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Hike to Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch
Abiquiu, New Mexico
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The Chimney Rock trail is a great option for a shorter day on the trail or a hike with kids. It includes stunning views of the Piedra Lumbre basin and gives you a perfect taste of the unique landscape of this part of northern New Mexico.
Start your adventure by checking in at the Ghost Ranch Visitor Center, then find the trailhead just behind the building. You'll quickly drop down through an arroyo and then walk through a gate. The trail begins to climb briefly then flattens out with beautiful views across to Pedernal and the Piedra Lumbre basin, the heart of Georgia O'Keefe country.
Continue to climb gradually up the ridge with your first sight of Chimney Rock's profile up close. Towards the end, the trail gets a little rockier and steepens before finishing on top of the mesa. Head out towards Chimney Rock and take in the incredible views before heading back the way you came!
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Hike to Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch Reviews
An Excellent Option for a Shorter Day on the Trail
The Chimney Rock trail is an excellent option for a shorter day on the trail. I saw stunning views of Ghost Ranch and got a perfect taste of the unique landscape of this part of northern New Mexico.
Easy hike with rewarding view
This is a nice short hike that's dog-friendly and gives a nice view of the surrounding area. I wasn't too impressed with the atmosphere around the ranch and it was hard to confirm dogs are allowed until we got there.
Leave No Trace
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!
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Ghost Ranch – Chimney Rock
Ghost ranch – chimney rock hike in ghost ranch region.
Map File Source: DeLorme
Climb to a height where there are great views of the surrounding area and Ghost Ranch features.
From Albuquerque, take I-25 to Santa Fe, then US 84/285 to Espanola. Continue north on US 84/285 north, staying on US 84 when US 285 splits off about 5 mi from town. Continue about 35 miles through Abiquiu to the gravel road marked for the Ghost Ranch Presbyterian Center. Turn right and drive 1 mi to a road fork; follow the signs left to the office and ask for permission to hike. The trailhead sign for the Chimney Rock hike is located at the arroyo behind the Museums and past the Corral Block complex.
Cross the arroyo and follow the trail up the ridge. This hike has wonderful views as the trail climbs from 6,500 to 7,100 feet. From the top there is an excellent VIEW (1.35 mi) of the Piedra Lumbre basin.
There is now a $10 user fee to hike on Ghost Ranch. Day visitors are asked to reserve in advance.
PARK: N36 19.837, W106 28.479 VIEW: N36 20.295, W106 29.025
- Where I’m Located
Adventure Begins at Ghost Ranch
The gate to Ghost Ranch.
Decades of Inspiration
Scattered throughout Ghost Ranch are chairs that allow you to soak in the spectacular views.
Cerro Pedernal looms over the Piedra Lumbre basin.
Hiking at Ghost Ranch
Chimney rock trail:.
Plan Your Visit
Cellular signal is limited at Ghost Ranch. Within the campground (which is in a canyon) we were able to get extended Verizon service with our cellular signal booster but not ATT. If you need access, you can walk to the library and use their free WiFi. The library is open 24/7. Besides providing internet access, it also has a wonderful book collection. Their website states that the WiFi isn’t always reliable, but we didn’t have any issues. Throughout the week it worked well, even during thunderstorms.
The ranch offers three daily meals in the dining hall. It’s a great place to meet people and to get a quick, delicious meal. The food is served cafeteria style and it’s all-you-can-eat. We’re new to RVing and we couldn’t have asked for a better place to start our journey. Some days we didn’t feel like cooking and near the end of the week, we ran low on food. At the dining hall, we were able to eat a quick meal, which gave us more time to explore.
If you’re a full time RVer and need to receive a package, the ranch will typically lend a hand. Many Continental Divide Trail (CDT) hikers stop at the ranch to use the campground and to get a warm meal. Before continuing on the CDT, they ship supplies to the ranch to refuel their packs.
