Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

A combination of fascinating rock formations, rolling landscapes of badlands, and various other beautiful natural features superbly decorate Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness, making the park a treasure trove for primitive campers and nature enthusiasts. This Bureau of Land Management property located south of Farmington, New Mexico, covers 70 square miles of badlands that used to be home to resplendent trees, dinosaurs, primitive mammals and reptiles. As a result, there are preserved records of these creatures in the park.

If you’re looking to explore Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, you’re in luck because the entire park area is open to hiking and backpacking. You should note that no amenities are provided in the park, so all you need for your adventure should be stuffed in your gear – water, boots, GPS units etc. Other recreational opportunities in the park include wildlife watching, bird viewing, nature observation, and photography. Plenty of nice sites to visit are available within the park, while more exploration opportunities are available nearby at Bluewater Lake State Park and Carson National Forest.

This BLM park offers free camping opportunities and no developed campgrounds. Bisti derives from Navajo, meaning “a large area of shale hills”, while De-Na-Zin is translated as “cranes”.

RV Rentals in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is located south of Farmington, New Mexico between two US Highways – 371 and 550. A number of local roads lead to the park, some of which are dirt roads that are impassable when wet. If you visit this BLM in winter or when it rains, be careful while driving, because washouts are common following snowmelt or rain.

There are two major areas in the park that are accessible by vehicles – the Bisti Access Parking Area and the De-Na-Zin Parking Area. Access to the Bisti area, located about 36 miles south of Farmington, is off Highway 371 on Road 7297 along graveled roads. You won’t require a high clearance vehicle or four-wheel-drive to get there. De-Ne-Zin parking area is about 44 miles south of Farmington and also accessible from Highway 371, off County Road 7500.

Even though both parking areas are accessible and available for vehicles, the use of motorized vehicles and bikes is not allowed within the wilderness. So park your vehicles and set out on your adventure through the wilderness.

Vacationers interested in RV camping nearby can get equipment rentals at Chaco Culture National Historic Park and Carson National Forest.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness

Campsites in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness

Reservations camping

Gallo Campground

Gallo Campground in Chaco Culture National Historic Park, located south of Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, is a year-round campground that accommodates tents and RVs/trailers up to 35 feet. Two group camps are also present. This campground sits within a rugged environment that features 48 campsites with amenities such as picnic tables, fire grills, tent pads, potable water, and restrooms with flush toilets. No hookups are available. A dump station is also present within the campground.

Reservations are accepted and first-come, first-served sites are also present. Alternate camping options are also available within this campground.

Alternate camping

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping opportunities abound within the Bisti/De-Na-Zin wilderness. As no motorized vehicles and bikes are allowed within this BLM park, you’ll only be able to camp in tents in different locations. Your best bet is to come along with everything you’ll need for your camping experience, as no amenities are available within the park. For instance, there are no water sources available, so you have to carry all the water you will need for the duration of your camping trip.

Seasonal activities in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness

Off-Season

Fossils

One of the most unique features of Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is the Bisti Beast, an early relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex, that was discovered in 1997. This creature, whose fossil was excavated from the park in 1998, was one of the first paleontological excavations to be carried out in a US wilderness area. What’s also interesting is the fact that this BLM property is the site of the discovery of many other fossils by researchers and scientists. Fancy a prehistoric adventure through the park?

Wildlife and Bird Viewing

Wildlife is present within Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness and occurs in small numbers so that wildlife enthusiasts and photographers at the park are required to only observe from a distance.

Some of the fauna within this BLM land include nesting golden eagles, prairie falcons, and ferruginous hawks. If you see any of these birds in the park, you should not approach them. So, to enjoy wildlife/bird watching, don’t forget your binoculars.

Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area

Located close to this BLM land in New Mexico is the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area, a badland area similar to the Bisti. Rich in fossil contents and featuring only sparse vegetation, this Wilderness Study Area is a popular place for guests at Bisti/De-Na-Zin wilderness to visit to view scenic landscapes that will leave you wanting to take pictures. What’s most fascinating about Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah are the beautiful blend of colors within the area, hardly seen elsewhere.

In-Season

De-Na-Zin

If you’ve got your hiking boots on and all necessary gear for a stroll through the park’s areas, you should visit the De-Na-Zin, in the eastern part of the wilderness where you will get to experience an endless desert badland solitude.

Even though this area has fewer formations that the Bisti area, you’ll still be left awe-struck by how alone it can feel there. So, if primitive camping is your aim, this area is just perfect for you. There’s hardly anywhere else you can be as alone as this spot in the park.

Bisti

Located in the western side of this Bureau of Land Management park, Bisti is a popular destination for photographers and day hikers. This is thanks to the two easily accessible trailheads that are available there.

If you want to explore Bisti, then you should know that there are no amenities along the trails, so everything you need for the hiking trip should be stowed in your backpack. You do not want to be stuck somewhere along the trail without access to what you need. Sights to see along this trail include unusual formations and petrified trees.

Hiking

Hiking opportunities are available within various parts of Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness. The northern, eastern and western sides of the park offer different hiking experiences for guests as well as different degrees of solitude.

You should visit the northern side of the wash in the park, a less-commonly traveled area, which features striped badlands and a dramatic landscape for dry camping and hiking opportunities. Red hills are present within this area with an endless maze of hoodoo gardens, colorful mud hills, and petrified stumps.