Occupied for 5000 years by Native Americans and then by Spanish settlers, New Mexico is known for its extraordinary scenic beauty and rich cultural history. This is the land that has inspired many artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, and continues to inspire visitors from all over the world. Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, one of the joys of New Mexico is continually being surrounded by its majestic desert landscapes, so rich in geological, anthropological, political, and cultural history. There is much to discover here, and nowhere is this more true than in the area around O’Keeffe’s Home and Studio in Abiquiú, and the landscape at Ghost Ranch. The journey there is as important as the destination; here, we offer a few suggestions for a spectacular day trip in northern New Mexico.
The O’Keeffe: Welcome Center
21120 H Highway 84 Abiquiú NM 87510; 505.946.1098
The Welcome Center features an O’Keeffe Museum Store, classroom, amenities, and check-in for tours of the O’Keeffe Home and Studio. The Center serves as a gateway to the Rio Chama valley, with information about O’Keeffe and the rich history and culture of the area.
Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio Tours
21120 U.S. 84, Abiquiú, NM 87510; 505.946.1098; Book a tour
Advance reservations are required for tours of O’Keeffe’s Home and Studio, which remain much as she left it when she moved to Santa Fe, in 1984. Open Tuesday–Saturday, March–November.
The Cultural Atlas of New Mexico, Mobile App
Interactive mobile app that puts New Mexico’s historic and cultural points of interest in the palm of your hand. Designed by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Atlas helps users to plan vacations, weekend getaways, and day trips across New Mexico utilizing simple search functions.
21120 U.S. 84, Abiquiú, NM 87510; 505.685.4378; abiquiuinn.com
Abiquiú Inn features lodging, a restaurant, and a gift shop. Twenty-five charming casitas offer a great base of operations for hiking, fishing, kayaking, sightseeing, and exploring this richly historic land. Ask about special inn rates available to O’Keeffe visitors.
Bode’s General Store
21196 U.S. 84, Abiquiú, NM 87510; 505.685.4422; bodes.com
Bode’s General Store was a frequent stop for Georgia O’Keeffe—she gassed up here. Legions of travelers enjoy this combination café, gas station, grocery store, and local gathering place. Grab a soda, stay for a green-chile cheeseburger, stock up for a hike or a camping trip, or read the locals’ bulletin board.
The White Place
About 2.5 miles on County Road 0155, between U.S. 84 mile markers 213 and 214
The White Place, known as Plaza Blanca in Spanish, offers white cliffs, castles, spires, hoodoos—and a hiking experience like no other. Often described as spiritual, otherworldly, and contemplative, these natural wonders were often painted by O’Keeffe. This geographic marvel is privately owned by the nearby Dar al Islam Mosque. A broad-brimmed hat, good walking shoes, water, and sunscreen are musts.
Proceed on U.S. 84 to Ghost Ranch. As you crest the hill a few miles out of Abiquiú, you’ll see on your left, in the distance, the Cerro Pedernal. Long a muse to O’Keeffe, the looming, flat-topped peak was the subject of many of her paintings, and inspired her to say, “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.”
1708 U.S. 84, Abiquiú, NM 87510; 505.685.4333; ghostranch.org
Ghost Ranch, about 15 miles north of Abiquiú, winds through dramatic, colorful, familiar terrain made famous in paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, who kept a summer home on the property. Today, Ghost Ranch is a 21,000-acre retreat and education center owned by the Presbyterian Church. Sign up for one of several guided tours highlighting sites that Georgia O’Keeffe painted, or explore on your own. Buy a day pass that combines several activities, or stay longer—weeklong workshops and retreats offer an extended experience.
Looming over the landscape of the Chama River Valley is the Cerro Pedernal, made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe’s several paintings of it. Pedernal means flint in Spanish, and the narrow mesa is the westernmost part of the volcanic Jémez Mountains, formed 1.2 to 1.4 million years ago; its highest point is 9,862 feet. The caprock of Pedernal was the source of the chert used by the prehistoric Gallinas people of the area, and is a current favorite of hikers and rock climbers. Georgia O’Keeffe claimed it as “her mountain”; her ashes are scattered there.
Purple Adobe Lavender Farm
1622, Abiquiú, NM 87510; 505.685.0082; purpleadobelavenderfarm.com/
Established in 2004 with the intention of growing the finest organic lavender, Purple Adobe Farm has 15 varieties that come alive with scent each year between July and August. Check online for dates of their annual Lavender in the Valley Festival.
Northern New Mexico Road Trips
One of the joys of northern New Mexico is getting on the road to explore the culture, landscape, art, food, and people. Here are some of our favorite itineraries to get you started—they are just the tip of the iceberg, so use them to explore, or find your own way.
Additional resources to plan your exploration of New Mexico: Meow Wolf’s Visitor’s Guide to New Mexico, New Mexico Tourism, Santa Fe Selection, Tourism Santa Fe, NM Department of Cultural Affairs, and New Mexico Magazine.