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17 Reasons To Include Ghost Ranch In Your New Mexico Vacation
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The stunning canyon and cliff country of New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch has ensnared some of the greatest artists of the 20th century for good reason. Ansel Adams captured the landscapes on his large-format cameras. The most famous female artist of the 20th century, Georgia O’Keeffe, made the ranch her home for the last decades of her life.
I could see why she found the space so inspiring and why filmmakers continue to gravitate toward locations in the area. While I was there a short time on a press trip, it was long enough to experience the power of the scenery and get a sense of adventure. I’d like to join those who return often to learn in workshops and rejuvenate at retreats. Here are 17 reasons to visit Ghost Ranch during your New Mexico vacation, inspired by my press trip experiences and subsequent research.
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1. Follow Georgia O’Keeffe’s Footsteps
Georgia O’Keeffe painted the hills, bones, and stone walls relentlessly and over decades at Ghost Ranch. She said that she worked at her home in Abiquiú but Ghost Ranch was where she lived. Fleeing the pressures and distractions of New York City, Georgia first visited friends who lived in New Mexico and then returned often.
This broad and barely accessible land gave her the space to focus on drawing and painting. Inspiration sprang from long walks exploring the canyons, rock formations, and distant mountains. I found that the very things which drew O’Keeffe to the remote landscape remain for the rest of us to enjoy. The current owners work to preserve both her legacy and the country that captured Georgia’s heart.
2. Immerse Yourself In Local History
Ghost Ranch wasn’t always so tranquil. At one time in the early 1800s, it was feared as Rancho de los Brujos (Ranch of the Witches). People disappeared in the recesses of the stone formations that tower over the broad plains of the region. However, the frightening reputation was more by design than nature. Two bandit brothers, violent to their dusty boots, stole livestock and horses from nearby ranches then hid the animals in nearby Box Canyon until they could be sold. Anyone who came looking for their missing animals went missing themselves.
The subterfuge lasted until one brother was murdered in anger and his wife fled to the nearest village. She inspired a posse to find the survivor. Hanging Tree, which still stands over a small cabin in the center of the ranch, earned its name before the villagers returned home.
Carol Bishop Stanley eventually opened the acres to the public as a dude ranch and changed the name. Other families came and went until Georgia O’Keeffe landed there. By the time she passed, the dude ranch had become a retreat and adventure center. The energy of peace and contemplation still reigns over the rugged acres.
3. Enter The Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape
My introduction to Ghost Ranch was with a guide and motorbus ride to actual locations of O’Keeffe’s paintings. The enthusiastic guide expertly pointed out O’Keeffe’s favorite spots. It was thrilling to get off the bus and stand close to the same vistas framed in O’Keeffe’s masterpieces then get a glimpse of her home from a distance. There was ample time for questions as well.
Our guided walk took me through O’Keeffe’s backyard and past many of her painting locations. This activity is limited to eight guests, which makes it easy to learn about the history, plant life, geology, and culture of the area. I was glad to be wearing my walking shoes and to have filled up my water bottle before the trek. A fountain with filtered water is available inside the Visitor Center.
4. Spend A Wednesday With O’Keeffe
One of the highlights of this area is a chance to see O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiú. There are Wednesday tours with pre-registration which start at the O’Keeffe Welcome Center near the Abiquiú Inn. While I couldn’t take pictures inside, it was still a thrill to walk through O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú house and have lunch before joining the O’Keeffe Landscape tour at Ghost Ranch. The tour returns to the Welcome Center, which has a great gift shop and screens a historical video.
5. Make The Most Of Art Intensives
Clay, glass, and other artistic workshops are offered as seasonal Art Escapes at the ranch. I spent a few hours one evening learning about painting and pastel with local artist Diane Arenberg and wished I was staying longer for her immersives. Most of her sessions run from a weekend to a week long. Other classes include Composition, Plein Air work, and critiques that culminate in a Masters’ Show. The classes are held in the ranch’s Art Center. For more information, check the Ranch schedule .
