Abiquiu Bucket List
Our Favorite Things to Discover In and Around Abiquiu, New Mexico
Congratulations – if you are reading this you likely have added a stay in Abiquiu to your New Mexico vacation. We are biased, but we don’t believe any trip to New Mexico is complete without spending time in Abiquiu…and not just a day trip…you will need several days to really get to know the history and culture of the area.
We are often asked about our “bucket list” list of things to see and do – so in this blog we will share with you our Top Ten favorites.
1. Abiquiu Driving Tour. Start by taking the Driving Tour of Abiquiu. It will give you a sense of the village and an overview of the history and culture in the area. Drive it at your own pace. You can access the self-guided Abiquiu Driving Tour at this link: https://www.discoverabiquiu.com/post/take-a-self-guided-driving-tour-through-abiquiu
2. Ghost Ranch. Now that you have learned about the village and taken in Poshuouinge Ruins and Santa Rosa de Lima from the Abiquiu driving tour, it’s time to explore the rest of Abiquiu. Our next recommendation is to visit Ghost Ranch, which occupies over 22,000 acres of gorgeous landscape in the Piedre Lumbre basin. Georgia O’Keeffe had her summer home here, and many of her paintings were created on this land. You will need an advance reservation to enter, which you can make online at their website – ghostranch.org. There is much to see here – you can sign up for a tour, a trail ride or a day pass which give you access to the property for the hiking trails and museums. Register for one of their many tours (Landscape Tour, Georgia O’Keeffe Tours, Movie Film Locations Tour, Paleontology Tour) or just visit their two museums: the Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology and the Ruth Hall of Paleontology museum. Ghost Ranch has some of our favorite hiking trails – Kitchen Mesa, Chimney Rock and the Box Canyon. You can read about the history of Ghost Ranch in this wonderful book, Ghost Ranch, by Lesley Poling-Kempes.
3. Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio Tour. O’Keeffe had two homes in Abiquiu, her summer home at Ghost Ranch and her primary home and studio in the village of Abiquiu. You can tour O’Keeffe’s Home and Studio in Abiquiu with advance reservations – book waaaay in advance because these tours sell out quickly and only run during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Due to COVID, tours in 2021 were very limited and are sold out for the rest of 2021. Tours will re-open in March, 2022 – tickets will go on sale in early 2022. (Follow facebook.com/discoverabiquiu to be notified when tickets go on sale.) When O’Keeffe purchased the home in 1945 it was in ruins, and for the next four years she supervised its renovation. She lived in the home from 1949 until 1984. She died in Santa Fe on March 6, 1986, at the age of 98. The O’Keeffe Home and Studio was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1998 and is now part of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The tours start at the O’Keeffe Welcome Center, located at 21120 US-84 in the village of Abiquiu. You can learn more about her homes in Abiquiu through one of my favorite books – Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu.
4. Monastery of Christ in the Desert. This Benedictine monastic community on the Rio Chama in Abiquiu is worth the 13-mile drive down a dirt road. Founded in 1964, the Monastery is located in the beautiful Chama Canyon Wilderness. The drive to the Monastery is one of the most beautiful along the Rio Chama. The monks in this community have the goal of living the contemplative life which St. Benedict, whose Rule is followed, envisioned as a life free from all attachments so that a relationship with God is the central, and even exclusive, relationship. The monastery is a rich part of Abiquiu’s fabric, and welcomes guests and visitors from around the world. The Abbey Church was designed by famous Japanese-American designer George Nakashima. Be sure to visit the gift shop and take in vespers. Read our blog interview with Brother David - #thedesertmonk - from the Monastery for more insight.
5. Plaza Blanca – “The White Place”. One of our favorite spots in the area is Plaza Blanca with its amazing geological formations - limestone cliffs, oddly shaped rocks, 60-foot-high obelisks and spires. The area was made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe who could see the area from her window and painted it numerous times. After the downhill descent, the walk through the area is an easy 1.5 mile stroll – walking through the canyon until the spires are located so close together that you can walk no further. The White Place is striking with the white spires that reach vertically up into the sky, against the blue sky and the surrounding red colors of Abiquiu. Plaza Blanca is located on the property of the Dar-al Islam Education Center and they require advance registration to access the site. Registration is currently closed for 2021 and will reopen in Spring, 2022. Plaza Blanca is both monumental and fragile – care must be taken and visitors should not attempt to climb the rocks.
6. Hiking. There are so many wonderful hiking trails in the Abiquiu area. If you enjoy hiking, you could spend weeks here and explore a new trail every day. Our favorites: hikes at Ghost Ranch, Rim Vista, Red Wash/Copper Canyon, Pedernal, Tsiping, Carson National Forest and Santa Fe National Forest.
