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Search for signs of the ancients in the Ojito and you might discover adobe homestead ruins, cruciform pictographs, prehistoric petroglyphs, and marine fossils—but you won’t find any formal trails or designated campsites. May is ideal for exploring the wilderness: You’ll miss both the early spring winds and the summer rains.
To navigate this 11,000-acre high desert, follow the baselines of banded cliffs, stick to the major arroyos and washes that crosscut the rugged terrain—or head to the southeast corner of the wilderness for this 6-mile excursion along two loosely connected routes on opposite sides of the Arroyo la Jara.
Start hiking north on an old two-track informally known as Puñi Views and follow it a crooked mile out to an overlook. From there, a short but steep footpath leads to an unmarked site where two lucky hikers once stumbled across the skeleton of a 110-foot Diplodocus. Cross the arroyo upstream and continue west to pick up the Hoodoo Pines route, which takes you north past juniper and ponderosa to colonies of sculpted sandstone hoodoos and goblins along the eastern base of Bernalillito Mesa. Follow the Hoodoo Pines route back to Cabezon Road and hike 1 mile east to the starting point.
Info: BLM maps: Albuquerque, Los Alamos. (505) 761-8700; www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/wilderness/ojito.html
Hike provided by Stephen Ausherman, author of 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Albuquerque (Menasha Ridge Press)
Location: 35.4958763122559, -106.906753540039