6. Pay Your Respects At The Pack Memorial
One morning, I took a short walk from my comfortable lodging along the mesa trail behind the Ghost House to a stone memorial dedicated to Arthur and Phoebe Pack. Arthur Pack owned the ranch in its early days and negotiated with Georgia O’Keeffe on the sale of his first house. He bequeathed the ranch to the Presbyterian Church in 1955.
GUILLAUME LECLERC / Shutterstock
7. Take To The Trails
There are nine trails that crisscross the ranch campus. I wandered the land before the day’s activities began. On my return trip, I’ll be certain to take the Kitchen Mesa Trail, a challenging five-mile loop with 600 feet of elevation. It rises to a lookout with views of the Piedra Lumbre basin and Mount Pedernal in the distance. Box Canyon Trail is an especially tempting four-mile round-trip trail that rises 500 feet while winding back and forth across the property’s central stream. The most popular trail to Chimney Rock is a challenging three-mile round trip walk that rises about 600 feet to the sculpted pinnacle.
8. Experience Retreats And Landscape Meditations
There are two labyrinths on the Ghost Ranch site. I found the main labyrinth near the central road along a path that begins at the Arts Center Building. The stone spiral is a tool for contemplation drawn from many traditions across the world. It was a lovely practice as the dawn’s light illuminated Orphan Mesa. There’s a second labyrinth at Casa del Sol. It weaves uniquely in and out of the Piedra Lumbre landscape. I also passed a ceremonial water wheel set along the trail between the Arts Center and the main labyrinth.
9. Enter A Karesansui Garden
As a fan of Japanese landscape design, I was thrilled to hear about this garden created of rock, gravel, and stone, which abstractly represent water and the elements. Typically, this type of garden is found near residences of Zen abbots. This Karensansui space is not allied with a residence but set independently near the main labyrinth at Ghost Ranch.
Monastery Of Christ In The Desert
10. Visit A Monastery
The Monastery of Christ in the Desert is an autonomous abbey following the Benedictine traditions. It’s a quiet space with a guesthouse for private retreats. Both men and women are welcome to join the monks at Mass in the Abbey Church. Religious and artistic articles are available in the gift shop. The monastery is 15 miles northwest of Ghost Ranch.
11. Explore A Mosque Near Abiquiú
For over 40 years, Dar al Islam, a non-profit Islamic organization, has been committed to cultivating understanding, compassion, and empathy among non-Muslims and Muslims alike. The campus, which is near Abiquiú, hosts retreats and meetings in buildings designed by the world-renowned architect Hassan Fathy. Visit Dar al Islam’s website to arrange a visit. I was thrilled to discover that the Dar al Islam property contains The Black Place and The White Place , two paintings by O’Keeffe.
12. Tour The Ruth Hall Paleontology Museum At Ghost Ranch
Perhaps the ancient monsters that frightened the first inhabitants of Ghost Ranch were dinosaurs. Georgia O’Keeffe created notable paintings from more recent bones she collected at the ranch, and just north of the property is one of the best-known digs in the Northern Hemisphere. I could imagine joining one of the dig workshops and discovering remnants of creatures over 200 million years old. One new species, a small archdinosaur, was named Effigia (O’Keeffe’s Ghost). Even if you can’t join a dig, it’s exciting to get close to the bones and equipment inside the ranch’s small museum.
13. Anthropology Comes To Life In The Ranch Museum
The Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology , adjacent to the Ghost Ranch Visitor Center, is named for the woman who led a group of students to the world-class discovery of the largest collection of Gallina artifacts in the world. The museum displays other artifacts from Paleo Indian people who lived here 10,000 years ago in addition to current creations. It’s a small exhibit, but I was excited to learn about the ladies of the canyon via vintage pictures and artifacts from local pioneering women, including Ghost Ranch founder Carol Bishop Stanley.
