I have been to the bisti badlands multiple times and highly recommend it. I would also recommend you purchase Robert Hitchman's pamphlet on the badlands from "photographamerica.com". He has directions for an alternative entrance which I found very helpful and a shortcut to some of the more interesting formations. Entering the badlands from both entrances can be rewarding since you see different formations as it is a rather large area to cover. Also, bring plenty of water and be prepared to fight sand in everything if the wind is blowing. Although it can be pretty desolate, if you get there in the early morning there is the possibility of seeing a few owls and an occasional red tail hawk sitting on some of the hoodoos. Best wishes.
Does anybody know what the best time of year is to go there for seeing decent clouds and storms? I have seen so many great images from friends of the area but all of the pics always had our trademark (southwest) pure blue skies.
I am thinking about heading there in March/April? Any ideas of weather that time of year?
I am sorry to say that March/April is not a great time in NM. This is the dry/windy season, and it is not very warm. We don't start getting thunderstorms until about the middle of July when the monsoon starts. May is nice because things start to get green but we have had no precipitation (at least in central NM) in months, so I don't know how green it will get. We have had plenty of nice clouds though.
"We don't start getting thunderstorms until about the middle of July when the monsoon starts."
I can attest to this having been caught in a heavy downpour in late July a few years back. The roads turn to 'muck' when it rains and I nearly ended up in a ditch near Chaco.
When I went to the badlands, I was the only person who signed in at the trail head for 3-days. No people but I was overrun by cattle. It is fairly isolated so definately bring ample food and water. I just ventured in for day trips to minimize what I had to carry.
Yes, car camping is allowed adjacent to the parking area. The Bisti is one of my all time favorite photographic destinations, and I used to spend a lot of time there back when I lived in New Mexico. It's not a place you can just go to once and appreciate it all- you kind of have to wander the place and just discover all it has to offer. A GPS device is definately a help if you want to return to a specific location at a later date or find your way back to the parking lot. Although it still receiveds little visitation, and often I've had the whole place to myself (especially in winter), during the four years I visited it seemed to be getting more and more crowded (although by crowded I mean about 20 or 30 people at once). Hopefully it won't get too "discovered" and become yet another southwestern landscape photography cliche. It is also a very fragile place, so hordes of tourists could easily destroy in a few years what nature took eons to create. It can get very windy there in the Spring, blowing dust all over you and your photo equipment, although if you get lucky, there may be no wind at all. I have a gallery of my Bisti work at my website, so if you want to check it out, here's a link:
We were there 2 years ago in May and it was VERY hot - we carried a lot of water with us but after 4 hours we had to get back to the car because we had run out of water - there is no shade at all when you photograph. My wife would huddle up to a hoodoo to get some shade. It is a desolate but beautiful area. We did not see a single person all day long. I agree with on of the previous posters that a GPS device is VERY helpful - we had a hard time finding our way back out of the maze to get back to the car - it's really hard when you dehydrated like we were. There is nothing around that area for miles and miles - so camping in the parking lot might be your only choice. We pulled a trailer to that parking lot and I can tell you, I'll never do that again - everything fell out of the cupboards and dust was everywhere - the wife was not happy with me at all:-( But it was worth it - it's a great location and I plan on returning there many, many more times - sans trailer though:-)