Ojito Wilderness: Hoodoos and Pines

Ojito wilderness hoodoos and pines San Ysidro New Mexico


The access route for this hike is being improved but it crosses shale deposits and turns to gumbo after heavy rain or snow. Don't attempt the hike unless the road is dry.


From Bernalillo, drive northwest on US 550 to Cabezon Road, which is just short of the Jemez River bridge and San Ysidro. Turn left and immediately take the left fork to stay on Cabezón Road. At 35 deg. 29.768 min. N, 106 deg. 50.687 min. W, continue straight (southwest, then south). At 35 deg. 28.970 min. N, 106 deg. 50.888 min. W, follow Cabezón Road as it turns right (west). A former two-track on the north side of the road, at 35 deg. 29.723 min N, 106 deg. 55.285 min. W, is the start of the trail. Drive another 130 meters, turn left, and park in the formal parking area on the south side of the road. Once parked, backtrack to the start of the trail.


The trail starts out as a well-beaten path across gentle terrain, heading NNW and then north, angling toward Mesa Bernalillito. At 35 deg. 30.097 min. N, 106 deg. 55.427 min. W, the trail climbs onto a bench above yellow sandstone, below a “nose” of the mesa. The trail stays above the bench as it continues to 35 deg. 30.280 min. N, 106 deg. 55.675 min. There you'll find the cluster of hoodoos and Ponderosa pines that gave this trail its name. Part of that cluster is shown in the photo at the top of this page. Another view of it follows below.


Ojito Wilderness, New Mexico, hoodoos
The most photographed hoodoo is to the left; others are to the right of the Ponderosa pine.


As the crow flies it's only 0.8 mile (1.3 km) from the parking lot to this cluster of hoodoos and Ponderosas, so you can make it a quick visit if you wish. I recommend extending the hike past the cluster, and stopping for lunch before you head back. To do this, continue toward the northeast corner of the mesa, changing direction from north to west about 35 deg. 30.562 min. N, 106 deg 55.673 min. W. As the trail turns west it stays above the bench, until reaching an alcove in the north face of the mesa. Here it descends. The perfect lunch tree, a Ponderosa, is at 35 deg. 30.553 min. N, 106 deg. 56.163 min. W.


After lunch you can retrace your steps. Or explore a bit before turning back. To make a loop of it, drop into the valley and follow a cow path to the east. Once you are rounding the mesa, turn southward and cut cross-country until you are back at your car.


Ojito Wilderness badlands, New Mexico
Ojito Wilderness badlands seen from the Hoodoos and Pines Trail. The Sandia Mountains are on the horizon near the right edge of the picture.