An unforgettable hike into the wilderness of Ah-shi-Sle-Pah. We often try to find less known unique places to explore. This is truly a wonderful place that is so vast with nature’s weird creations. The actual plan was to visit Bisti badlands, which is about 30 miles from Ah-shi-sle-pah. But we decided to hike into Ah-shi-sle-pah wilderness since it is not as famous as Bisti and there is a very good chance of having the whole place to ourselves! 🙂 And we did!
What will you find in Ah-shi-Sle-Pah :
Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah has one of a kind landscape made of olive color clay soil mounds, prominent colorful erosion streaks, strange hoodoo formations, petrified trees and fossils from the late Cretaceous era (dinosaur, crocodile scutes, and turtle shell). The terrain is little difficult, one time we were just struggling to make it across with muddy clay stuck on our shoes. It does surprise you as well, we were suddenly surrounded by numerous short stout unusual rocks with cap. It reminded me of “Trolls” 🙂 They were so cute. I secretly wished they were real.
Similarly, there are many other geological stone formations in this area that will make you feel as if you are on a fantasy world. All these shapes are formed due to the erosion happening over years. The land sculpted by itself with mud, clay, sandstone and erosion.
Ah-shi-sle-pah wilderness study area is a part of BLM land located in Northwestern part of New Mexico. Its an hour drive from Farmington, NM and 2.5 hours from Albuquerque, NM. If you check out the satellite view on google map, the whole area has two patches of terrain. The North-Western part of the area is smaller than the South-east one. The main approach road is along the south of this area through NM 57. But we entered Ah-shi-sle-pah from north by driving through the gravel road as much as it extends. Then hiked the remaining distance. Which ever route you may take, its only a gravel path and rough to drive. So, lower the tire pressure and take it slow.
Location of Ah-she-sle-pah: 36.16254556, -107.9164464
Well, there is no official trial for this place. You have to explore the path as you go. Like i said before, we entered the area from North. We found the closest place where you can park your vehicle and then geared up for an adventure hike through unearthly terrain.
Parking (north) : 36.183860, -107.971615
Things to know before you go:
- Do not visit when its raining or immediately after rain or when its about to rain. Because, the clayey soil around here will make it very difficult to hike.
- Wear good shoes. The soft and brittle stones could make your climbs slippery. Not to mention, if you step into the clay soil it could get real messy and hard to walk.
- Carry enough water and snacks. The place is full of surprise dead ends and unpredictable terrain. It could take longer than you expect.
- There is no phone service and no trail markings. So, offline map will be handy. Also, save the GPS coordinates along your path for easy return.
- Most importantly, Lets keep the place clean and serene.
How to navigate:
Like I mentioned before, there is no trail. You have to navigate using your eye judgement in regards to the terrain. We hit dead ends quite often. Some elevations are steep and slippery to climb or jump down. Expect detours on your way. GPS coordinates, sun and your visual assessment is all needed. Its easy to find way, if you walk on higher grounds and stay away from black clay soil.
Finding King of wings was our target. That is the whole reason we hiked from north instead of south. So, we pinned that point on our offline map and just walked towards that direction. There is no straight and short route. Took lots of detour. On the way, we found many unusual spots with stone formations, colorful terrain and petrified tree trunks. One could easily get lost in the name of finding a way. Good thing is that there are no trees or vegetation to hide your visual.
King of wings
GPS – 36.171109, -107.972637
If you do get a chance, do not miss the opportunity to hike the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah wilderness to see cool formations!