LocationMap of badlands in the San Juan Basin
The mesa is 17 miles west of Cuba
, reached by driving 9 miles along Hwy 197, 7.2 miles due west along a smooth, straight, dirt road, and finally 2.6 miles north on a narrower but still good quality track, as far as a junction on the west, from where Ceja Pelon is the escarpment visible in the distance, a mile or so northwest. The junction is also a good camp spot.
From the junction, the westwards track crosses two sandy washes and ends a flat area centred on a metal pole and a 'Penistaja' sign, this being the site of a former settlement. The badlands start just ahead, over a low ridge, and extend for about 2 miles, all along the south edge of the mesa. Exposed rocks are on three levels; the lowest is formed of black, grey and white mounds with scattered hoodoos, thin coal seams and fragmented pieces of petrified wood, while the middle layer is steeper, partly tree-covered, and contains the largest fossilised wood fragments, concentrated around the upper ends of the numerous little ravines that cut into the hillside. The top layer is flatter, and more overgrown, but has the most colorful sandstone, in rich shades of yellow and brown. Occasional deep sinkholes are found in the black and white band, but generally cross-country walking is quite easy, as there are few steep parts. The most extensive section is the unvegetated mounds at the lower level, split by branched, winding washes, though without too much of specific interest. Hoodoos are also found along the middle level, together with more petrified wood including many recognisable trunk sections, some several feet across and many feet long, although they are usually broken into adjacent pieces. Parts of the wood are red and white, while most is yellow to brown. The mesa is home to a reasonable number of wildflower species, mostly in the bushy flats below the badlands, and several types of cacti including echinocereus, opuntia and coryphantha vivipara.