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Wilderness Areas in New Mexico

Wilderness areas are managed to preserve four main qualities:

  • Untrammeled – Wilderness is essentially unhindered and free from modern human control or manipulation.
  • Natural – Wilderness retains its primeval character and influence; and ecological systems are substantially free from the effects of modern civilization.
  • Undeveloped – Wilderness is essentially without permanent improvement or modern human occupation.
  • Solitude or Primitive and Unconfined Recreation – Wilderness provides outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation.

Wilderness attracts many people as a place to experience and enjoy primitive recreation.  Some of the primitive activities that take place include:

• Hiking• Hunting• Camping• Horseback riding
• Photography• Fishing• Skiing• Snowshoeing
• River running• Bird watching• Climbing• Stock packing
• Canoeing• Sightseeing• Caving• Orienteering

Some people derive benefit from just knowing that protection of these areas is occurring even though they may never visit themselves. Some take once-in-a-lifetime trips that deeply affect them, some are regular visitors who routinely refresh themselves in wilderness.

Numerous non-recreational benefits are associated with wilderness. Wildlife and plant communities find high quality habitat within wilderness. Wilderness designations also provide for natural processes, including natural disturbances like fire, which are important to wildlife and plant communities. Wilderness areas are sources of clean water and air. Wilderness also provides opportunities for establishing a benchmark of undisturbed land with which to make scientific comparison.

Help to preserve your wilderness areas by following these guidelines offered by the nonprofit organization Leave No Trace.

Prohibited Activities
Certain activities are prohibited in wilderness, though exceptions to those prohibitions exist.  The prohibitions are:
• Commercial use• Motor vehicles• Roads 
(permanent and temporary)
• Motorboats• Landing of aircraft• Mechanical transport
• Motorized equipment• Structures• Installations
Other Uses
Managing land as wilderness is one of BLM’s multiple uses. Not only is wilderness a part of the spectrum of multiple use, but within wilderness are a variety of multiple uses that may occur.  You may encounter the following uses in wilderness:

  • Restoration projects to maintain soil and water quality;
  • Wildlife habitat restoration projects;
  • Livestock grazing and related facilities;
  • Mineral activities (where they existed prior to designation),
  • Access provisions for private inholdings,
  • Commercial guiding services,
  • Law enforcement activities,
  • Study of cultural or paleontological resources, or
  • Wild horses and burros

There are five Wilderness areas managed by the BLM in New Mexico: Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, Cebolla Wilderness, Ojito Wilderness, Sabinoso Wilderness, and West Malpais Wilderness. 

New Mexico Wilderness Areas

Wilderness Map

View map of Wilderness Areas in New Mexico 

Bisti/De-Na-Zin WildernessThe 41,170-acre Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a remote desolate area of steeply eroded badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery found in the Four Corners region. Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations and fossils.
Cebolla WildernessBLM's Cebolla Wilderness, located within the El Malpais National Conservation Area, includes 61,600 acres of rimrock country east of NM 117. Sanstone mesas, canyons and grassy valleys characterize the area. The Mesas and canyons are clad with juniper, piñon, and ponderosa pine. Vertical escarpments provide excellent nesting habitat for golden eagles, prairie falcons, red-tail hawks, and great horned owls.
Ojito WildernessAn hour northwest of Albuquerque is the Ojito Wilderness, a high desert landscape of wide open spaces and exceptional beauty. This area of steep-sided mesas, remote box canyons, meandering arroyos, and austere badlands offers solitude, tranquility, and escape from the congestion of the city. The Ojito Wilderness Act of 2005 permanently protects over 11,000 acres of scenic wilderness as a promise to the future that there will always be places to find beauty and renewal.
Sabinoso WildernessThe 16,030-acre Sabinoso Wilderness is a remote area in the northeastern portion of New Mexico. The Wilderness includes a series of high, narrow mesas surrounded by cliff-lined canyons.
West Malpais WildernessBLM’s West Malpais Wilderness, located within the El Malpais National Conservation Area, includes 39,540 acres. It encompasses grassland, pinon-juniper woodland, ponderosa pine parkland, and basalt lava fields.