This is our 3rd trip to the southwest in the past 4 years. This region keeps calling us back because of all the geological eye-candy. Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado are home to so many spectacles of nature. We’ve of course visited many of the big tourist spots and national parks this area has to offer, and feel blessed to have been able to see and do so much. The items on our bucket list for the southwest are the same as most peoples- Grand Canyon north, south, and west rim, Antelope Canyon, Arches, Canyonland, White Sands, etc. But we only heard about Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah about a week ago from the Department of the Interior’s Instagram page @usinterior. And as luck would have it, we found ourselves in Albuquerque this week, about a 2.5 hour drive from Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah.
The pictures we’d seen of Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah were enough to motivate us to take the day trip. But for us, the icing on the cake was that this place is not on most tourist’s radar. This hidden gem is seldomly frequented. The whole area is pristine, free from liter or vandalism. But the absolute cherry on top was that we had the whole place to ourselves! This could have been because it was a Wednesday, or perhaps because it’s the middle of July. Regardless, we felt like kids exploring another planet together. The moon like surface and shale rock structures add to the fantasy. And the area is strewn with petrified wood!
As we hiked the half mile from where we parked our car to the site, we became very aware of the fact that we were alone in the wilderness. Being from Miami, FL, we don’t have a whole lot of wilderness that isn’t swamp land infested with cobras, gators, and mosquitos. So whenever we find ourselves in a moment like this, we tend to appreciate how rare it is.
But you also becomes aware of how vulnerable you are out there alone. No cell service, no amenities, no one to hear you cry for help if you take a bad step and hurt yourself (I’m still a bit cautious after my spill at Canyonland last year). And the skeletal remains of foals and calfs adds to the reminder that you are indeed in the wilderness. The horses roam free out there, and leave the evidence behind in large piles.
For those who are energetically sensitive, this place is light and fun. You can feel the energy shift on your return hike to your car, as if you’re suddenly dropped into density.
It was a day well spent and full of wonder. A definite “must add” to anyone’s bucket list!
The geographical coordinates are 36.139482, -107.920727. From I25 in Albuquerque, you’ll take US-550 west for about 115 miles (and enjoy majestic views all along the way!), and turn left on Co Rd 7800. Only the first 4 miles of this road is paved. After that, it’s dirt roads the rest of the way. 13 miles down 7800 the road ends, and you’ll turn left onto the even bumpier dirt road NM-57. You’ll see the sign for Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study about 4 miles down on your right. Drive up that road about 50 feet and park at the barricades. You will then need to hike about half a mile to the good stuff.
There are no amenities out there. No bathrooms, no garbage cans, no food or water. So come prepared. You will need plenty of water! Protect your skin with sunblock, hats, and proper attire.
Make sure you have a vehicle that does well on dirt roads. Do not go there if there is a chance of rain that day, or if there was heavy rains the day before. The dirt roads turn into mud traps, and the basin of Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah will flood. Each time it rains, the waters alter the terrain and create something new and beautiful. But you must wait for the area to dry out before you venture in.
True photographers may have a preference about what time they are there for lighting purposes. We planned our day to beat the heat. We arrived around 9:15am, and spent about 2 hours wandering around and playing.
I personally would not take little kids or pets there. If you do, please keep your pet on a leash at at all times and clean up after it. Do not let kids or pets wander off without you; the area is vast and a family could easily get separated.
RESPECT THE LAND – LEAVE NO TRACE
Do not climb on the structures. They are beautiful, and delicate. Please remove EVERYTHING you bring into the area. Please DO NOT remove any of the rocks, fossils, or petrified wood. Please do not feed the wild life. Please do not mark the area in any way. We are the custodians of this land, and we are each responsible for it’s preservation.
You can learn more about Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah at the Bureau of Land Management’s website: https://www.blm.gov/visit/ah-shi-sle-pah-wsa