April 30, 2012 at 11:46 AM

The Ojito Desert Badlands – Back Country Trail Report from Bill Manns

"...the Ojito covers about 12,000 acres of rough, rock-strewn country with lots of up and down scrambles"

By Susie Morgan

Hoof Prints in Santa Fe

Susie Morgan is a lifetime lover of horses, the outdoors and lives for adventures. She lives in Las Campanas, and is reconnecting with horses after working 27 years in New York City.

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This is country like I’ve never ridden before: desolate but filled with grand jaw-dropping vistas in every direction. The multi-colored sandstone and shale beds were formed during the dinosaur age and in the time of an ancient inland sea. In 1985, the New Mexico Natural History Museum excavated the largest dinosaur ever discovered at 110 feet long, just two miles from here.

This is also a unique spot because it has the lowest growing Ponderosa pine trees in New Mexico, at about 5,800 feet elevation. That’s pretty odd for a desert. The pines are clustered in a field of sandstone hoodoos with colors ranging from chalky white to yellows and reds that faded into darker blues and greens. This is an artist's dream for sure.

Overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, the Ojito covers about 12,000 acres of rough, rock-strewn country with lots of up and down scrambles. As we rode into the desert badlands, the weather was perfect, with temps in the mid-60s and no wind. At far as I could see, very few horsemen ride here, even though it is only an hour south of Santa Fe.

The Ojito is wild and big enough to get lost in. As we rode, I was struck by the wild beauty and diversity of the rock formations, truly a geological wonderland. We had a great ride and look forward to getting back to explore more of these unique badlands. Trey (my dog) had a great time on the trail and Cody (my horse) did super, as always.

Driving Directions to the Ojito Wilderness: From Santa Fe go south on I-25 to Bernalillo and turn sest on U.S. 550. Past Zia Pueblo and about two miles before San Ysidro, there is a well-marked gravel road (at about mile marker 20) on the west side of U.S. 550. There is a road sign at the marking Cabezon Road. Turn left onto Cabezon Road and immediately take the left fork. Hit your odometer now. It is about 11 miles to staging in a parking area on your left. The trailhead is on the right. Ride north about a mile to enter the hoodoo and badlands area.

More info on the Ojito wilderness here.

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