Trail riders enjoy O’Keefe Country. Courtesy/NMTD
Ghost Ranch has a long history that started with the history of cattle rustlers. They would steal local herds and take them to the deep canyons then spread stories of witches and ghosts in the area to avoid searches of their property.
The name Rancho de los Brujos stuck and eventually became Ghost Ranch. The stories of Ghost Ranch are as colorful as the iconic hills surrounding the education and retreat center.
Georgia O’Keeffe Connection
Many visitors have graced the grounds of Ghost Ranch and one of the most widely recognized is artist Georgia O’Keeffe. In 1929, Georgia O’Keeffe travelled to Taos at the invitation of friends Dorothy Brett and Mabel Dodge Luhan. It was there she first heard of Ghost Ranch and once even caught a tantalizing glimpse of it from a high plain.
In 1934, she finally visited the Ranch but was dismayed to learn that it was a dude ranch owned by Arthur Pack and Carol Stanley. However a place was available for her that night in one of the cottages and, due to another guest’s health emergency, O’Keeffe stayed the entire summer at the Ranch.
In 1940, she became the owner of a very small piece of Ghost Ranch land: a house and seven acres. (In later years she told a Ranch employee doing roadwork near her home, “I wanted enough land to keep a horse–all Arthur would sell me was enough for my sewer!”)
O’Keeffe wanted a garden and a winter home. Eventually, she bought three acres in the village of Abiquiu with a crumbling adobe home. She spent three years remodeling and rebuilding the house before it was fit for human habitation.
Ghost Ranch gave her the freedom to paint what she saw and felt. Visitors can look around and identify many of the scenes she painted. Red and gray hills like those across from the roadside park south of the ranch headquarters were frequent subjects.
Kitchen Mesa at the upper end of the valley is an example of the red and yellow cliffs she painted many times. Pedernal, the flat-topped mountain to the south, was probably her favorite subject. “It’s my private mountain,” she frequently said. “God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it.”
Los Alamos Connection
Ghost Ranch also was a retreat space used for some of the scientists who worked in Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project. The former owners of Ghost Ranch, Arthur and Phoebe Pack, were host to a number of notable guests.
Day and Overnight Trip Opportunities
Ghost Ranch was gifted to the Presbyterian Church in 1955 and has served as an education and retreat center since that time. When you are looking to come down the hill and explore a bit of northern New Mexico, Highway 84 offers some spectacular landscapes and a venue for stops along the way. Rustic overnight lodging is available for the perfect stay-cation or overnight adventure.
About Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch, 21,000 acres located in Abiquiu, New Mexico, is an ecumenical and interfaith education and retreat center of the Presbyterian Church (USA). For over half a century, people have come here for spiritual development, to discuss issues of peace and justice, to work together in creation care, to paint and write, to hike
and to ride horseback, to research rich and globally renowned archeological and fossil quarries, to see where Georgia O’Keeffe painted, to try something new or to simply rest and renew their spirit
At Ghost Ranch
Daily O’Keeffe Landscape Tours juxtapose Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings alongside the actual landscapes they depict:
- By motorbus – daily except Wednesdays at 1:30 and 3 p.m. and sometimes additional morning tours are added (1 hour, $47)
- On horseback – daily trail rides available at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.Sunset rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays through November start times vary according to sunset hours (1.5 hours, $95
- Walking Tours are also available on Mondays and Fridays (2 hours, $69)
Wednesdays With O’Keeffe combines the O’Keeffe Home and Studio Tour beginning at the O’Keeffe Welcome Center next to the Abiquiu Inn. Wednesdays With O’Keeffe combines the best of the northern New Mexico O’Keeffe loved. Begin at the Abiquiu Inn where you check-in for the morning Abiquiu Home & Studio Tour. Then board a bus for a guided tour as we travel to Ghost Ranch – learn about the history of the area, geology, flora and fauna. Enjoy a buffet style lunch in the Ghost Ranch Dining Hall or sit outside under the ancient cottonwoods. Board the motor coach for the Georgia O’Keeffe Ghost Ranch Landscape Tour and see through your own eyes the scenes and actual locations of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings interwoven with stories of her fifty years at Ghost Ranch. (just over 5 hours, $119)
Visit GhostRanch.org to see the catalog of workshops offered. Among a wide variety art, music an other themes, Outdoor Landscape Painting in the Footsteps of Georgia O’Keeffe led by Taos artist Michelle Chrisman will be held February 24 to March 2, March 24 to March 30, and April 22 to April 28.