The Story of New Mexico: The Lybrook Badlands

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Last June, we hiked the Lybrook Badlands on another tour sponsored by the Story of New Mexico, a program offered by the Department of Continuing Education at the University of New Mexico (UNM).

The Lybrook Badlands are located approximately two-and-a-half hours from Albuquerque in northwestern New Mexico (in Sandoval County) northwest of Cuba. One of the nine San Juan Basin Badlands, they lie in the Nacimiento sedimentary layer, which is approximately 65 to 55 million years old (the Paleocene Period). The area is composed of sandstone alternating with siltstone and shale.  The Lybrook Badlands are the largest of the Nacimiento formation badlands. Its box canyon-riddled mesas drop over 700 feet in four distinct, multi-colored, intricately eroded stair steps. The cliffs separating the steps complicate long-distance hiking. Easy routes between the levels are limited and difficult to find.

We left Albuquerque on a clear, sunny morning.  We drove northwest on NM 550 towards Cuba and crossed the Continental Divide. A short time later, we turned onto a dirt road. In just a few minutes, we had arrived. It was already warming and we had the lightest of breezes. We donned our gear and set off to explore the badlands. Since our party was contained a mix of experienced and novice hikers, our guide, Michael Richie, set a slow pace.

We explored the top layer winding in and out along the edge. We scrambled down to the lower layers when we could and explored them in turn. As the hours passed, the heat began to take a toll on our novice hikers. With temperatures in the low 90s and virtually no breeze in the canyons, it was hot! We left the novices in the shade of a towering pine tree and set out on a fast, shoot-on-the-run, side hike. We were rewarded with spectacular scenery and a herd of wild horses. Our hike totaled a bit over 3 miles with a total elevation change of more than 1800 feet. Due to the heat, it was a strenuous hike, but the spectacular landscape made it worthwhile.

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

This entry was posted in The Story of New Mexico.