The Story of New Mexico: The Ojito Badlands


Last November, we visited the Ojito Badlands. The occasion was another tour with the Story of New Mexico, a program offered by the Department of Continuing Education at the University of New Mexico (UNM).

The Ojito Badlands are located approximately one-and-a-half hours from Albuquerque in northwestern New Mexico (in Sandoval County) southwest of the village of San Ysidro. They are often considered one of the nine San Juan Basin Badlands and were designated as an Official Wilderness in 2005.

We left Albuquerque on a cold, sunny fall morning. We drove for almost an hour, until we reached the turn-off onto a well-maintained dirt road. After another 30 minutes of driving, we pulled off and left our vehicles.  It was another perfect day for a hike: beautiful skies, a gentle breeze, and moderate temperatures.

As we set off to explore the badlands, we passed through typical New Mexican range lands with cow pies lurking everywhere. We were in a broad valley between two high ridges with limited sight lines. As we rounded a ridge, we saw a mesa towering in the distance. It became the landmark for our explorations.

As usual, our guide, Michael Richie, set a quick pace, but on this, our third hike of the season, we were used to it and to the need to “shoot on the run.” As we approached the mesa, the terrain changed markedly. Instead of range land, we were now in rough, rock-strewn country with lots of up and down scrambles. Like our previous hike to the Mesa de Cuba Badlands, there was lots of vegetation; primarily pinon and juniper. As we hiked up and down across the rocky terrain, every peak revealed new wonders for the eyes. From majestic pines to glorious panoramas to natural sculpture gardens, Ojito has a little bit of everything. As is typical of New Mexican badlands, Ojito has amazing hoodoos and an abundance of petrified wood. Of the three hikes we made this fall, this was certainly the most strenuous.

After several hours and many miles, we returned to our vehicles with the sun sinking toward the western horizon. We were tired, but satisfied. As we made the long drive back to Albuquerque, we were rewarded with an amazing sunset. Ojito was the last hike of 2011, but we have more hikes planned for the spring of 2012.

We have posted a gallery of photos from the tour: The Ojito Badlands. Enjoy!

This entry was posted in The Story of New Mexico.