Amazing Nature
12 April 2024 ( 53 views )
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It Took An Entire Day Searching For A Single Formation, But I Finally Found The Alien Throne In New Mexico’s Badlands

Northwestern New Mexico is home to some of the most bizarre yet strikingly beautiful rock formations on the planet. Under ordinary circumstances, such unique landscapes would attract hordes of visitors year-round. But the remote locations of the Valley of Dreams and nearby Bisti Badlands, which can only be accessed by traversing poorly-maintained dirt roads, keep most visitors away.

The aptly-named Valley of Dreams is one of several hiking areas within the larger Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Area, which covers over 6,500 acres in total. Like nearby Bisti, these lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, which means they’re free to enter and even camp at if you so desire. 

In the following guide, we’ll be covering what it’s like to hike in the Valley of Dreams and how to make it to its most iconic landmark, the ominous-looking Alien Throne. Also so be sure to check the end of the guide for details on the complicated process of reaching the Valley of Dreams by vehicle.T

he Valley of Dreams can be a pain to reach. But perhaps that’s for the best. Its remote location, lack of signs and absence of clear directions are what’s keeping such a stunning and unique place from becoming just another ‘Instagramable’ destination.

While you can learn more about the route to get there below, here’s what to expect once you’re in the area:

Hiking Valley of Dreams
Driving down Road 7870

Road 7870 is the nearest marked road to the Valley of Dreams. Looking at Maps.me on the ride over, there appeared to be multiple northbound unnamed roads that would take one to the start of the trail. 

In fact, the map even contains a marker labeled ‘Valley of Dreams Parking.’ But this is misleading.

Driving down 7870 and seeing nowhere to turn, I did at least see a faint outline near the last turnoff marked on the app. But it was quite rough and overgrown. And not wanting to risk potentially getting stuck in the sand, I decided to walk much of the way.


The magic of exploring badlands like these is that just taking a few steps in any direction can offer a brand new perspective of your surroundings. The time of day and position of the sun can play a major role as well.

Hiking Valley of Dreams


Walking through the Valley of Dreams is one of the closest experiences one can have to stepping inside of an abstract art painting. And being completely alone out here makes the experience all the more surreal.

Exploring the area, I found some rocks that were relatively easy to climb up, allowing me to enjoy the views from above.

 

Hiking Valley of Dreams
Hiking Valley of DreamsIn the distance, I could see the second section of the Valley of Dreams, which is where I’d be heading next. But first, I wanted to find one of the landmarks marked on this section of the AllTrails map: the Three Wise Men.

Sure enough, I’d been looking at one of the hoodoos from behind. But it wasn’t until walking along the other side that I saw three large hoodoos, or ‘wise men,’ lined up in a row.

Hiking Valley of Dreams
Hiking Valley of Dreams

The 2nd Section

As mentioned, the two main areas are separated by a long open area that’s largely covered in sagebrush. The walk between the two scenic areas takes roughly fifteen minutes or so.

And it’s the second section that’s home to many of the Valley of Dreams’ most iconic geological oddities, including the Alien Throne. This area, however, is much larger and trickier to navigate than it first appears.

Hiking Valley of Dreams
Looking back at the first section

The main landmarks – at least as indicated by the AllTrails map – are located on the opposite side of the ‘loop.’ But as you’ll soon learn, just because a particular formation hasn’t been named doesn’t mean it isn’t fascinating to look at.

Near the entrance to the 2nd section, I spotted rocks that resembled mushrooms, globs of ice cream and even a camel.

But with time running out, I couldn’t linger for too long and needed to figure out a way to the other side.

Hiking Valley of Dreams
Hiking Valley of Dreams
Hiking Valley of Dreams

As mentioned above, there are no official trails here, and the AllTrails map is merely a rough suggestion – not something to be followed exactly. Even if you wanted to, staying on the line isn’t really possible in some cases.

