Historically, several human cultures have tried to carve a living from Ojito’s resources. Although there are several types of ruins within the area, including those of the Puebloan, Navajo, and Hispanic cultures, few historic records exist concerning their lives here. The rugged terrain, rocky soils, and scarce water supply must have made their daily lives very difficult. The ruins and artifacts left by these residents are the clues that archeologists use to tell the story of their existence here. They should be left undisturbed where you find them so future visitors can also enjoy them, and future archeologists can study them. Archeological remains are protected by the Archeological Resources Protection Act and other laws.
Fossil remains of rare dinosaurs, plants, and trees have been discovered in Ojito. They are found in the Jurassic-age Morrison Formation (about 150 million years old). The erosion process has exposed large segments of petrified trees and the bones of huge dinosaurs, including one of the largest dinosaur skeletons ever discovered – that of a Seismosaurus. A 0.7 mile trail (the Seismosaurus Trail) will lead you to the site where this skeleton was once excavated. Because these fossil remains of plants and animals provide important information about life during this period it is important that, like the archeological remains, they are left undisturbed until they can be collected and studied by professional paleontologists. Collection of these fossils is prohibited by law unless authorized by permit. A second trail, the Hoodoo Trail, crosses some open, cactus-covered ground then runs beneath the east face of Bernalillito Mesa, gaining height gradually and ending at a viewpoint over the wash to the badlands beyond. En route are a number of localized but pretty erosional features, most striking being a beautiful outcrop of teepee-shaped mounds of yellow Dakota sandstone, crossed by thin, delicate pinkish-red layers. One U-shaped passage between two of the cones is reminiscent of the Wave in Arizona. Not far beyond this is a nice group of flat-topped hoodoos. Rocks in the cliffs higher up also have nice colors and forms, and other small pockets of hoodoos (and petrified wood) can be found all around the mesa.
Three rare plant species - grama grass cactus, Knight’s milkvetch, and Townsend’s aster are found in Ojito. New Mexico’s lowest elevation stands of Ponderosa pines are in Ojito, far below where pines usually grow. Elevations in this Wilderness range from 5,600 to 6,200 feet. The area provides nesting habitat for birds of prey, swifts and swallows. Other wildlife species that call Ojito home include various reptiles, mule deer, elk, American antelope, and the mountain lion.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Ojito Wilderness.
The Ojito Wilderness is accessible from Albuquerque by traveling north on I-25 for approximately 16 miles and exiting on US 550. (From Santa Fe travel south approximately 40 miles.) Traveling northwest toward Cuba on US 550 from Bernalillo, the distance is approximately 20 miles. Before San Ysidro (about 2 miles), turn left onto Cabezon Road (County Road 26). Follow the left fork.
The south and west boundaries are accessible by dirt road. Always know where you are traveling and where you have been as it is easy to get lost in the hundreds of miles of dirt roads. Roads are passable during dry conditions but be aware they can get slippery and rutted during wet seasons, which normally are spring, late summer and winter.
Non-federal Lands: Some areas within and near the boundaries are private, state, and/or Pueblo of Zia lands. Remember to get permission before you enter or cross private lands. The State of New Mexico requires a recreation permit for access to state lands - more information may be found on their web site at www.nmstatelands.org.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
This is an arid landscape without available surface water.
From Bernalillo, travel on U.S. 550 about 21 miles (about 2 miles before San Ysidro) turning left onto Cabezon Road (County Road 906). Follow the left fork approximately 9 1/4 miles to an Ojito Wilderness sign. Continue almost 3/4 mile to the Seismosaurus Trailhead on the left. A trail leads north, across the road and through a fence, into the Wilderness. Continue another 3/4 mile to the Hoodoo Trailhead on the left side of the road. From the parking area, walk back about 400 feet to the east where a trail leads north into the Wilderness on the opposite side of the road.
There are two hiking trails in the Wilderness: the Seismosaurus Trail and Hoodoo Trail provide the most frequented access for hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, and wildlife observation. These activities are but a few available which can be enjoyed without a permit. Primitive camping is also allowed, but permits are required for some uses (e.g., outfitting/guiding, group activities). Steep canyons and high rugged cliffs, with elevations from 5,600 to 6,200 feet, provide rewarding challenges for the back-country hiker. Deep meandering arroyos also offer miles of terrain in which to wander. Rock layers in the canyon walls and cliffs enhance sightseeing and photography, especially when exposed to the sun’s direct rays at dawn and dusk. Hunting is permitted within the wilderness. Hunting regulations are written and enforced by the State. The Ojito Wilderness is located within New Mexico Big Game Management Unit 9.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
Access roads in the area are passable during dry weather but they can get slippery and rutted during wet seasons, normally spring, late summer, and winter.
Safety and Current Conditions
The Ojito Wilderness is a roadless area that visitors must accept on its own terms. Visitors are responsible for their own safety and must be prepared to take care of themselves. Cell phones don't usually work in this remote areas; let someone know your plans. Water is rare in this dry land and no water is available at most times. Bring plenty of water.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.