Ghost Ranch is simply stunning with tan to red rock formations of mainly soft disintegrating sandstone and gypsum. I could easily see why artist Georgia O’Keeffe spent so many hours painting the landscape. While staying at Ghost Ranch for a night, I had to get in a hike. So off I went on the Chimney Rock trail at 7:30am. It was a little chilly that morning I decided to let the sun come a bit. What I didn’t know when I started was that I would have the entire trail and all of its glorious views completely to myself.
From the Corral Block complex, I passed through the trailhead archway, crossed over an arroyo, and quickly climbed up the ridge. That first part will get you breathing a little heavier quick!
From there it’s hiking a ridge, with a gradual incline. While admiring the gnarly trees, I couldn’t help but think of all the wind and harsh conditions those trees have weathered. I was also enjoying the panoramic of the Piedra Lumbre basin, which would only get better later in the hike.
As you start to climb the right side of the mesa, the trail get rockier and steeper. You have an elevation change of about 600 feet on this trail as you climb from 6,500 feet at the trailhead to 7,100 on top of the mesa. Most of that climb is done in this section. I enjoyed listening to the bird chatter and watching the colors of the rocks change as the sun continued to rise over the ranch. On this section of the train, you lose the vista views, but not for long. The trail does a series of short switchbacks and before you know it, you’re on top of the mesa.
All I could say was “Wow!” It’s a take your breath away kind of view.
Once on top of the mesa, you’re back on fairly flat ground as you continue hiking to the viewpoint of Chimney Rock. Word of caution – don’t get close to the edge, it’s a long way down. Just as I got to the viewpoint, a raven perched itself on top of Chimney Rock. Because of movies and books, ravens often get a bad rap because of their trickster qualities, but to Native Americans ravens also symbolize change or transformation. It got me thinking about what’s the next change in my journey. Since I had the top of the mesa to myself I stayed up there for about 20 minutes before heading back down. You want shoes with good traction on the trail, especially for the stretch as you start back down the mesa. I took about 3 steps to hike back down, and turned around for one last panoramic view from the top. Once through the steep section and back on the ridge line, I noticed the view hiking back down is great too. Roundtrip the hike is 3 miles. I did it, including my 20-minute time on top, in about an hour and forty minutes. I wasn’t rushing and took time taking lots of pictures and videos. When you do the hike, I promise you’ll be snapping away too!
You are fully exposed the whole time on this hike so make sure you’re wearing sunscreen, sun glasses and a hat along with hiking with water. You don’t have to be an overnight guest of the ranch to do the hike. Day visitors are welcome to Ghost Ranch. There is a $5 conservation fee you need to pay at the Welcome Center when you check in as a day visitor. Ghost Ranch is about 40 miles northwest of Santa Fee and 13 miles outside of the tiny town of Abiquiu. Enjoy hiking in red rock country!