14. Take A Trail Ride
Two ranch rides are inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe — the Landscape Trail Ride and the Sunset Trail Ride. Riding a gentle steed through the low brush was a quiet joy. We stopped for pictures with the cliffs behind us and rode past O’Keeffe’s low adobe home. Our guide filled us in on the area’s history and colorful stories as we loped along. I’d love to return for a private ride up into the foothills one day.
15. Enjoy Water Fun
When the lifeguard is on duty, ranch guests can escape the desert heat in the immense, unheated pool next to the dining hall. I was there for cool fall days, so the pool wasn’t open. If I were there during the summer months, it would be such fun to kayak or canoe Abiquiu Lake. Swimming lessons and hikes can be arranged as well.
Wikimedia Commons ( CC BY 2.0 )
16. Challenge Yourself On A Ropes Course
As I entered the Ghost Ranch Property, we passed a loose grid of tall posts slung with ropes. High- and low-rope and wall-climbing activities are available during the summer when staffing allows. It’s easy to imagine how fun teamwork and problem-solving adventure courses can be.
17. Indulge In Self-Care And Body Work
Ghost Ranch’s nationally certified and licensed massage therapists offer integrative bodywork, massage, and spa treatments daily. Appointments must be made at the Welcome Center in advance. The treatments would make a welcome conclusion to long hikes and adventures at Ghost Ranch.
From a pure country experience to an artful retreat, I can see returning again and again for a Ghost Ranch vacation.
Elaine of Trip Well Gal has been jumping into travel and living in the most unexpected places for decades -- from suburban Southern California to a cold-water cabin in SE Alaska. While others were planning retirement, she took every chance to explore, taste, meet, and share her discoveries. Ever curious about life and the world, Elaine founded Trip Well Gal nearly ten years ago as a commuting yoga teacher and used her public radio experience to produce the Indie-Excellence Award Winning audiobook, Drivetime Yoga and then Flytime Yoga .
As a freelancer, she focuses on finding the stories underneath issues and those who can tell them best. She’s written for Hidden Compass , Edible San Diego , San Diego Home and Garden , Luxury Living International Magazine , Trivago , Roam Right , Hipmunk and other online outlets. Enamored with the storytelling possibilities of video, she’s an obsessive photographer and filmmaker for her YouTube channel with over 50k views. The blog has evolved to focus on helping Boomers get out into the world and do it well with consciousness and care for the planet and our neighbors.
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Chimney Rock - Ghost Ranch
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- Abiquiu - Things to Do
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Take the hike! The best hike for beautiful vistas. The ghost ranch camp area, the library, and Georgia O'keefe's home are all of interest too. I think we donated 5 dollars to wander around! Oh my, unbelievable New Mexico beauty!
Thank you for your review of Ghost Ranch. We have a number of hiking trails, each with their own unique vistas and opportunities to explore. Our library has a fascinating history which you can learn about on our history tour. I am glad you had the opportunity to experience the Ranch and hope you will return to delve deeper into all that we offer.
Absolutely beautiful vistas. It doesn't cost anything to drive in and look around. Unbelievably beautiful.
Thank you for your review of Ghost Ranch. We are pleased you enjoyed your time with us and hope you will return the next time your travel plans bring you to northern NM.
We were a little disappointed. You can do great hikes and probably also horseback riding, but the visit of the area is not worth it without taking a tour. Without a tour, you can't visit the place where Georgia O'Keeffe lived and painted and the tours are only on certain days - and not on weekends ... There is also a movie tour because of the many films that were filmed in the area, but this tour is insanely expensive. We didn't stay overnight, so I can't say anything about that.
Thank you for your review of Ghost Ranch. I appreciate your thoughts on our O'Keeffe tour and am sorry you did not have the opportunity to experience it for yourself. We do offer the tour several times every day. It is true however that it may not have been available as tours often reach capacity. You may make advance reservations through the HoldMyTicket.com website to ensure a place on a future tour. I am glad you enjoyed the hiking and hope to welcome you back to the Ranch on a future visit to northern NM.
