De Na Zin Wilderness Area Trail

Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area, New Mexico

Elevation Gain922ft
Trailhead Elevation6,402ft
Elevation Min/Max6282/6421ft
Elevation Start/End6402/6402ft

De Na Zin Wilderness Area Trail

De Na Zin Wilderness Area Trail is a hiking trail in San Juan County, New Mexico. It is within Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area. It is 2.7 miles long and begins at 6,402 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 5.5 miles with a total elevation gain of 922 feet. The De Na Zin Overlook (no access to trail) viewpoint and the De Na Zin Wilderness Area attraction can be seen along the trail.

De Na Zin Wilderness Area Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"In art-rich New Mexico, the Bisti–De-Na-Zin Wilderness is the only gallery dedicated to a mud swamp. The duck-billed dinosaurs who lumbered across the muck 70 million years ago would be flabbergasted to see what’s become of their claustrophobic swamp. Gone are the braided streams, giant turtles, and tree ferns; in their stead are rainbow-colored slopes of shale—the erstwhile swamp mud—dotted with living matter turned to stone."
"This 4-mile out-and-back hike in the Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area will have you wondering, “How did I get here?” The Bisti is full of mystery and wonder and will keep hikers, adventurers, rock hounds, and history buffs busy for hours and even days. The area is a hidden treasure in northwestern New Mexico that locals have been able to keep to themselves for many years. Be sure to take plenty of water for your trip."

De Na Zin Wilderness Area Trail Trip Reports

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Trail description needs updates. There is now a brown sign on Route 371, 36 miles south of the end of 371 in Farmington. The sign for the Bisti parking lot is near mile marker 70. Turn east onto a well-maintained gravel road and travel about one mile to the end. Turn left (there is a damaged sign pointing north) and drive about 3/4 miles to the first parking lot.

There are now two parking lots, about 1/4 mile. It doesn't really matter which one you pick - they are at either side of a broad wash. But don't drink the water from the apparent spring! BLM agents told me in October 2010 that the running water comes from an uncapped gas well to the south, and is "full of nasty stuff." The lack of plant growth testifies to this.

From either parking lot, follow the wash roughly east along 36 degrees 16 minutes north latitude. There are many striking hoodoos along the south side of this line. Once you are about 1 1/2 miles east of the parking lot, move south of the wash and then east. You will come across many odd sedimentary deposits, with very mixed directions of the strata. There are lignite beds with the pulverized clam shells of 65-80 million years ago leaking out and lying on the north side of the lignite mounds.

After about 2 1/2 miles is the famous Egg Factory/Nursery limestone tubes that have eroded into ovoids. Just east of them is a large deposit of petrified logs.

The general rule for finding cool structures and petrified wood in Bisti is following the south edge of the eroded space, just below the low cliffs that lead up onto a sandy, grassy mesa. Right at the south edge of the walkable floor are the highest hoodoos and wings, and the best logs.
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Bryce Canyon this ain''t. However, this is a very bizarre deserted place that is well worth visiting.

The directions on the published routes are outdated because the northern access road is now blocked. Driving straight north on NM 371 from the Grants-Gallup area, watch for the tiny burg of Lake City, after which the road makes a series of major turns right, then left, then right before going straight north again. As I recall, the first road to the right after resuming straight north is the exit. MapQuest calls it road 7295, but am not sure this is how it is marked. There is no formal brown road sign for Bisti Wilderness, but if you look to the east as you approach the gravel road, there is a small sign near the fence paralleling 371 that says "Bisti Wilderness." Turn right, and follow the road a short distance to a crossing with a small sign directing you to turn left, then go downhill and see the well marked parking lot about a mile later on the right, surrounded with large rocks. The road is blocked less than a mile north of the lot.

Absolutes to take with you include water, sun protection, and definitely a compass. This is not a large place so you need only plan for a few hours'' water supply unless you intend to stay longer or overnight.

There is no trail. If you walk eastward up the mostly flat wash, skirting south of the small hills near the parking lot, go about 1/4 mile before entering the first sections of the "wilderness" proper. Some very bizarre hoodoos up to 20 feet high await you, along with a strange mix of reddish, black, dark gray and mostly light gray shale hills.

We encountered a bull and about 5 cows in the middle of the strange landscape, lending a Salvador Dali-like touch to the already surreal setting.

You can easily find your way out using the compass (walk almost directly west). If you go too far north, you will encounter a fence. Follow it southwestward and over the small hills to find the parking lot.

De Na Zin Wilderness Area Trail Photos

Trail Information

Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area
Nearby City
Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area
Skill Level
Bureau of Land Management, Farmington Field Office, 6251 College Blvd., Ste. A, Farmington, NM 87402; (505) 564-7600
Local Contacts
USGS: Alamo Mesa East, NM
Local Maps

Trail Log