7. Abiquiu Lake. Abiquiu Lake is a 5,200-acre glassy, beautiful lake. There is a public beach and boat launch near the Abiquiu dam. The lake is managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. Our favorite part of the lake is down in the Rio Chama Canyon, at the far end of the lake. This is a great lake for kayaking, Stand Up Paddle boarding, boating, fishing, swimming. There is a River Wave below the dam when water releases allow for it. Guests staying at Abiquiu Vacation Homes and The Grand Hacienda B&B have private lakefront access from the owner’s private lakefront property for fishing, swimming and kayaking.
8. Rio Chama Rafting. The Rio Chama is a scenic river above Abiquiu Lake, and is wonderful for easy rafting trips. The Rio Chama, a major tributary of the Rio Grande, flows through the Chama River Canyon Wilderness - a multi-colored sandstone canyon whose walls rise to 1,500 feet above the river as you travel downstream. Day trips on the lower section are also available which last about 5 hours. The river passes through designated wilderness on the upper stretches; the lower section is lightly developed and very scenic. There are several commercial river outfitters who are permitted by the BLM to provide trips to the public. All companies meet strict guidelines for equipment safety and guide experience. You may also take your own (or rented) boat down these rivers.
9. Tsi-p’in-owinge, the Mesa del Pueblo. Visiting Tsi-p'in involves a long drive over a very rough road to reach the trailhead, and then a moderate two mile hike to the top of the mesa top to reach the ancient ruins. Tsi-p’in-owinge is pronounced “Sipping” and translates to “Village at Flaking Stone Mountain”. That flaking stone mountain? Of course, the mighty Cerro Pedernal – which means “Flint Mountain”, and stands guard beside this ancient pueblo ruin. The ruins sit at the top of the mesa, about 7,400 feet up. This pueblo was the largest and northernmost of all the pueblos of the Classical Period, occupied from 1200 to 1325 AD. There are mounds and mounds of rocks carved into brick shapes that were once used in the walls of 400 rooms, 16 kivas and and a central plaza. As many as 1,000 people lived here and likely lived in the cavate dwellings, or cliff dwellings, formed by using niches or caves on the side of the mesa top. Here is a blog on Tsi’pin that you might enjoy. You need a permit to hike to Tsi-p’in-owinge. The permit is free and can be obtained from the Coyote Ranger Station – you can call them at (505) 638-5526 and they will email you the permit.
10. Echo Amphitheater. This is a wonderful place to visit, especially if you have children travelling with you. The natural stone amphitheater in the Carson National Forest was hollowed out of sandstone by ages of erosion and is just down the road from Ghost Ranch. Go there and scream, yell – but just know you will never get the last word in there…..
Day Trips: Besides our Top Ten in Abiquiu, we highly recommend these day trips:
· Puye Cliff Dwellings: National Historic Landmark and home to the ancestors of today’s Santa Clara Pueblo people. The dwellings represent the largest archeological site in the Southwest managed by the Native people whose ancestors once lived here. Several tour options are available for the cliff and cave dwellings with a Santa Clara Pueblo guide. Purchase your tour tickets at the Puye Cliffs Welcome Center (the Valero Gas Station on Highway 30 and Puye Cliffs Road).
· Bandelier National Monument. 12th Century Anasazi cliff dwellings. 33,000 acres of canyon and mesa country.
· Bradbury Science Museum: Science museum at the Los Alamos National Lab, home of the Manhattan Project. Many exhibits revealing nuclear defense history.
· Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project: A wonderful tour through the Wells Petroglyph Preserve. Over 100,000 examples of rock images are estimated to exist on the mesa in addition to other archaeological features. You can only visit with on a guided tour. Read our blog interview with Katherine Wells, founder of the Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project.
Lodging in the Area:
The Grand Hacienda Bed and Breakfast – luxury B&B overlooking Abiquiu Lake
The Casita del Lago – two bedroom, two bath furnished vacation home on Abiquiu Lake
Abiquiu Lake Mesa – one bedroom, one bath vacation home on a mesa overlooking Abiquiu Lake
Studios of Abiquiu Lake – glamping studios, limited amenities, spectacular views
Reference / Suggested Reading:
To learn more, here are links to our favorite books about the area.
Abiquiu: Geologic History by Kirk Kempter
Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby, by Craig Varjabedian
A Painter's Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O'Keeffe: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O'Keeffe, by Margaret Wood
The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion That Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest,
by David Roberts
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