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Adventuring in Kirtland New Mexico

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The Four Corners (where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet) area of New Mexico is interesting. There is not much out there in terms of infrastructure but there is a ton to see and do if you are into the outdoors. Our stay in Kirtland, New Mexico was full of outdoor activities and photography projects.

In the winter, it is a little tougher, but Mr. Misadventures and I still went hiking a couple of times and the hubby had plenty of photography fodder. (In the better weather seasons, you can also participate in water activities as well).

There are a lot of Navajo Indian activities and I think in nicer weather we could have visited the Navajo market and maybe done some additional hiking on Indian land.

HOWEVER, we did keep ourselves very busy the week we were in the Kirtland area. Here are the highlights.

Bisti Badlands/De Na Zin Wilderness

Say what? Bisti and De Na Zin are both Navajo words. Bisti means “among the adobe formations” and De Na Zin is” crane” – but to me they both mean AWESOME. About 45 minutes to an hour from Kirtland, I can not tell you how amazing the Bisti Badland area is.

We hiked for miles and with each turn, we were awestruck by something. Given the time of year, we practically had the place to ourselves. Of the three days we went, we ran into just one other person or group each time, and they were usually heading out (after camping!) while we were heading in.

A couple of things about Bisti. You need maps and GPS coordinates. If you stay within visual range of the parking lot or a set of orange hills to the right of the parking lot, you can still see quite a bit including hoodoos.

But the really cool stuff is deeper in, like the Bisti Arch or Dragon’s Head:

The Egg Hatchery or Alien Hatchery:

You need to keep track of where you are. We printed out several detailed maps and used apps like Gaia to help us find specific spots and to aid in our return.

Also, there are two parts (or entrances) to this park. All the photos and most of the days we spent in the Bisti area, which is off of Highway 371. The other entrance for Bisti/De Na Zin is from Highway 550, but we found it less interesting.


When we did our Southwest road trip in 2013 we stopped in Monument Valley. Let me tell you, those are some impressive rocks! (The hubby has some great photos on his site.) However, it is a bit complicated to visit and take photos as you have to have a guide with you from the Navajo Nation. But in the Kirtland area, there is Shiprock, and if you have a four by four you can just drive right up, and wham you are right in front of this stunning beauty!

You can see this baby from miles away. And you can take a great picture from the roadway as well. It is off of Highway 64 right after the town of Shiprock. A friend on Facebook said they do an annual marathon here, I think it is a gorgeous setting for a run.

It’s a little over 1,600 feet and sits high above the desert plain of the Navajo Nation. The rock plays a significant role in Navajo religion, myth, and tradition. It truly feels sacred when you are there.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

I am not going to lie. Chaco Culture is a long haul from Kirtland, 2 plus hours. But I believe it is worth it. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and while we only visited for an afternoon, we were impressed.

The ancient pre-Columbian pueblos are quite fascinating and we were allowed to get so close to the buildings, even walking through one where I could barely fit in the doorway, let alone Mr. Misadventures!

If we had stayed longer or re-visited we would have done some of the short hikes in the area to see more sites. We would like to go back because the park was nominated as one of the best places to see the stars in the country and they have a stargazing program, but it only starts in the spring.

How about you? Were any of my highlights of interest to you? Have you been to the Four Corners area and done these or other activities? Do you think you want to visit in the future? Do tell!

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Adventuring in Kirtland New Mexico Bisti Badlands Adventuring in Kirtland New Mexico Bisti Badlands Adventuring in Kirtland New Mexico Chaco Culture National Historical Park Adventuring in Kirtland New Mexico Shiprock


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Kara Wood

Sunday 26th of November 2017

I am a Kirtland citizen, and of course think that our part of the world is wonderful! I am also a founding member of our little Chamber of Commerce, so really loved it that you loved Kirtland! Thanks for posting such nice things about our area!


Tuesday 26th of April 2016

This place look right up my street. I love hiking in national parks and seeing great geographical features. The fact there is a pre-columbian settlement there is an added bonus. On the list, when I eventually make it to the USA!


Tuesday 26th of April 2016

My jaw actually dropped at the sunrise (sunset?) photo of shiprock! And I love the alien hatchery! Sounds like it was an awesome weekend!


Tuesday 26th of April 2016

Very interesting place! Definitely got my attention!. The beautiful photos helped :-)

Monica Montoya

Monday 25th of April 2016

This place looks amazing! My family and I are planning a trip to the 4 corners in late summer and from the pictures above i can totally say there is very high expectations! Great Post!