Ghost Ranch’s Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour

Georgia O’Keeffe had two great loves in her lifetime; one was photographer Alfred Stieglitz and the other, New Mexico. Overall, the Land of Enchantment was kinder to her. The artist first visited New Mexico with her sister in 1917. It was pretty much love at first sight.

The entrance to Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM, photo/Steve Collins

Ghost Ranch:

Ghost Ranch sits in the south end of the Colorado Plateau in the Piedra Lumbre (Shining Stone) Basin about an hour and a half northwest of Santa Fe. It’s set amidst  glorious rock formations from the Chinle Formation of the Triassic Era (over 200 million years ago). The ranch, dating to 1766, was established by a land grant to Pedro Martin Serrano from the King of Spain. Legend has it that at one time, horse rustlers lived on the ranch and hid their plunder in the canyon. They wanted to keep the curious out, so they started a rumor that there were ghosts and witches there. It became known as El Rancho de los Brujos (Ranch of the Witches), later it became known as Ghost Ranch. In its heyday, the dude ranch attracted such luminaries as the Rockefeller family and Philip Wood Johnson (Johnson and Johnson) whose two-story house still stands. Georgia O’Keeffe first discovered Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch in 1934 and began to spend summers there. In 1940, she bought Rancho de los Burros, the Ghost Ranch house she’d rented for years. In 1949, she moved to Abiquiu full time living both at the ranch and the village home she bought in 1946 and restored.

Chimney Rock, one of the sights on the O’Keeffe Landscape Tour at Ghost Ranch, photo/Steve Collins

The Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour:

The Ghost Ranch’s Ghost Ranch’s Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour begins in the main building. Participants view a short film and then set off to tour some of the places Georgia O’Keeffe made famous through her drawings and paintings. As the tour goes past the ranch’s many juniper trees, the knowledgeable guide explains how these evergreens fascinated the artist. Continuing on, you learn about the Piedra Lumbre Basin and the rock formations here. (The quarries at the ranch have been a rich source of prehistoric fossils and skeleton finds including Coelophysis, an alligator-like reptile from the Triassic Era, discovered in the area in the 1880s.)

Georgia O’Keeffe’s beloved Pedernal, photo/Steve Collins

As the tour continues, the guide points out places O’Keeffe painted. You’re able to compare the raw landscape to her impressions of it viewing prints of her work juxtaposed with the real thing. She was drawn to the colors of the land and the rich play of light that is characteristic of New Mexico. The tour passes her house, it’s the closest you can get to this structure, off limits because of its fragile condition. One of the places that most moved her in New Mexico was Mount Pedernal the view from her backyard. She loved this flat-topped mountain that rises so majestically from the high desert floor. She is often quoted as saying “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.” In a way, she did and she gave it to us. And she gave us more of the haunting landscape that marks this part of New Mexico. From her base at Ghost Ranch she traveled around the area in an old Model A Ford going to places such as the Black Place and the White Place, both immortalized in her drawings and paintings. By the end of the tour, hopefully, you will have a greater understanding of O’Keeffe and her work.

Juniper at Ghost Ranch, photo/Steve Collins

While at Ghost Ranch, be sure to visit their two museums. The small Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology is home to a model of Coelophysis and fossils from the ranch’s quarries. The other tiny gem here is the Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology. Learn about the over twelve thousand years of habitation in the Gallina-Chama-Rio Grande drainage. This area was home to a succession of peoples from early hunter-gatherers, to the later Basketmakers to the more recent Pueblo peoples. The museum also displays works by contemporary Native American, Spanish and Anglo artists and artisans who carry on the traditions of the various cultures that have lived in the area.

Coelophysis at Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology, Ghost Ranch, photo/Steve Collins

If you are a Georgia O’Keeffe fan, there are three things you will want to put on your Santa Fe itinerary: a trip to the museum that bears her name, a tour of her Home and Studio in the village of Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch’s Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape tour. This tour can be done on foot, in a small bus or on horseback. Reserve early, this is a popular offering. You visit the Home and Studio and Ghost Ranch on the same day. When you’re done, you may be as big a fan of the area as she was. Looking back at age 92, Georgia O’Keeffe had this to say, “When I got to New Mexico- that was mine. As soon as I saw it, that was my country.” And it still is.

