Petroglyphs in Ojito Wilderness
Ojito Wilderness is a Wilderness only by modern standards. In addition to the Navajo and Hispanic ruins and artifacts found in these 11,183 acres, there are also some Ancestral Puebloan ruins. So today's rocky soils, rugged terrain and almost non-existent water supply didn't stop people (and other creatures) from living here in the past. If we look a bit further, we find the 150 million-year-old Morrison Formation exposed here is full of the fossilized remains of plants, trees and rare dinosaurs. For that matter, the skeleton of a Seismasaurus found at Ojito Wilderness is one of the largest dinosaur skeletons ever found. And mixed in with the dinosaur bones are large segments of petrified trees, indicating an ancient forest grew here beside a flowing river (because it takes a flowing river to petrify trees). So at one time or another, this area had to be quite livable. Knight's milkvetch, grama grass cactus and Townsend's aster, three rare modern plant species, are all found at Ojito. And stands of Ponderosa pines are found here now, well below the normal elevation for Ponderosas in New Mexico. Is something strange at work here? We'd have to ask the modern mobile occupants of this countryside: elk, mule deer, pronghorns, reptiles, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions...
There are miles and miles of terrain available for hiking in the deep, meandering arroyos. Along the hike you'll find millions of years of sedimentary deposits exposed in the arroyo walls and cliff faces above. If you find something really interesting, chances are it's illegal to do more than just look. Unless, of course, you are a professional paleontologist in possession of a valid permit...
Primitive camping, hiking, backpacking, sightseeing and horseback riding are allowed with no permits needed. But guides, outfitters and commercial film ventures need a Special Use Permit to operate.
To get to the Ojito Wilderness: About 20 miles northwest of Bernalillo on US 550 (about 2 miles south of San Ysidro), turn left (west) on the Cabezon Road (CR 906) and follow the left fork. There are two parking areas on the other side of the road near signs marking the wilderness. The nearest facilities of any sort are in San Ysidro, about 10 miles away.
Ojito Wilderness is open year round with no fees. Because this is a designated wilderness area, no motorized or mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) are allowed past the parking area. The Ojito Wilderness Study Area is located on the north side of Ojito Wilderness. It is a small bit of acreage being considered for inclusion into the wilderness area. The only way to get there is across Ojito Wilderness.
Maps: BLM - Albuquerque, Los Alamos
Spring wildflowers in Ojito Wilderness
Ojito Wilderness area map
Other photos and map courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management