Being well-prepared for your Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness adventure is always a wise choice. Here’s my go-to checklist of must-haves for brief excursions into the great outdoors! 🎒🥾


What is the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness?

The wilderness is an ancient river delta that is 167 square kilometers (65 square miles) of badlands. The area is an oblong shaped 27 km (17 miles) x 8 km (5 miles). The elevation varies from 1,645 meters (5,400′) to 2,072 meters (6,800′). The wilderness supports very little vegetation, but you do come across high desert grass along the borders and on high buttes. There are the occasional sagebrush and juniper tree in the De-Na-Zin section of the badlands. Spring and summer seasons bring blooming desert flowers in valley floors and between pockets of hills.

Image Credit: Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 15 May 2018, from

The wilderness primarily shows the Kirtland/Fruitland layers of sandstone, mudstone, silt, coal, and shale. The area exposes silt & mudstone tables that lay atop buttes, and many have broken into smaller blocks that balance on eroded columns of silt. Many of these fairy chimneys or hoodoos defy gravity and stand a centimeter to over six meters high. These formations bring photographers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world.

Where are the trailheads?

We guide our travelers to two primary trailheads – the South Parking Lot (a.k.a the main parking lot) and the North Parking Lot, located at the Bistahi Wilderness Church. The South Parking Lot is gravel and features a walk-through fence, while the North Parking Lot has a closed fence that can be stepped through to access the wilderness. The wilderness has no marked trails. There are three ways to move around the wilderness 1) Join a group with a similar destination in mind 2) Rely on your trusty GPS device to find your way 3) Hire an experienced guide to lead the adventure. Happy exploring! 🥾🗺️

What I put in my daypack

Our tours are five hours long and cover 4 to 5 miles of walking. Below is a list of items I always take:

What to bring

  • water (1-2 liters)
  • sturdy shoes
  • wide brim hat
  • SPF 30+ sunscreen
  • snacks (salty + sweet)
  • First aid, headlamp, neck gaiter


  • umbrella
  • small lunch
  • phone charger and cable
  • wool socks
  • trekking poles

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