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“Bisti Wilderness”

Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness
Ranked #1 of 13 things to do in Farmington
Certificate of Excellence
Farmington, New Mexico
Level Contributor
27 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“Bisti Wilderness”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 25, 2013

Been there and hiked that. The Bisti, as it is referred to, is about 50 miles south of Farmington, NM. The Bisti is located on the Navajo Reservation. It is loaded with "hoodoos" of varying descriptions. Hoodoos are formed when erosion takes place on the softer, underlying, soils. It provides an interesting assortment for your viewing pleasure. If you are in the area looking for an outdoor activity for the family, give it a try. But be careful. If you hike in the summer months, the weather can get to 100 degrees easily and there is no water or any sanitation facilities there. Fall or spring months are more accommodative. Also, be watchful for rattlesnakes any time.

Visited March 2013
4 Thank RoadrunnerNM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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187 reviews from our community

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Sandy, Utah
Level Contributor
18 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
“Great place for dark night shots too.”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 18, 2013

Trying to add something -eh? Yes, it's got cool formations and such. I went here to get some night shots of the sky as it's one of the darkest places in the country. Here, let me upload a picture. It's just a little while off the main road, on a pretty good gravel road that I made it in my little 2 seater car. Just a parking area and that's it. No restrooms, etc. Lots of walking, no real trail. Lots of cool formations. This was part of “The Red Loop” a 1 week road trip from GudieToTheWest (.com). Certainly worth the stop if you are around Chaco Canyon. Though it’s a ways from the National Park because the roads are so wonky. Gotta love spending time in the Navajo Nation. I recommend staying in Farmington or camping in Chaco.

Visited October 2013
2 Thank Darrellx
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Farmington, New Mexico
Level Contributor
32 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Remarkable Topography, A Petrified Forest, Fossils, and Solitude!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 24, 2013

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a federal wilderness area. No vehicles of any kind, not even bicycles. Due to the erosive nature of the soil, trails are hard to discern, tracks rarely last very long, even your own, if the wind's blowing.

There are no amenities of any sort. No port-a-potties, no water, no tables, just a parking area, one on the west end of the wilderness (Bisti), and one on the east end (De-Na-Zin). I haven't seen a map that indicates where features are, so you are pretty much on your own to find the interesting stuff.

Of course, if you like "hoodoos", you don't have to look very far or hard. The Bisti portion is full of them. One of the best "hoodoo" spots is south and a little west of the Bisti parking area. When you get to the parking area, accessed off of NM 371, rather than going to the obvious parking on the left (north), turn to the right and follow a short track to the west up to a steep drop-off. Park there, then walk south into the drainage. There are "hoodoos" galore. Great for a casual hike and a myriad of photo opps, especially when the fantastic NM blue sky is at its clearest and brightest. As other reviewers have noted, you do need to be careful not to get lost. There are a great many branching drainages, and, if you don't pay attention, you can get confused. Generally, though, if you follow a drainage downhill, you'll come out to a familiar place or can see far enough that you'll find your way back. Nowadays, with GPS capability nearly everywhere, just mark your parking position and have a fresh charge when you start out.

As you walk among the drainages, keep an eye out for fossils. They protrude from the sides of the drainage walls. Although I've not found any fossils in Bisti, yet, I have found some in De-Na-Zin. There are many shark tooth fossils here, most easily found at night with a "black light". But, you're in a federal wilderness, look, but don't take.

You will also see mounds of small red "rocks" scattered all around the area. The "rocks" are "clinkers" that are produced by the burning of coal. Coal beds are plentiful in this region, and many of the underground beds would burn, probably by lightning strikes on the exposed surface of the coal, then travelling underground. What was left after the fire is the red clinkers.

De-Na-Zin, east of Bisti, and most easily accessed from County Road 7500 off NM 550, is quite different from Bisti. Not many hoodoos, but there are many unique features that will reward your trek. Park in the parking area that's 12 miles west on CR 7500, and walk north, then west along a major drainage. About a mile along, there's a spring with a small catchment, and a remnant sheep pen made of rock and juniper poles opposite the spring. Nearby, there's a remnant 3-pole hogan (I haven't been in this particular portion of DNZ for awhile, maybe it's not there, anymore).

If you drive from the parking area along CR 7500 for about a mile, maybe less, then climb over the fence (legal), and walk along to the northwest, you'll be in an interesting drainage that, owing to the soil type, allows water to enter vertically along low spots and travel under the soil, rather than run off on the surface. Intriguing!

In this area, I found (and left, according to law) a petrified tortoise shell. This area was part of an inland sea, complete with tortoises. Keep a sharp eye out, and you may see a shell, also!

Continuing farther northwest, you will encounter a "petrified forest" of logs protruding from the banks of drainages, many of which are two or more feet in diameter. The sea overwhelmed the redwood (?) forest, the trunks became submerged, then fossilized. Many homes in San Juan County have large petrified logs, probably taken from this area, as landscaping features. Don't compound the error by taking this natural phenomenon from its native location, please.

Maybe a quarter-mile due west of the petrified forest is a remnant living Ponderosa Pine forest. Established during a much-wetter and cooler era, many pines still survive despite the current aridity. Interestingly, there are enough pines currently to support a porcupine occupation. Look closely at the tree trunks and you can see the scars of porcupines' dining.

All in all, this is a most unique wilderness--not forest, not grasslands, not canyon, just unique!
It's remote, but not outrageously so, without any comforts. Take a compass, a map, a GPS with fully-charged batteries, a lot of water, and layered clothing, including provisions for rain and cold. If you visit in the spring, it will be cool, but windy, and maybe some rain. If you visit in the summer, it will be hot, hot, maybe windy, maybe rain. In the late summer, the monsoons can make the roads impassable, and if you're caught in the wilderness, you won't like it! My favorite time is late September, October, and early November. Just watch the weather forecast, don't attempt to visit if rain is likely.

Visited June 2013
10 Thank Tom O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Farmington, New Mexico
Level Contributor
10 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Beauty in the Bisti”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 18, 2013

After reading some of the reviews, I agree, that this trek is not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. There are some real dangers. Washes and run off if you go close to the rainy season in Farmington and the 4 Corners area. Granted there are no "amenities" but I find that signs, picnic tables, plug-ins for TV and phone signal is not what is wanted if you wish to look at untarnished geological beauty! If you want 'amenities', perhaps you have those at home.

Visited March 2013
2 Thank Joanne H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Rio de Janeiro, RJ
Level Contributor
153 reviews
112 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 69 helpful votes
“Be prepared”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 22, 2013

Bisti Badlands is a fantastic place to meet, but lacks the amenities found in u.s. national parks. There is no signage, trails marked, plates, bathrooms, etc.
It's good to bring water and skin protector. Be prepared to walk under strong sunlight for hours.
Be careful not to get disoriented. A GPS is very useful, even to go back to the car.
I don't know if there are maps showing the most interesting rock formations. In my case I walked for hours getting to know the area.

Visited April 2013
6 Thank Mauro S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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