Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, NM: Wild, Wacky, & Wonderful!

Near the Four Corners region, on the Navajo Nation Reservation, is a mostly-unknown, quite mysterious, and fascinatingly unusual place.

The Bisti Badlands in the De-Na-Zin Wilderness is 35+ miles south of Farmington, NM. It’s a mixed bag of some of the most unusual scenery found anywhere in the Southwest! Hoodoos! Clinkers! Petrified logs! Mushrooms! Dinosaur eggs! You name it, you’ll probably find it here!

Except in the dead of winter, it’s hot here. It’s dry. It’s barren. It’s devoid of shade. When heading here, pack a ton of water. Then pack more.

And yet, surprisingly, touches of green when you least expect them.

Translated from the Navajo language, Bisti (Bis-tie) means “a large area of shale hills.” De-Na-Zin takes its name from the Navajo words for “cranes.” 

Time, wind, water, and shifts deep in the Earth have created this fantasy world made of sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal and silt.

Spires, hoodoos, sculpted rock and colorful hills had us oohing and aahing as we wandered and explored.

There are three main trailheads over 60 square miles, each with one or more “trails” leading out. You will notice “trails” is in quotation marks. Nothing is marked, nothing is obvious, there is no path or footprints of previous visitors to follow.

Download the free GAIA GPS off-grid hiking app to keep your bearings here. By downloading a map before we headed to this backcountry area without wifi or cell service, not only did it keep us from being hopelessly lost on several occasions, but it also had some of the more popular named sights marked so we could head straight to them. Though we started on the “trail,” you can see by our “path” that we ended up just doing a ton of wandering … which was a blast!

In four hours here, we saw only one other group. What does that mean in the real world? OFF LEASH TIME, BABY!

Run like somebody left the gate open!

Creek beds run throughout, mostly dry this time of year, but it’s clear that when water runs, it really runs!

In the summer, the parched earth resembles a subdivision. In fact, it looks like the back of my husband’s land development business card.

Of course, every good adventure park has a designated rest area! In this case, caprock chairs!

“Thou fool! Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom; that idle crag thou sittest on is six thousand years of age.” (~Thomas Carlyle) Finnegan is tripping out on a mushroom in the Bisti Badlands! Why else would a dog be quoting poetry?

This is the middle of absolutely nowhere. It requires real effort to visit! You are also allowed to boondock in this area overnight, but it will require a multiple mile drive down a very bumpy and washboarded road to get in there.

To be clear, we did not experience the otherworldly Bisti/De-Na-Zin in its full glory … not even close. We did a teeny tiny sampling of a really big and diverse place. For the full effect, I highly recommend you take a look at this awesome blog by Lowe’s Travels in which they did multiple areas over multiple days!

You know how supermodels and musical stars pick wacky, obscure places for their music videos and photo shoots? Here, we shoot Finn’s new album cover, coming to a record shop, I mean a digital download, soon!

So if you’ve been seeking a Dr. Seuss fantasyland … an Alice in Wonderland experience … a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome locale, the Bisti Badlands may be your place! Visit soon and feel free to bring a furry friend!

While here in New Mexico (and our subsequent stop in Flagstaff, Arizona), we have tracked down two more of the famed “Muffler Men.” They were produced by International Fiberglass Company in Venice, California, which closed its doors in 1974. Many of the huge statues have held mufflers, hence the name, though the company just called them Giant Men.

Muffler men are an iconic piece of 1960s Americana. Sadly, there are less than 200 of these giant fiberglass statues still around today. Besides their own personas, they each have their own story, and we enjoy hunting them (and the female version, “Uniroyal Gals”) down as we travel about. I feel like I am introducing them on a dating show, but here goes! (imagine Chris Harrison’s voice from The Bachelorette tv show)


Sunny the Big Man is known for changing costumes to suit the season. His wardrobe choices currently consist of his Sun Glass uniform (the Farmington, NM store he presides over), a black tuxedo with tails and top hat, Connie Mack baseball uniform, western cowboy hat, and a Santa Claus suit. Ever the fashionista, he is looking for that special someone with closet space to spare.

“Louie the Lumberjack” was originally made for the Paul Bunyan Café on Milton Road in Flagstaff. Legend has it that this was the very first muffler man to roll off the assembly line in 1962. Now, he attempts to be a symbol of school spirit outside the Northern Arizona University Skydome. He seeks a mate who understands his brooding personality in the face of a mostly mediocre NAU football team.

The cowboy “Dude Man” is an international man of mystery. Unceremoniously residing atop John’s Used Cars in Gallup, NM, he likes long walks in the field, soft sunsets, and ten-gallon hats. He is still looking for that special someone, but he’s a little shy, as evidenced by his downward glance. Don’t give up on him, ladies, the hardest eggs to crack often have the softest centers.

Here’s a roadside roundup map showing the Muffler Men, in all their different personalities, all around the country! So fun! Bunyans, “half wits” (not my term), Indians, cowboys, chicken boys, astronauts, service men, mutants and grocery shoppers!

We’re currently in Flagstaff for our “last hurrah” of this summer’s trip … reuniting with family in honor of my mom’s 80th birthday, visiting Walnut Canyon National Monument, and — if summer monsoon rains allow — a trip to view the awe-inspiring (and hunger-causing) “Chocolate Falls” on the Navajo Nation north of Flagstaff!

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