Mex­i­co’s Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah desert is full of geo­log­i­cal won­ders, with oth­er­world­ly spiers, mush­room-shaped hoodoos, and all sorts of pre­his­toric fos­sils. With var­ied col­ors and strik­ing geol­o­gy, this unusu­al land­scape looks more like a Mar­t­ian plan­et. Pale, mush­room-shaped hoodoos loom over the rocky ground like huge alien trees. The bad­lands are lit­tered with pet­ri­fied tree stumps and ancient ani­mal remains, like pre­his­toric evi­dence of the long-gone inhab­i­tants of Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah.

desert ah-shi-sle-groin

Entry relat­ed to loca­tion: North Amer­i­ca

Locat­ed in the arid San Juan Basin in north­west­ern New Mex­i­co, the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Research Area cov­ers 6,563 acres of pub­lic land use. It is a hid­den mar­vel with weath­ered rock for­ma­tions often referred to as hoodoos, tents, fairy chim­neys, earth pyra­mids, or mush­rooms. Geo­log­i­cal­ly, the area con­sists of lay­ers of sand­stone, shale, mud­stone and bitu­mi­nous coal that were deposit­ed 75 mil­lion years ago dur­ing the Late Cre­ta­ceous. Mil­lions of years of winds, water and ice, weath­er­ing and ero­sion have cre­at­ed a sur­re­al land­scape that is alien to plan­et Earth. Geo­log­i­cal won­ders are wait­ing for you lit­er­al­ly at every step.

ah-shi-sle-groin
Due to its geo­log­i­cal age and cli­mate, the area is rich in ani­mal and plant fos­sils. The remains of pre­his­toric croc­o­diles, tur­tles, fish and dinosaurs are strewn through­out the desert. You will also see pet­ri­fied wood, includ­ing numer­ous upright stumps with roots. While quite dif­fi­cult to get here, vis­i­tors are reward­ed with a calm, dream­like envi­ron­ment that is easy to explore. Although the geo­log­i­cal for­ma­tions stretch for six kilo­me­ters along Cape Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah, the most acces­si­ble and scenic for­ma­tions are with­in two kilo­me­ters of the site. They can be seen dur­ing a half day of easy walk­ing on the usu­al flat ter­rain.

See also
Hostal Las Olas Gaudi-style guest house


This area is extreme­ly remote and you are unlike­ly to meet oth­er vis­i­tors here. Mud and clay roads become very slip­pery dur­ing rains, so you should be extreme­ly care­ful. For lovers of sou­venirs, plants, mol­lusks and trilo­bites can be col­lect­ed for per­son­al use in rea­son­able quan­ti­ties, as can pet­ri­fied wood. Cul­tur­al arte­facts and ver­te­brate fos­sils, includ­ing dinosaur bones, must not be tak­en with you under any cir­cum­stances.