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Bisti Badlands (AKA:  Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness) Durango, Colorado is fairly unique in that it has a wide variety of different climate zones all within close driving distance to the City. There are the high mountains with lush forests cooler temperatures and winter snows can be enormous. Then there are the wide open desert areas to the south with little or no water and are scorching hot during the summer but offer some spectacular scenery for the adventurous during the cooler months.  One such adventure is the Bisti Badlands. The Bisti Wilderness Area, or in Navajo "De Na Zin" (which means "cranes") is located about 91miles south of Durango in northern New Mexico. This is a fair distance for a long day trip or a great weekend of camping in the desert. This spot is a perfect place to go during the late fall, winter and early spring and is good to hike when the mountains are full of snow.  Why Bisti? It Rocks! Well, the rock formations rock. The badlands were once part of an inland sea during the mid to late cretaceous period (65-70 million years ago) which slowly drained away and became a huge swamp area. There were once miles of large coniferous trees, ferns and other plants that are now part of the black coal and shale seams that you can see today. Some of the trees have become petrified and there are stumps and logs scattered throughout the wilderness. Much of the sediments contain a wide variety of fossils including dinosaur bones! Visitors should be aware that the petrified wood and fossilized remains are part of the wilderness area and should not be removed or disturbed.  Over time sediments of mud and sand were built up layer upon layer burying the old plants and animals preserving them like a time capsule waiting for geological forces to reveal them again. Just such an event occurred within the last 10,000 years as the last ice age ended and water flowing from the north washed away most of the softer rocks and soils creating the incredible geology you can see now. The formations look almost extra terrestrial and remind one of pictures of other planet surfaces or a science fiction movie. They are, for lack of a better word, quite "bizarre". Some of the harder sandstone features sit atop softer mudstone in a way that seems to defy gravity and look very fragile. For this reason visitors should not attempt to climb on any of them as they could be damaged and so could you! The vertical features are referred to as Hoodoo's which are similar to pinnacles found in many desert areas but are varied in thickness are rough or crumbly in texture and are usually intermixed with hard and soft sedimentary rock layers. Other geology you might notice is the small hills with dark red "chunks" of rocks covering them. These were once coal and shale seams that "cooked" underground a long time ago when the seam caught on fire similar to what can happen in coals seams today. Over time minerals leeched into the beds and changed it into the neat red clinkers that litter the hillsides.   When to visit the Bisti Badlands? Fall, winter and spring are the best seasons to visit and while you can go there during the summer the desert heat can be uncomfortable and even dangerous to the unprepared.  During the winter temperatures can drop to below freezing at night but during the day 40'sF - 50'sF are quite common which makes it a good spot to go when you need a break from the ski slopes for a day. Be sure to check current weather conditions before you go and if it calls for rain or there has been rain in the area recently a change of plans might be in mind. The mud can make for a sticky, icky bad time. What to do at Bisti Badlands? This is a wilderness area and has a few restrictions. No mechanical means of transportation is allowed which limits you to foot or horse travel. Camping is allowed but open fires are not, so a cook stove or prepared meals will need to be in the kit. When you get to one of the entrance areas you will notice there are no "trails" as such leading you to a destination just a lonely sign. This  area is geared more for individuals that like to get out on their own and explore. While there are plenty of great places very close to the road there are miles upon miles of open desert with hidden canyons to explore. Bisti is very remote and a good place to bring a compass or GPS device to help you navigate or to help prevent you from getting lost. Since there are no trails as such to give a difficulty rating, hiking here might be considered easy to moderate. With that being said desert hiking does demand a certain amount of respect because of the lack of necessities such as food and water should you become lost or injured so use extra caution. How to find the Bisti Badlands Wilderness Area? Our maps page provides a good overhead view and if you click on the trailhead markers there is a "directions" option that can help. Basically the area sits about 36 miles south of Farmington New Mexico off of highway 371(Bisti Highway). One of the easiest access points is to the east on RD 7295 which is marked by a large sign. Follow the dirt road and the signs for about 2 miles and you will see the first parking areas on your right. There is also another area very close to the road marked on our map but not signed that has good parking and has a lot of things to see close by. It is marked on our map on the left side of the road as you are heading in. Bisti Badlands is definitely a road less traveled and if you want a place to get away from it all, this is the place. It has energy, beauty and geology that is both fascinating and surreal. So grab your camera gear, fill up the water bottles and Go Outdoors!
Red Coal Formation
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