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.
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.
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.
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.