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Weird place Wednesday: Bisti Wilderness.

Alien scene in the Bisti Wilderness

A scene out of “Aliens” is rendered in the Bisti Wilderness “Egg Factory”, light painted foreground with a distant milky way backdrop.

This week’s “Weird Place Wednesday” takes us to a truly weird place, Bisti Wilderness. This is one of those locations I came across while researching something else, and it really is a great find. I have not found anywhere more alien and solitary than Bisti, and although some of the features, such as “hoodoos” and “arches” can be found elsewhere, it is different in Bisti. The fragility and composition of the rock is a stark contrast to any relatable features found in Utah.

Bisti Wilderness, while not intentionally hidden, is not the easiest to find. It is located in an area of Navajo Nation a little over thirty miles south of Farmington, NM and a bit east of Hwy 371. DO NOT rely on your road GPS device to get there; for one reason or another they are not reliable in this area. They will show roads that do not exist and will not show roads that do. Also, many paper maps and online maps do not show a proper location for Bisti/De Na Zin Wilderness. It is a big area, and Google maps just throws down a large pin in the center of it, which is not very helpful. This is one of those areas where information from those that have been before is invaluable. Even though I researched the area thoroughly, I still had a difficult time finding it (mostly because I arrived at night). Even the small signs showing the turn off to Bisti from Hwy 371 are intentionally knocked down at times. So the jist of it is, when I asked local Navajo how to get there, they politely gave me the run-around as if they had never heard of it, which gave me the impression that they are not keen on advertising where it is. If you have a lot of trouble finding Bisti and head back to Farmington to regroup, make sure to go to the local BLM office, where they can give you more detailed information. With what I am providing here, though, that should not be an issue. If you are using a GPS, use coordinates and not just roads. You will also want to use coordinates once in the Wilderness to more assuredly see some of the features it has to offer. GPS coordinates can be found below that I used or marked while I was there. If they do not put you right on the spot, they should be within a few yards.

I don’t say all this to scare you but to help you avoid wasting time and to prepare you before the fear of not being in the right place sets in. As you head south out of Farmington, the disrepair of Hwy 371 will make you think you are going the wrong way and being so far from civilization can shake your confidence. That is why when I go to places like Bisti alone, I want as much information as I can get my hands on. I don’t like wasting time being lost, and once you’re in the area, there is no phone reception and getting more helpful information can be difficult.

As the name suggests, Bisti is a wilderness area therefore, there are no formal trails and due to the terrain and lack of visitors, you will be lucky to find a footprint, let alone any resemblance of a trail. Also, there are no amenities; you pack out what you pack in. There are no bathrooms at the parking lot (at least not when I was there), so the nearest one is back in Farmington.

Bisti Wilderness is mostly flat desert aside from the rock features. There are very few trees or bushes and unless you are only going to hike in the early morning or evening, the dead of summer is not the time to be there. I went in November, which worked out pretty well; although, it did cool down dramatically at night. Being as wide open as it is, the wind can kick up in a hurry. If you get there on the back end of a rain storm, get ready for some ice skating because the soil has a lot of clay. The mud is not deep, but it is slick and sticks to everything. Add five pounds of mud to each hiking boot and the workout gets a bit more intense. Even if it rains, there will be no place to get more drinking water in Bisti, so make sure to take plenty!

Bisti Wilderness, chocolate hoodoos.

Bisti Wilderness, chocolate hoodoos.

Now let’s get to the fun stuff! The features of Bisti get more and more bizarre as you head east through the wash from the parking lot. The large wash you start out on, heads east and is your main artery through the wilderness. If you can get back to the wash, you can get back to your car. If you go exploring away from the wash, it is not usually difficult to find your way back, but it is possible to get turned around without any formal trails or hiking traffic. Within the wilderness, you will find some named features, such as Winged hoodoos, Chocolate hoodoos, and The Egg Factory (or cracked eggs). There is much more than that to see and explore, but these are good starting points. If you are using a GPS, make sure to mark a waypoint for your vehicle or the parking lot, and then if it gets dark, you can hike back without worry. I will give a coordinate for the parking lot below. (Also, if you are hiking in the dark, watch out for a cut of the wash that is a few feet deeper, it might sneak up on you.)

Coordinates

Parking area:36.259150, -108.251250

Chocolate hoodoos: 36.259444, -108.238333

The egg factory: 36.267520, -108.223634

One other note: sometimes I have to think twice about sharing these locations due to the fragility of the area, if you are doing any climbing or scrambling be aware that the “rock” is very fragile and unlike much of the rock in Utah, it will not hold your weight. Also, to expand on the fragility of some of the features, such as The Egg Factory, some of these incredible formations stand on very precarious pedestals of dirt. Please don’t be the person that messes one up!

Now that I have done the homework for you, you can relax, have fun and explore Bisti without worrying about the details.

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