Trek to one of the most unique landscapes found on this tropical island – a vast desert filled with rustic red clay mesas and various geological wonders.
Located in the distant highlands of Inarajan, the Badlands take hikers through the hills of a southern valley with sweeping views of Inarajan Bay and the main village in the distance. A cooling river, variety of wildflowers and even domestic carabao are seen along the way.
The payoff for this hike is a little more extreme and active-oriented compared to the refreshing waterfalls or swimming opportunities most Guam hikes grant.
The Badlands offer opportunities to release exhilarating energy running up and down the clay mesa, which all have great views of the desert-like place, not to mention of the valley all around.
While there isn’t necessarily any one destination to this week’s hike, exploring the island’s only “desert” is another exciting excursion to cross off the list.
For parking, head to Inarajan Middle School by driving south on Route 4 through Yona and Talofofo if you’re coming from the north or through Merizo if coming from the south.
In the center of Inarajan, you will come to a four-way intersection with a fenced-in house by Inarajan Bay on one side and the Papa Niyok Store on the other.
Proceed up the hill on Belen Avenue, opposite to the bay, to reach Inarajan Middle School. Note the IMS sign designating the school’s direction.
At the top of this winding hill, Inarajan Middle School will be seen fenced in on the left-hand side. Park just outside the fence, along the shoulder of the road, or on the grass across the street.
Carabao crossing and hilltop views galore
To start, begin walking north past the school. Follow the paved road all the while, passing a small housing area as you near the jungle ahead.
At the end of the road, the path will venture on to a very overgrown, grassy trail that enters a jungle. Soon, the trail will wind pass a large radio tower beside a hilltop.
Make your way around the tower to find the hiking trail and your first grand views of the Inarajan valley, which includes sights of the winding Inarajan and Fintasa Rivers as well as The Badlands in the distance.
Proceed down the upcoming hill with caution, as Guam’s rainy season creates slippery pathways along the descent.
At the base of the hill, you will reach a small ranch site belonging to a private landowner. Please refrain from exploring and tampering with the property.
To the right of the ranch, you will find the rushing Fintasa River, which is flowing with water, again to due to the wet season.
Cross over to the other side, but be careful! The riverbed is extremely slippery and slimy due to a mixture of red dirt and grime. Feel free to cool off in small pools or lie above the shallow riverbed for a quick refresher.
Once on the other side, continue along the path into open grassland, passing a whimsical bed of yellow wildflowers along the way.
Here is where you are also able to view a pair of grazing carabaos from a safe distance. While harmless, these carabaos are not fully domesticated and are under the care of the landowner. Taking photos from afar is fine, but do not otherwise disturb these free-ranging animals.
The path continues up another trying hill just past the carabaos. Watch your steps over the muddy, overgrown trail ascent. A fall here would be a nasty one due to the mud and sharp sword grass.
At the top, you will find more sweeping views of the valley around you, and even distant sightings of Inarajan Bay and St. Joseph’s Church peaking abroad.
Expending energy along the desert expedition
Just ahead lies the entrance to The Badlands, appropriately coined by the Guam Boonie Stompers.
Badlands typically describe a type of dry terrain where soft, sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils carve dunes and mesas after being extensively eroded by wind and water.
The Badlands National Park in South Dakota draws visitors from around the world to see its striking geologic deposits.
In Guam, our badlands might not be so highly revered or even acknowledged, but the beauty of the Southern Badlands provides a surreal experience for islanders, who are – for the most part – accustomed only to beaches and other water features.
As such, after entering The Badlands, free yourself into its rustic clay mesas and explore all around! However, be sure that you are capable of retracing your steps at any point. Most of the dunes and paths here are open-ended for the most part, so that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Those into parkour, or avid athletes in general, might be interested in scrambling up and down the steep mesas. A fun activity, the views from the top grant more jaw-dropping and breezy viewpoints for hikers.
Don’t forget to be on the lookout for geological wonders! Large, volcanic rocks originating from the island’s formation are seen jutting out around the mesa.
Additionally, the ground is covered with interesting dirt and sand specimens, as well as cool mineral rocks. I know, how cool could rocks, dirt and sand be? Well, you’ll have to go hiking to find out.
After spending as much time as you want exploring The Badlands – scurrying up hills and finding geological wonders all the while – simply retrace your steps back to your car to cap a good day of desert expeditions.