New Mexico icon Georgia O’Keeffe was a close personal friend of Witter Bynner and spent many of her first days in Santa Fe at our estate as Witter’s guest. It was Witter who first took Georgia to explore what is now known as O’Keeffe country with a visit to Abiquiú and Ghost Ranch… places O’Keeffe would later make her home. Would you like to retrace some of Georgia’s first steps in New Mexico and etch into your memory an excursion of incredible beauty? Imagine lofty rock walls that make you feel small in comparison, and being surrounded by mesmerizing, vibrant earth tones. This is what you’ll experience at the renowned New Mexico Ghost Ranch, where you’ll step into the natural world. Use this guide to New Mexico’s renowned Ghost Ranch to prepare for a beautiful trip through time.
“All the earth colors of the painter’s palette are out there in the many miles of badlands. The light Naples yellow through the ochres – orange and red and purple earth – even the soft earth greens.” -Georgia O’Keefe
Your trip to the Ghost Ranch begins as soon as you leave the Inn and hit the road. In fact, you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous scenery for 60 miles as you drive from Santa Fe to Abiquiu. The rock formations in shades of burnt sienna, yellow ochre, oranges, and earthy hues are incredible. As creamy clouds drift across the desert sky, the changing landscape offers a surprise at every bend.
New Mexico’s renowned Ghost Ranch has a history that is as colorful and remarkable as the dramatic red and yellow cliffs that characterize the landscape. Ancient history is revealed through discoveries of a significant number of dinosaur fossils, most notably that of the theropod dinosaur Coelophysis. Recent history begins with Roy Pfaffle, a man who won the ranch in a poker game. Roy’s wife, Carol Stanley, recorded the deed in her name and chose the name, Ghost Ranch. This ranch has a rich past, which includes cattle rustlers, a Dude ranch, and the brief residence of famed artist, Georgia O’Keeffe.
The Piedra Lumbre, a geologic formation that crops out in the Picuris Mountains, was considered “the best place in the world,” according to Arthur Pack. In fact, that was enough incentive for Georgia O’Keeffe to visit the area, fall in love with the geography and make it her part-time home. One particular geographical feature that captured her attention and often appeared in her paintings was Cerro Pedernal. She commented that Cerro Pedernal “is my private mountain” and that “God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.” Fortunately, it’s still here for all to enjoy.
Eventually, Carol Stanley sold the ranch to Arthur Pack, who later sold it to its current owners, the Presbyterian Church. It’s no surprise that Ghost Ranch is classified as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service when considering the beauty of the area. This property is a must-see for all who visit Santa Fe.
What can you expect as you visit Ghost Ranch today? The administration’s mission to foster well-being and spiritual health through historic and beautiful landscapes permeates the property. So, it’s a great place for contemplation and inspiration.
- Activities – There are many activities to entertain you for several days, so you’ll have to choose your favorites. Activities vary depending on the season but include: canoeing, kayaking, guided hikes, and archery. The more adventurous types will enjoy wall climbing. Perhaps the best way to see the terrain and be part of the environment is to simply go hiking in the area or go on a trail ride. The sunset ride is a highlight.
- Museums – If you enjoy learning about anthropology and paleontology, take the time to invest a few hours at the Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology, Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology, and Ghost Ranch Library.
- Workshops – The Ghost Ranch offers dozens of workshops that span all ages and skill levels.
- Tours – The O’Keeffe Landscape Tour will take you to O’Keeffe’s painting locations where you can see in person the actual scenes that inspired her masterpieces. Other Ghost Ranch Tours include Paleontology, Archaeology, and Movie Sites.
You will appreciate the gorgeous sunny skies that dominate most days at the Ranch. However, that also means protecting yourself from overexposure. Make sure you are prepared if you’re coming for the day and will be involved in outdoor activities.
Things to include for the day:
- Seasonal casual clothes; a jacket or sweater for cool evenings; sturdy and comfy hiking shoes
- Rain gear and perhaps an umbrella
- Protection from the sun: hat, sunglasses, sunscreen
- A small day pack with snacks if you plan to hike or do other outdoor activities; a water bottle is a must. Consider our deluxe picnic basket for two which is perfect when you’re day-tripping to explore our Land of Enchantment. We will fill your basket with selections of artisan and house prepared lunch foods, including sandwiches, salads, fruit, sparkling water, and house baked goodies.
- Bug repellent
- And please remember your camera or smartphone to capture memories.
A comprehensive look at the ranch may help you envision what you’d like to do while visiting. So, check out this panoramic view from an aerial perspective. Map of Ghost Ranch
We hope this guide to New Mexico’s renowned Ghost Ranch has whet your appetite for an exhilarating trip. After a day spent in the beautiful outdoors, you’ll relish returning to your guest room at Inn of the Turquoise Bear in Santa Fe, where you can relax and enjoy the many comforts and amenities. Sitting on the patio, sipping a glass of wine, and conversing about your day is a delightful finish to an inspiring day.