As there didn’t appear to be any easy way to get to the opposite side of the large butte, I was left with no choice but to improvise and climb over the rocks.

Hiking Valley of Dreams
Hiking Valley of Dreams

It can be easy to lose your bearing with so many strange formations surrounding you on all sides. Eventually, though, I found a little wash to walk through, which I hoped would take me somewhere near the Alien Throne.

Hiking Valley of Dreams
Hiking Valley of Dreams
Hiking Valley of Dreams

While I did encounter plenty of footprints, there were still no other visitors in sight. And aside from the sound of my own footsteps, the badlands were enveloped in complete silence. That is, until, I heard some rustling in the distance.

Hiking Valley of Dreams

It turned out to be a cottontail rabbit – or so I believe. These mammals are one of the few animals that inhabit these arid lands, along with the occasional coyote, porcupine, and various species of lizards and birds.

Hiking Valley of Dreams
Hiking Valley of Dreams

While my main mission was to find the Alien Throne, I also attempted to find some of the other landmarks featured on the AllTrails map – but with varying degrees of success. 

I may or may not have found the ‘Red Dinosaur Egg,’ the ‘Petrified Wood Turtle’ or the humorously-titled ‘Chocolate Penguin King.’ Oftentimes, you have to be standing at just the right angle and at just the right time of day to really know for sure.

And with all the towering hoodoos in the area, I started having doubts if I’d really be able to find the Alien Throne. In the center of the area, I spotted a tall and narrow hoodoo that appeared rather ordinary (by Valley of Dreams standards, at first glance) at first glance.

I didn’t think much of it until I walked around and saw it from the front, at which point I knew I had indeed made it to the bizarre throne-like hoodoo.

Hiking Valley of Dreams

While I’m not sure who gave it or any of the other local landmarks their names, the moniker is indeed fitting. It may lack a distinct seat, but the wide hoodoo does really look like the back of a throne one might encounter on an alien planet.

Hiking Valley of Dreams

The reason why the hoodoos here take on such a wide variety of shapes is that their rocks are made up of slightly different combinations of minerals. As such, despite having been exposed to similar water and wind erosion, some turn out more remarkable than others.

Having finally accomplished my mission, I waited around for a while to take in the views. When it was clear that the alien king would not be returning to his palace that day, I decided to make my way back, as time was running out.

Hiking Valley of Dreams

Finding my way back was a lot trickier than expected, as I was now returning via the opposite side of the ‘loop.’ Walking across some relatively flat terrain, I soon realized I was still on a higher plateau. I then had to figure out a way back to the lowest level. 

But the smoothest and safest method was far from obvious.

Hiking Valley of Dreams
Hiking Valley of Dreams

Trying my best not to slip, I slowly and gradually made my descent. But I’d occasionally encounter steep drops before having to backtrack to find a safer alternative. As mentioned, this is the last place you’d want to get injured!

On the bright side, I did encounter a few more unique landmarks, such as a huge, long monolith balancing at a 45-degree angle. It looked like it had carefully been placed there by a giant.

Hiking Valley of Dreams

And I even found a perfectly-formed smiley face. I had to touch the ground to convince myself that it was indeed natural and not something left by a mischievous visitor.

Eventually, I managed to make it to the bottom level, from which I could see the 1st section of the Valley of Dreams off in the distance. I could now begin my long walk back to the car, making it there just in time before dark. 

Back near the start of the AllTrails map, I spotted more badlands much further east in the distance. While I’m not an expert on Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah, the area is simply labeled on the apps as ‘Valley of Dreams East.’

Additional hiking areas of Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah, meanwhile, include the King of Wings Trail (not to be confused with the Bisti Wings Trail) and what’s simply referred to as the ‘Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Trail.’

Passing by that area just before sundown, I observed that the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Trail does indeed have a proper sign and parking lot. So it might be a better option for those looking for something a bit more straightforward.

Hiking Valley of Dreams
A distant view of Valley of Dreams East

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