Ghost Ranch is located in northern New Mexico and is primarily known for serving as inspiration to one of America’s greatest artists (Georgia O’Keeffe). Today, Ghost Ranch operates as an education and retreat center that offers affordable lodging, spiritual retreats, workshops, and tours. So, if you happen to be traveling to New Mexico (e.g., Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, etc.), we highly recommend considering a side trip to visit Ghost Ranch to see the surrounding area’s stunning red rock landscape.
Indeed, northern New Mexico itself is rich in natural beauty, so a trip to Ghost Ranch can be considered an added bonus. Even if you don’t intend to stay overnight, this place is certainly worth a day trip to see the landscape and partake in a tour or workshop. Thus, this article provides everything you’ll need to know if you want to plan your own epic adventure to Ghost Ranch.
DESTINATION GUIDE SERIES: GHOST RANCH
What Is Ghost Ranch?
Ghost Ranch was purchased in the 1930s by Arthur Pack, who sold a portion of this land to American artist and legend Georgia O’Keeffe. The property was eventually donated to the Presbyterian Church, which now operates the ranch as an education center. In addition, the ranch offers reasonably priced lodging along with recreational workshops and educational activities. Today, travelers visit the ranch for its colorful desert beauty and to see the landscape that so inspired O’Keeffe.
Why Should You Visit Ghost Ranch?
If you are seeking peace and quiet outside of Albuquerque or Santa Fe, then Ghost Ranch is an excellent destination. Ghost Ranch offers an opportunity to explore the remote high desert of New Mexico in a rustic, comfortable, and educational way. Some choose to visit the ranch due to an interest in Georgia O’Keeffe and her artwork. Others are drawn to the area simply because of its unquestionable beauty with its stunning cliffs and colorful rock formations. In any case, Ghost Ranch provides visitors with a uniquely serene and memorable experience.
You can choose to stay at Ghost Ranch and explore the area on your own, or opt to participate in activities such as ranch tours or workshops. Further, tent camping, RV camping, or standard lodging options are available. Plan to stay a night or so and design your own adventure and experience this special place in your own way.
Where Is Ghost Ranch?
Ghost Ranch is located in the high desert of northern New Mexico and, more specifically, within the Chama Basin along the Colorado Plateau. The ranch is about 60 miles north of the town of Santa Fe and approximately 15 miles from the small town of Abiquiu. It’s an ideal place for a day trip or an extended visit if you plan to be near Santa Fe or Taos.
THINGs to Do
Ghost Ranch offers a number of tours that cater to a variety of interests. For instance, you can take an educational tour focused on the area’s archeology or paleontology, go on a guided horseback ride, learn more about Georgia O’Keeffe’s time on the ranch, and even learn about the various movies filmed on location.
If you seek to spend more than a few days at Ghost Ranch, consider reserving a spot in one of their workshops. Although the multi-day workshops can be pricey, the costs include workshop tuition, lodging, and meals. All considered, it’s a reasonable deal. Workshops vary throughout the year, but are generally focused on art, southwestern traditions, science (e.g., geology/paleontology), etc.
A visit to Ghost Ranch is not complete without hiking one of the many trails in the area. Whether you want to catch a sunrise/sunset with panoramic views of the desert landscape or hike through dinosaur fossil quarries, there are hikes for everyone. Remember, northern New Mexico is still a remote location. Don’t forget to bring along the Ten Essentials on any hike. Below are some of our favorite hikes near the ranch:
The Chimney Rock hike is one of our favorites to watch a sunset. The hike is a moderate three miles round trip that begins near the Ghost Ranch Visitor Center. As its name suggests, Chimney Rock is a large sandstone tower jutting out of the sandstone cliff and provides an amazing panoramic vista of the Piedra Lumbre basin. This hike is one of the most popular hikes on the property — for good reason.
The Kitchen Mesa hike is approximately five miles out-and-back and is considered difficult by Ghost Ranch’s standards. The trail takes you to the top of Kitchen Mesa, which offers exquisite views of Georgia O’Keeffe country. A particularly cool aspect of this hike is that you pass under a dinosaur fossil quarry along the way. If you’re interested, check out some of the fossil findings in the Ghost Ranch museum after your hike.
The surrounding area near Ghost Ranch has a lot to offer, particularly if you are fond of the desert landscape. So, if you decide to go exploring, below are a few nearby places worthy of a visit:
Places to Eat
If you don’t feel like eating at the Ghost Ranch meal hall, there are a few worthy options to consider in the vicinity. Remember, Abiquiu is not a big town, so you’re not going to find a tremendous amount of options. Below are a couple of places we enjoy when visiting the area:
Best Time to Visit
- The Outdoor Corps Recommendation: May-September
- Ghost Ranch is located at an altitude of approximately 6,500ft. Thus, the temperature will naturally be a bit cooler than in lower-elevation areas. In the summer, expect temperature averages in the mid-to-high 80s and average lows in the 50s, making for a comfortable visit. We prefer to visit in late spring through summer, though you will have a great time no matter what season you visit.
- Traveling from outside of the southwestern United States? Then the easiest way to get to Ghost Ranch is via a flight into Albuquerque International Sunport and then renting a vehicle.
- If you plan to fly from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas/Fort Worth, you may be able to find a reasonably priced flight into Santa Fe Regional Airport. This is ideal because a flight into Santa Fe’s airport cuts the drive to Ghost Ranch in half.
- From Albuquerque, NM expect about a 2-hour drive via I-25 N to Santa Fe, NM and via US 285 N/US 84 W through the small town of Abiquiu, NM. Don’t miss Santa Fe along the way.
- If you are up for a road trip adventure, consider driving from Denver, CO. Expect about a 6-hour drive, with the majority via I-25 S. However, you have a few route options to choose from that can shorten or lengthen your trip.
- You can visit Ghost Ranch for the day or plan to stay overnight in one of a few lodging options that vary in price. Rooms are tastefully decorated in a southwestern theme, though they are more dorm-like and not particularly fancy. That said, the prices are reasonable and the ambience is incredible. Alternatively, if you’re looking for less expensive options, you can camp on the ranch grounds, either via RV or tent. Breakfast is included for overnight guests.
- Pets are not permitted in any of the lodging facilities on Ghost Ranch. However, if you intend to only visit Ghost Ranch for the day, pets can accompany you on hikes, etc.
- As previously mentioned, Ghost Ranch is in the high desert of northern New Mexico, so expect cooler temperatures. Summer monsoon season can bring a lot of rain and average high temperatures are in the upper 80s. Alternatively, late spring and early fall may have the most pleasant daytime temperatures, but it can get chilly in the evening. Temperatures can be rather cold in the winter time, with a chance of snow.
Below is a curated listing of books regarding Ghost Ranch and its history. Included in this listing is our favorite travel guide as well as a number of books detailing the life and adventures of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who is ingrained in the history of Ghost Ranch. Together, these books provide an excellent perspective on why this area is so special and are worthwhile reads prior to your visit.
In addition, since there are plenty of great hikes around the area, we’ve included a few naturalist books in the list. These are some of our favorite reference books about the area’s flora, fauna, and geology that will help provide a more interpretive trail experience.
- Moon: Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque
- Land of Enchantment Wildflowers: A Guide to the Plants of New Mexico
- Birds of New Mexico Field Guide
- Roadside Geology of New Mexico
- Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu
- How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living
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