I have such wonderful memories of New Mexico and the Wednesday's with O'Keeffe Tour package that we booked through Ghost Ranch is a stand out, by far. The tickets must be purchased well in advance as the visiting season is short and spots book up quickly. The schedule is well detailed and provides a very thoughtful and comprehensive glimpse into the life and art of Georgia O'Keeffe. Tickets also provide free entry into the GOK Museum in Santa Fe. You start with a brief movie on Georgia at the Abiquiu Inn and are then shuttled out to Georgia's house for an hour tour. Photography is permitted though limited and in designated areas only. The guide was extremely knowledgeable and took time to answer everyone's questions. After the tour we were shuttled to the Ghost Ranch for lunch at the dining hall. Cafeteria style, we had sub sandwiches and delicious apple bread. After lunch we headed out on the ranch for the GOK Landscape Tour, it is one hour in length and they stop to show you many landscapes GOK painted. The area is beautiful and so rich in color. Our guides were kind, comical, and very knowledgeable. You could tell they had a real passion for the area. After the tour, you are shuttled back to the Abiquiu Inn but the guides offer suggestions for additional hikes or sights to see before leaving the area. We opted to hike the White Place and were not disappointed. I'd highly recommend this tour experience. Yes, it is a bit pricey but truly worth the money spent for the memories gained.
Thank you for your review of our Wednesdays with O'Keeffe tour. Your comprehensive description is a joy to read and I am happy to know you enjoyed your time with us. I have passed along your review to our team. I hope you will return to Ghost Ranch to explore our other tours and offerings, such as our museums and hiking trails. We look forward to welcoming you back to the Ranch.
I love the ranch. My family loves the ranch. My friends love the ranch. I have met lifelong friends here who I visit around the country and world, and the people I've met and spent time with here are the number one reason I love it. Ghost Ranch is NOT a spa, not a hotel, not five stars. But you aren't here to lay around the room! It is a non profit who's employees and volunteers dedicate themselves to sharing the love they have for the ranch to visitors as best they can. My family first started coming when I was a kid, and I've been to the ranch once to three times a year every year since. The hiking is phenomenal, the views are gorgeous, the stars are unbelievable (especially if you live in a city like me), and everyone there is friendly, outgoing, and interesting. So sure, sometimes there will be dirt on the floors, dust under beds, buildings looking a little shabby. But the magic of the place lies beyond that, and that's why there are so many people who's families have been coming here for generations. So let the kids run wild, learn about a new subject or try your hand at a new art form in a seminar, hike to the tallest mesas around... and fall in love with Ghost Ranch!!!! Rooms: there are a variety of types of rooms at different price points. Some are basic dorm style rooms with bunk beds, and some are phenomenal and comfortable individual cabins. There's a wide range. You can also camp! Food: the dining hall has improved a lot through the years and the kitchen staff does a good job accommodating different allergies and diets. They always have a vegetarian option. I think the food is yummy. You grab a tray, fill your plate, and then join a table! Meal times are my favorite-- I sometimes sit with my family and sometimes sit with new faces. Hikes: standing on top of chimney rock and looking out at the painted desert on the right and Pedernal on the left, both of which Georgia O'keefe is famous for, is a unique and awesome experience. Summer Seminars: wonderful experiences all around. I've done yoga to strengthen my practice for a week, but I've also tried something new and learned about collage. He seminars are taught by awesome and caring teachers from around the world. Georgia okeefe tours: not a single soul can get into her house, but you will know that from the Internet. You can see the famous spots she painted though, and hear about her life on the ranch. The VOLUNTEERS who run this are awesome.
Thank you for your review of Ghost Ranch. There is little I can add to your wonderful and kind words regarding the Ranch. It is reviews such as yours that keep us constantly striving to ensure all guest now and in the future have the same opportunity to discover the wonder and joy of Ghost Ranch. The team here at the Ranch look forward to welcoming you back on a future visit to northern NM.
