If you like moonlike landscapes and seek loneliness… look no further. Bisti Wilderness is the place for you! Are you ready for a “Man vs. Wild” but without Edward Michael “Bear” Grylls to accompany you ? Off State Highway 371 at Road 7297, about 35 miles south of Farmington is the entrance to the Bisti Badlands a region of irresistible landscapes in the middle of nowhere. Little visited and largely unknown, it is a picturesque and colorful area of undulating mounds and eroded rocks covering about 4,000 acres of wilderness. It is hidden away in the high desert of the San Juan basin in the northwest corner of New Mexico. Translated from Navajo Bistihi, Bisti means “among the adobe formation” referring to the rock formations found in these badlands. This area is neither a regional park nor a national park and does not even have a “Visitor Center” … It is a Wilderness Area, a protected area where any “mechanical” activity (Motorcycle, quad bike, electric bike, trolley…) is forbidden. Now, you know everything… Oh, I forgot… there are no signposts pointing the way to Bisti, aside from the sign on the parking lot and there is no marked path in the wilderness either! We are on our own to explore and discover the wonders of Mother Nature! As the Swiss traveler and writer Nicolas Bouvier wrote, “On the road, it is better to get lost. When one goes astray, projects give way to surprises and it is then, and only then, that the journey begins”.

Bisti Badlands, picturesque and colorful area of undulating mounds

There are no marked trails in the Bisti Wilderness. You need to take a few hours to explore this incredibly tormented and colorful valley floor, without losing the breadcrumb trail… back to the parking lot! Traveling to the heart of Bisti Wilderness means descending into a world of ravines, colorful hills and surreal rock formations of prodigious diversity: hoodoos, rocks of improbable shapes, arches, ridges, petrified wood… Relentlessly, water and wind have eroded the soil to create tortured landscapes and to shape delicate and fragile sculptures. We are in the middle of a moonlike decor enjoying total solitude in a beautiful environment… As Depeche Mode sings, « Enjoy the silence » !

Bisti Wilderness, moonlike decor

A layer of harder rock resting on a more fragile, easily-eroded layer: as wind and water erode the rock, the more fragile layer is disintegrates while the upper layer remains… That is how these stunning and weirdly-shaped rock formations are carved. Amateur photographers that we are, we would like to stop and immortalize them! Our imagination wanders and we see “a little boy playing ball“, “a dragon ready to spit fire“, a… No, I am not going to tell you everything, set your imagination free! My random discoveries among thousands of hoodoos of all shapes and colors scattered among hills and ravines include a character with a cap, an alien, a turtle, a polar bear on the ice floe, a globefish or a huge rattling rattlesnake… You need to take the time to climb some mounds, cross ridges to discover other unusual places and well-hidden hoodoos… I felt like Tintin in “The Shooting star“… Look, some petrified trunks lie just behind this dune of multicolored sand. They are perfectly preserved and some are several feet long, proof that lush forests dominated the landscape millions of years ago…

Bisti Wilderness, Cracked Eggs

But the “Holy Grail” of the Bisti Wilderness are the famous Cracked Eggs or Eggs factory (the nursery). These egg-shaped rocks that look about to hatch are staggering. The area is not very large (only 50 yards long by 20 wide) but it is full of fabulous spherical formations, some of which are more than 3 feet in diameter. The spotted and colored appearance of the eggs is due to mineral deposits. Some will see fossilized dinosaur eggs while moviegoers will find themselves propelled in the saga “Alien” with a reproduction of the eggs from which the “Facehugger” emerges… I prefer to think that 73 million years ago, Mother Nature, preparing her breakfast, accidentally dropped her box of eggs on the sandy soil and abandoned the broken shells…

Colored rock formations

It’s time to leave via Highway 371 and return to civilization… The landscape is transformed at every bends as if by enchantment. In just a few miles we go from a semi-desert plain where drought-resistant plants grow to colored rock formations and then to a region of plateaus where picturesque canyons are found… Then, after a curve, sand dunes emerge, then lava fields covered with grass and small bushes making the landscape green rather than blackish-gray… There can be no discussion; New Mexico amply deserves its slogan of “Land of Enchantment” or “Tierra de Encanto“.


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