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Spotlight: Cebolla Wilderness, New Mexico

Spotlight: Cebolla Wilderness, New Mexico

Fascinating cultural history, abundant wildlife, birds of prey and dramatic sandstone features welcome wilderness explorers

Cebolla Wilderness La Ventana Natural Arch, a dramatic sandstone arch sculpted by wind and water erosion. (Bob Wick/BLM)

What You’ll Find

The 61,600-acre Cebolla Wilderness within the El Malpais National Conservation Area in west-central New Mexico is made up of sandstone mesas, canyons, and grassy valleys. The wilderness is rich in prehistoric archaeological sites, petroglyphs, and historic homesteads. One notable archaeological feature is the Dittert Site built sometime between A.D. 1000 and 1300 and inhabited by the ancestors of modern Pueblo people. Vertical escarpments provide excellent nesting habitat for golden eagle, prairie falcon, red-tailed hawk and great horned owl.

Getting There

Visit the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center near Grants and about 77 miles west of Albuquerque.

Make Sure You

Hike one of the five popular trails within the wilderness area. Use these directions to pick your route.

Enjoy a variety of recreation activities within the wilderness such as hiking, backpacking, camping, wildlife viewing and horseback riding. Keep in mind that there is no access to drinking water within the wilderness so it is very important to bring enough water for the duration of your trip.

Try This

Take a day trip and visit a petroglyph panel on the Lobo Trail, or follow the directions to the Dittert Site. Please do not disturb these precious cultural sites; they are vestiges of our American identity.

Don’t Forget

Carry plenty of water! Be aware that that the wilderness is closed to motorized vehicles and mechanical forms of transportation. La Ventana Arch and Narrows Rim Trails are accessed by paved roads outside of the wilderness area. Road conditions can change as quickly as the weather in this area, so be prepared.

Did You Know?

In response to increasing population, expanding settlement and growing mechanization, a uniquely American idea was born: to preserve some of the last remaining wild places as wilderness. In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed to “secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.” With this law, present and future generations continue to experience and benefit from the wild nature that was so formative and fundamental to America's identity.

The United States Congress designated the Cebolla Wilderness in 1987. The wilderness is a unit of the National Landscape Conservation System administered by the Bureau of Land Management.