone reception is spotty. Please do not rely on your cell phone for GPS coordinates. We use this handheld GPS (click here). If you don’t have a handheld GPS you will love it! Especially if you hike a lot, and also perfect for Geocaching! Don’t know what Geocaching is? Check out our blog here about Geocaching is, and how fun it is!
  • There is no shade, be careful when hiking in high temperatures. Again, if you have a choice, check this place out in Spring or Fall.
  • Check the weather before visiting. Roads and terrain may become impassible in wet weather. You can count on this place having flash floods for sure! When we arrived, everything was really dry, but the road to an apparently larger parking lot was washed out and closed. 
  • You can tent camp out in the wilderness. We think that would have been SO cool! 
  • No drones – I would have loved to get drone footage of this, but we are responsible drone owners and follow all the rules. 
  • No campfires.


  • Main Parking Lot 36.25915, 1108.25179
  • Egg Garden (Alien Egg Hatchery) 36.2674, -108.22374
  • Stone Wings 36.279285, -108.237340
  • Log Jam 36.26803, -108.22173
  • Hoodoo City 36.26632, -108.21793
  • Bisti Arch 36.26863, -108.2261

We hope this helps everyone who wants to venture into this phenomenal place. I’m pretty sure that in our 2 years of traveling, this is the most unique and different place we’ve been.

If you’re heading to this amazing location, we would love to hear about your experience here! Let us know if you’ve been here! Also, let us know if we inspired you to put this on your bucket list!

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4 thoughts on “Bisti Badlands ~ New Mexico’s Most Hidden Gem”

    1. Thank you! We are not an off-leash supporter because our dog was attacked on several occasions, so now we can’t take our pup out to enjoy a walk. Not every dog is “other dog friendly”, and most owners let their dogs run all over the place, poop everywhere, and don’t have control of their dogs at all. Therefore, our poor pup has to stay in now. I do hope you’re different! When you end up with a dog who is not other dog friendly, you may change your mind. 🙂 Travel safe!

  1. Beautiful place, but i most definitely will not return or would advice anyone to visit. The reason: Most people with dogs DO NOT have their dogs on a leash and there is poop everywhere!!!! So sad, because it is such a beautiful place, but extremely scary and dangerous with people’s dogs running loose. On two occasions on the same day, on a short walk with my two small dog that were on leashes got attacked by two separate dogs that were not on a leash. People should be able to enjoy the beautiful Bisti without fear of being attacked.

    1. It is very sad! We can’t take our pup on walks where dogs are allowed because of these things. They are the first ones to scream when dogs are not allowed anymore. 🙁 I’m so sorry this happened to you.

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