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    Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah: New Mexico’s Remote Wilderness Study Area


    The Western United States is home to some of the world’s most iconic rock formations. Monument Valley, the Delicate Arch, and Devils Towers attract countless visitors eager to view some of the West’s most beloved natural architecture. Most travelers are unaware that one of the West’s most impressive landscapes is tucked away in a remote corner of New Mexico. Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah features pale rocks with enormous rounded caps that look like giant stone mushrooms, petrified tree stumps, and the fossilized remains of prehistoric creatures who once roamed this desolate stretch of desert.

    Accessing Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah isn’t easy. Visitors must travel far into the arid San Juan Basin on a series of unpaved roads. There are no restrooms or places to purchase food or water. If your vehicle breaks down, or you get lost—there’s a good chance it will take some time for help to arrive. Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah enthusiasts say that the rugged trek into a bone dry region of New Mexico is absolutely worthwhile. Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah’s ornate rock formations appear gold, red, yellow, or orange—depending on the light.

    Solitude seekers adore Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah because the area generally only has a few visitors at a time. There are some loosely defined trails, but most travelers walk freely among rock formations which look like a petrified village inhabited by hulking golems who have been frozen in time. Eagle-eyed visitors may even be able to spot fossilized fish, turtle, or dinosaur remains. Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah is considered a Wilderness Study Area, which means there is a minimal human footprint, and the rugged characteristics of the landscape have remained largely undisturbed throughout time.

    Valley of Dreams

    Photo by Eric Gail/Flickr

    Valley of dreams

    Photo by Jeanny Müller

    Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah is the ideal destination for seasoned travelers who are skilled at leaving no trace. Few places are truly as enchanting and renewing as the heart of the desert. The rugged beauty of Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah is sure to stir your soul.



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