The Ghost Ranch Movie Tour

Ghost Ranch Film Tour

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had this road built for “Indiana Jones and the Chrystal Skull”, photo/Steve Collins

Many movies have been filmed at Ghost Ranch including Cowboys and Aliens, 3:10 to Yuma, The Missing, Comanche Moon, Georgia O’Keeffe, City Slickers, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Wyatt Earp and Silverado. The Ranch offers an hour-and-a half Movie Tour that visits some of the film locations there.

Tour days change seasonally. The seasonal schedule can be found under “Plan a Visit” on their website.

Authors’ notes: For more on Georgia O’Keeffe read about the home and studio tour of her Abiquiu village home.
We were guests of Ghost Ranch for the Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour. Their generosity did not influence this post in any way.






Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Responses to “Ghost Ranch’s Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour”

  1. Ted Nelson
    May 17, 2019 at 7:29 am #

    That is so cool that they have a landscape tour to go along with viewing her art. This would interest people like myself who are into the outdoors, but not an art aficianado. I enjoy art, but just not an art freak.

  2. Billie Frank
    May 17, 2019 at 8:33 am #

    Outdoor people like you can relate to the history of the rock formations and the land. You may even appreciate the art more after taking the tour and since you’re more action oriented, pick the horseback option.
    It’s a wonderful tour and I look at her work differently after experiencing the places and learning more about her and her art.

  3. Michelle
    May 25, 2019 at 5:20 pm #

    I’m planning a trip out to Santa Fe the 1st week of October and I’m trying to set up a visit to Abiquiu, but I’m a little confused about where to buy/reserve tickets. Is the landscape tour at Ghost Ranch and the Abiquiu home and studio tour a part of the same tour that is offered on O’Keeffe Museum website? Or are there 2 different tours? For the Ghost Ranch, I’ll need to make sure that one is the bus tour, as I’m not a hiker and have a bad back. I think I’ve confused myself by visiting too many different websites, so any clarification will be greatly appreciated.

    • Billie Frank
      May 25, 2019 at 5:33 pm #

      There are two separate tours, the post has links to both. One link goes to Ghost Ranch where the landscape tour is. Reserve the bus tour, there is no walking, you just have to be able to get in and out of the bus. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum runs the Home and Studio tour, the link is at the bottom of the post. If you want assistance planning your trip, check out our services at And keep reading the blog. New Santa Fe info goes up a few times a week. Early October is a busy time because of Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, I suggest that you reserve everything early.

  4. Bill McIntosh
    May 26, 2019 at 4:49 am #

    great site! would love to move back to new mexico. forever in my heart. nowhere has touched my me live here. i smell and feel the gentle wind as i look at the pics. Georgia’s paintings are the best. calms the soul

    • Billie Frank
      May 26, 2019 at 5:44 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Bill. Know what you mean about NM- that’s why we’re here. We can bring you back to the Land of Enchantment and The City Different. Hope you subscribed to the blog.

  5. Jade
    May 26, 2019 at 9:01 pm #

    The landscape tour sounds really interesting- The chimney rocks look really cool.

  6. Leslie (Downtown Traveler)
    June 1, 2019 at 2:17 pm #

    The Ghost Ranch looks like a cool destination! It’s historical, art-related and offers natural beauty. What more could you ask for?

    • Steve Collins
      June 4, 2019 at 10:07 am #

      Thanks, Leslie - Extremely cool destination for the Georgia O’Keeffe connection but also for geology and archeology. Well worth including in a visit to Santa Fe.

  7. Lauretta
    June 28, 2019 at 10:07 pm #

    Hello, I am visiting Santa Fe by car next month. Have never been to Abiquiu but am a big O’Keefe fan and plan to go there this trip. My question is this: I want to drive to the 4 Corners/Mesa Verde area after Santa Fe. Should I plan on visiting Abiquiu on the way out of Santa Fe on my way to 4 Corners? Or, should I make a day trip to Abiquiu from Santa Fe and then leave for 4 Corners from Santa Fe another day?


    • Steve Collins
      June 29, 2019 at 9:58 am #

      Either option would work. You may feel less pressure time-wise if you do it as two separate days. If The Santa Fe Traveler ( can assist you in any way, it will be our pleasure.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge