Valley of Dreams New Mexico is most famous for Alien Throne, an impressive rock formation carved by wind and water. The entire area is full of hoodoos and other rock formations carved out of the badlands over time.
Valley of Dreams is where we chose to be for the annular eclipse after exploring the area previously and knowing it would be a good spot to escape the crowds. The Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area and Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wildnerness are full of areas to explore without many people around.
In this guide, you’ll find our best tips for how to get to Valley of Dreams, how to find Alien Throne with GPS coordinates, other formations to check out while you are in the area, and more tips for visiting this stunning part of the San Juan Basin.
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What is Valley of Dreams New Mexico?
Valley of Dreams New Mexico is a place carved by wind and rain and one of the main areas to see hoodoos in New Mexico. This remote area of the northwestern New Mexico badlands features hoodoos scattered across the landscape. With names like Three Wise Men, Giant Mushroom, Chocolate Penguin King, and Red Dinosaur Egg, let your imagination run wild and see what you can find.
The most famous formation here is the Alien Throne hoodoo. When you see it, you’ll see why everyone scours the area to find this specific rock.
Alien Throne is not actually in the Bisti Badlands but in the nearby Valley of Dreams. The Bisti Badlands do have a lot of hoodoos and other rock formations to explore though.
Over the years, the wind and rain have eroded part of Alien Throne to leave a variety of holes in the base of it. Some parts of the base are extremely thin, but this natural work of art is still standing.
The Southwest USA has many of the most beautiful places in the country, and this otherworldly place should be a bucket list place to visit for anyone who loves unique landscapes.
How to Get to Valley of Dreams Trailhead
Farmington, New Mexico, is the closest city to Valley of Dreams. While a day trip from Albuquerque is a possibility, staying in Farmington gives you more time to explore the badlands area and do several hikes in a day.
Having a 4-wheel drive high clearance vehicle is highly recommended, especially if you want to park up close. Our first time here, we did find a man who drove his rental Dodge Charger out to the main parking area that is further away from the Valley of Dreams. I would not recommend this, but it is possible if the roads are dry.
Because some of the unpaved roads are rutted, a high-clearance vehicle makes it an easier drive. The roads closest to the trailhead have some deep sand making 4-wheel drive a good idea too. If it has rained recently, the roads may be impassible.
Keep an eye out for wild horses once you get on the dirt roads. They like the block the road sometimes, but they are fun to watch.
While you can come in from US Highway 64 and US Highway 550, we found that taking NM-371 is an easier route and tends to have better maintained roads.
From Farmington, take NM-371 south out of town. Turn left onto County Road 7650, an unpaved road and the main road through this part of the badlands. After 7.8 miles, turn right on 7870.
Take this 8.3 miles before taking a sharp left turn on an unmarked dirt road. If you use Google Maps and put in the Valley of Dreams Trailhead, it will get you to the right general area.
Once you take this turn, about a mile down the road you will see several dirt roads to the left. These lead to a dirt parking lot where you can look out over Valley of Dreams. This is where you should park if you are in a low clearance or 2-wheel drive vehicle.
If you have a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle, continue down this road until you go past a livestock pen. Just after the fenced in area, turn left and follow the road down to a much closer area to park for Valley of Dreams.
This turn is located at 36.1413654, -107.9695749. Make sure to stay on the dirt road and not just go off-road through to help preserve the area for future generations.
How to Find Alien Throne Rock
The hike to get to Alien Throne rock is not difficult or all that long. Our full Valley of Dreams hike was about 2.25 miles according to my Garmin watch.
AllTrails is fairly accurate for this one, but we did take a little shortcut through the Valley of Dreams formation to get to it after talking to some locals who were hiking there.
Where is Alien Throne in New Mexico?
Alien Throne is a hoodoo located at the north end of the Valley of Dreams in New Mexico near the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness. Part of the hike is through Navajo tribal lands. Alien Thone is not in the Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness although that area does have a lot of similar features to the Valley of Dreams.
Alien Throne is located at 36.1488000, -107.9806000. It is hidden from view until you are close to it, so it does take some hunting to find it.
Alien Throne Hike
If you park at the first parking area that is further away (near the trailhead on Google Maps), you’ll have to hike down to the valley first. AllTrails starts here. Make sure to download the AllTrails app and the map before you leave Farmington as service is lacking in this part of New Mexico.
If you park further down by the Valley of Dreams, you’ll just climb over a small hill to get into the hoodoos and other formations. Either way, there are no marked trails or official trails in the area.
There is a smaller area that you enter right away. Take some time to wander through this area as it has some good views and hoodoos in various stages of their decay. If you are using AllTrails, this is the area where you can find Three Wise Men and Mushroom Seat.
If you just want to find Alien Throne though, it is not in this area. If you look off in the distance beyond this area, you’ll see another area of hoodoos and white rocks. This is where you will find Alien Throne.
