Northwest New Mexico exemplifies the spirit of New Mexico's motto of the "Land of Enchantment." The landscape is diverse from steep canyons to rolling badlands throughout the San Juan and Rio Arriba counties. The vast network of canyons offer many opportunities to explore and discover the natural and cultural wonders. Our outdoors offers an adventure of exploring and seeing if you can find the arches - its more like an Easter Egg hunt. We are not Moab.

To date more than 400 natural arches have been documented in San Juan County alone. What is a natural arch? As defined by the Natural Arch and Bridge Society (NABS), "a natural arch is a rock exposure that has a hole completely through it formed by the natural, selective removal of rock, leaving a relatively intact frame." To learn more about natural arches, please visit the NABS website. Also learn more about Robert Vreeeland, mentor to NABS and instrumental in developing the methods for classifying and cataloging natural arches and bridges.

For purposes of classification, the arches have been classified on the following Metric Attibutes as established by NABS:
Miniature = All opening dimensions are smaller than 1 meter (3.28 feet).
Minor = One or more opening dimensions are at least 1 meter (3.28 feet).
Significant = The product of any two orthogonal opening dimensions is at least 10 square meters (107.64 sq ft).
Major = Having a span of 50 meters or more (164 feet).
To help the outdoor adventurers' exploration, the area has been divided into three regions. No defined trails have been established in the regions, however numerous oil field roads make many of the canyons accessible. High clearance and four-wheel drive is highly recommended especially in wet conditions.

Click on the links to explore the canyons in each of these regions. Each region will have specific canyon tours, maps and other arch information.
  • Aztec ➠ Aztec Region
  • Blanco-Largo ➠ Blanco-Largo Region
  • Frances-Manzanares ➠ Frances-Manzanares Region
  • Arches Regions
    Download Regional Map (PDF 563 KB)


    Natural Arches and Bridges Society
    Interested in learning more about natural arches and bridges? Visit the Natural Arch and Bridge Society website ( and become a member.

    Leave No Trace
    Enjoy your adventure and remember to follow the Seven Principles.

    Site Etiquette

    Take only pictures, leave only footprints, and bring home only memories.
    The ancestral ruins, rock art, arches, and other rock features are hundreds and even thousands of years old. They are delicate, fragile, and irreplaceable. Please do not climb on them.
    Resist the temptation to take home souvenirs. Leave stones, feathers, artifacts, shells, petrified wood, etc. so that others may enjoy them.
    Leave the place you're visiting in a natural condition. You can't improve Nature. Do not alter a site in any way. Good campsites are found, not made. Don't pound nails into trees or damage live vegetation or trees.
    No one likes to see trash on their hiking adventure and trash left behind creates rodent infestations. Its alright to take trash home and keep our outdoors clean.

    Report Vandalism

    Report any vandalism to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hot line at (505) 564-7600.

    Travel Advisories

    Visit sites at your own risk. Maps and directions are for information only and are provided "as is" without warranty.
    A 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle is highly recommended, with a full tank of gas.
    Check the weather before heading out. Roads may become impassable when wet. Do not cross any washes that have water running in them. You may get stuck or swept away.
    The roads used to access the sites are oil & gas field roads. Be aware of large trucks and keep to the right of the road on hills and blind corners.
    Pack a lunch or high energy snacks and bring lots of water.
    Wear proper clothing, long pants and shirts are best for sun and insect protection. Hats, sunscreen, and insect repellent is advised.
    Cell phone service is not available in some areas.