New Mexico is home to many unique land features, many of which are open to visitors for day hikes as well as camping (where permitted). One of these areas that is open to exploration is the De-Na-Zin Wilderness, an otherworldly destination that has many geological features classic to New Mexico's desert landscape, with some that also seem to defy the laws of nature. There's much to see throughout this 15-mile nature preserve, especially for those who have an entire day to explore its wilderness. From hoodoos to spires and Mars-like impressions in the earth, the De-Na-Zin Wilderness is truly a sight to behold for those who love all of Mother Nature's artwork.


Visiting The Wilderness

Hikers should know that there are no amenities at the park although it is right next to the Bisti Badlands, which span a whopping 4,000 acres. Both are managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Bisti Badlands are also known as the Bisti Wilderness Area and are free to enter for visitors. While the De-Na-Zin Wilderness is far smaller in size, many only explore the areas closest to the entrance, as it would take multiple days to fully explore the Wilderness in full or close to it. There aren't many differences between the Bisti Badlands and the De-Na-Zin other than the fact that Bisti features natural attractions that are far more spread out, along with more desert-like terrain. Many would argue that the De-Na-Zin Wilderness is far more spectacular, with features that are slightly more unique than its larger park neighbor.

The entrance to the De-Na-Zin is clearly marked with a sign for the De-Na-Zin Bureau of Land Management as well as a trail register at which all hikers must fill out their info prior to entering the Wilderness. Visitors will find some picnic areas as well as spaces for primitive-style camping.

What Visitors Can Expect To See In The De-Na-Zin Wilderness

The first thing that visitors will see is mudflats and washes, along with typical desert scenery that's expected of this area of New Mexico. This lack of extreme features shouldn't discourage hikers as its only the entrance to the Wilderness, despite its typical desert landscape. Random low foliage, grass, and desert bushes will also be part of the scenery and as hikers push on, they'll be rewarded for the effort.

Visitors will head west along a trail which then separates to the north, featuring uneven terrain further west as well as tributaries to the east. To the north, the terrain shifts to clay-colored land features and as hikers head further west, most drainages come into sight including the Hunter Wash, Alamo Wash, and the Willow Wash.

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Good shoes are a good thing to have here as much of the terrain is uneven with eroded terrain in some parts. Hikers will want to make their way to the plateau that's about 1.2 miles in and can be reached by hiking along the plateau's edge. Here, visitors will see large pieces of petrified wood and hoodoos made from orange and brown sandstone. Also seen here is a large ravine, adding to the desert-like, remote eerieness of the terrain in this area of the state. As hikers travel along the ravine, it will eventually split, allowing hikers the option to climb down into the ravine itself to see the wash below.

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If travelers continue to travel northwest, they'll stumble upon a basin that's filled with multicolored pebbles and makes for an interesting photo op. The large basin along this route also features some fractured rock that's notable due to its incredibly strange features. This is the first major landmark along the plateau and it's wholly visible from the trailhead. After this, visitors will encounter strangely smooth sandstone rocks, more unusual hoodoos, and even more multicolored scenery as visitors progress further and further into the park.

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Due to the erosion from the elements over hundreds of years, the features in this part of the Wilderness take on incredible shapes and appearances, all part of why the De-Na-Zin is so recognizable and intricate. As hikers push on even further, they'll be greeted with some of the largest petrified wood of any park in the state, one of which measures six feet in width and 100 feet long. Other pieces of petrified wood vary in color, making this the most unique and diverse area of the park and one that surprises many with its colorful appearance. Picture-worthy is definitely an understatement here!

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