Follow the social trail, and you’ll encounter a patch of soft sand and a wash but otherwise have an easy stroll. Once you get to the northwestern area, you can follow the Valley of Dreams loop around the area like AllTrails shows or just explore the area on your own.
We met some locals right as we entered this area who asked if we were looking for Alien Throne. We were, so they told us instead of taking the trail around, to follow what appeared to be a wildlife trail up and over to shortcut to it for an easier time finding it.
We chose to follow their directions and up and over we went. Sure enough, Alien Throne was exactly where they said it would be.
While I would have preferred to visit during golden hour at sunrise or sunset, our primary reason for being there this time was the eclipse, and we chose to stay closer to the car to have easier access to everything during the eclipse. We weren’t sure how long the hike would take and didn’t want to attempt it before the eclipse started.
Even in the late morning’s harsh light, it was still an amazing feature to see among the already otherworldly landscape. With the whole area looking like another planet, it felt like it was appropriately named.
This is also a great area to explore at night for astrophotography as it is a dark sky area where you can spot the Milky Way. There are some amazing Milky Way Alien Throne photos out there that make me want to spend the night camping out there sometime.
Other Things to See on the Valley of Dreams Hike
Once you’ve found Alien Throne, you can try to find some of the other formations marked on the AllTrails map. We did not have much luck figuring out some of them, but it was still fun to just explore the area.
You can choose to complete the entire loop or to cut in and out of the formations to see what you can find. The AllTrails map shows Giant Mushroom, Chocolate Penguin King (not sure if we found this one or not), Petrified Wood Turtle (do not think we found this one), and Red Dinosaur Egg (possibly found this one).
Even if we didn’t find those exact spots, we still enjoyed just taking in the landscape and exploring the area before making our way back to the car to head over to the King of Wings trail.
Other Hikes Near the Valley of Dreams
Speaking of the King of Wings, it is one of the nearby trails to explore. You can continue hiking past Valley of Dreams to just hike to it, but we opted to drive around instead of hiking all the way back.
There is also an area very similar to Valley of Dreams that has been named Valley of Dreams East. This was the first section of the badlands that we explored on a previous trip to New Mexico, and we enjoyed it enough to want to come back and explore more of the areas. It has a similar look to Valley of Dreams without Alien Throne.
The Chaco Culture National Historical Park in Chaco Canyon is also relatively close to this part of New Mexico, and it can easily be added to your badlands itinerary.
Tips for Visiting Valley of Dreams New Mexico
Bring plenty of water for your hike to Alien Throne and Valley of Dreams. This New Mexico trail is completely exposed the entire time without any shade.
The best time to go in the summer months is in the cooler parts of the day to avoid overheating. If you can avoid the hike in the summer and go in a cooler time of the year, the weather is more pleasant for a hike with no shade.
While the hike is short, bring snacks to fuel your outdoor adventures. If you decide to do some of the other hikes, you can easily spend the whole day in remote areas on unpaved roads without bathrooms, gas stations, or restaurants. Bring enough food to last you until you get back to town.
Use sun protection since there is no shade other than some small spots you might be able to seek temporary shelter in along the way. We spent a little under 2 hours exploring the area, so sunscreen was important.
For shoes, even regular tennis shoes are fine for this hike. We both were in hiking shoes and had no issues and did not find that we needed shoes with grip for the hike.
Check your gas tank before you leave Farmington. Once you leave the city, you won’t find gas until you get back, and it’s better to be safe than sorry while you travel off the beaten path.
Always make sure to pack out everything you bring with you. There are no trashcans or bathrooms out in the middle of nowhere, so bring in what you need and take it back out of the wilderness with you.
We did not fly our drone at all in this area. I am not sure if it was allowed or not as Navajo Nation land is near this area. Because we were unsure of the boundaries, we opted not to fly here.
Where to Stay Near Valley of Dreams
Farmington is the best location to stay to explore this part of northwestern New Mexico. We typically stay at the Home2 Suites by Hilton in Farmington when we are in the area.
You can also take a day trip up from Albuquerque. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa there and loved it. With lots of activities and great restaurants on-site, it’s a great spot for a weekend getaway.
If you need a place to eat after adventuring all day, check out the Three Rivers Eatery in Farmington. They had delicious fries, wings, and burgers.
Is Valley of Dreams New Mexico Worth It?
In short, yes. Of the three hikes in the area we have done, Valley of Dreams is my favorite mainly because of Alien Throne. Valley of Dreams East is my second favorite, and King of Wings comes in last for me.
If you only have time to do one of the hikes, Valley of Dreams lets you see the best feature of the three with Alien Throne and then lets you see a lot of other hoodoos that are similar to what you will find on the other two hikes.
If you have more time, see all three, but don’t pass on visiting the Valley of Dreams.
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