The Bisti Badlands is a remarkable area of eroded rock and stunning, otherworldly landscapes, but it can be daunting to those unfamiliar with it. The entire Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a 60,000-acre preserve that has few trails and incredibly rugged terrain. It would take days to explore even a segment of this area, but the good news is that even a day hike will reveal an astonishing variety of rock formations and vistas.
One section that is relatively close to the trailhead and easy to navigate is the area north of the Bisti Wash that extends directly east from the parking area. After registering at the trailhead, this route heads east following the north bank of the wash. After a half mile or so, a barbed wire fence appears to the left parallel to the wash and turns sharply left, and this recommended route follows it. There is a large bluff to the right (east) shaped roughly like a sphinx, and this is a good landmark to note. North and east of the bluff, the badlands open up into a playground to explore with unlimited rock formations and vistas to be discovered. It is helpful to bear in mind that the Bisti Wash is the best route back to parking, and traveling south from anywhere in this northern segment will eventually reach the wash and the shortest way back to the west.
Note: The parking area is open for overnight parking, and spending the night here allows for golden hour photograpy both at sunset and sunrise.