I visited Ghost Ranch for a few days in March and really enjoyed my time there. The surrounding area is one of the most beautiful places I have been, and there are a number of great hikes and activities to keep you entertained. The weather was great and the other guests and staff were very welcoming. I would definately recommend visiting the Ranch to solo travellers, couples and families alike.
Thank you for your review of Ghost Ranch. I am pleased to read you had the opportunity to explore all the Ranch has to offer. Our museums, with the dinosaur exhibits, are especially popular with families and we offer a number of hiking trails that afford everyone the experience of discovery. We hope to welcome you back to the Ranch on a future visit to northern NM.
Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch
While on a spring weekend getaway to New Mexico, we ventured over to Ghost Ranch , the former home of Georgia O’Keefe. We were introduced to Ghost Ranch a couple of years ago when visiting the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe . Her paintings of the incredible landscapes of the area have been a great inspiration to me as a photographer, and I intentionally try to mimic her simplifications of the landscape in my compositions.
The scenery at Ghost Ranch did not disappoint, and I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area. We spent the afternoon hiking one of the many trails. As we returned to the trailhead, the afternoon sunlight broke through some passing clouds, spotlighting the rock formation known as Chimney Rock. I was carrying my infrared-converted Sony a6000 with a 590 nm filter on the lens-as soon as I saw the preview image on the back of the camera, I knew I had captured a special image. (I submitted this photo to the Ghost Ranch Calendar Photo Contest. It didn’t win overall, but it was selected to be included in the 2020 calendar.)
When I sat down at the computer to process this photo, I quickly realized one of the great challenges with infrared photography-dealing too much contrast. When working with a regular digital camera to create black and white images, it is sometimes difficult to create enough contrast in the scene. But with strong lighting, the contrast in the scene can easily overpower an infrared image. For this image, the direct sunlight reflecting off the rocks was incredible strong, but the shadows reflect very little light. It is not a problem of dynamic range-the raw image has detail in both highlights and shadows. Processing this image was all about controlling the contrast already present rather than building up contrast in a flatter image. And although you will often hear that infrared images can be captured during at midday when regular cameras are useless, I have learned that golden hour is just as powerful for infrared images as for regular visible light images.
Writing this post in November 2019, I have a lot more experience both capturing and working with infrared images. When I captured this photo, I had only had the infrared camera for a little over a month and had not processed many images. I also had very little experience working in black and white, so creating a print-worthy photo from the raw image presented an incredible learning opportunity!
I’ve since learned how to process many of my black and white infrared images in Lightroom, but this image really needs the power of Photoshop. I still have much to learn about processing black and white images in Photoshop, but I consider this photo to be my first real success using the skills I have developed. One of the best resources I have found for learning about infrared photography is a seminar by Vincent Versace at B&H Photo in 2015 that is available on Youtube . I think Vincent is a great teacher and incredible photographer. Unfortunately, his books have become out of date with the rapid advancements in image processing software.
For this image, I used many of the techniques presented in Vincent’s “From Oz to Kansas” book and from the B&H seminar. The raw image was separately processed for shadows and highlights (I would have used alternate exposures from a bracketed set, but my other exposures were blurry), and these base images were blended in Photoshop. I used several filters from Color Efex Pro 2 including Skylight, Contrast Only, Detail Extractor, Dark Contrasts, and Tonal Contrasts. Each of these filters was applied locally within the image by painting through luminosity masks so that the adjustments are gradually accumulated. The image was further adjusted with dodging and burning applied with Curves layers and addition of Clarity with the Camera Raw Filter. The final image was cropped and toned in Lightroom.
I have to say that I was still not totally happy with the appearance of the final image on the screen, but now having seen it printed in the calendar, I don’t think I could make it any better. I am planning to add a print of this photo to my personal gallery in my office.
Update: This photo was selected to be included in the Ghost Ranch calendar for 2020! I was hoping to win first prize but at least my photo was selected (and I got a stack of calendars).
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