High desert hiking is wondrous and unique. Ghost Ranch has three distinct trails that will take you through red rocks and hills, to lush green areas of forest and past dinosaur quarries. See breathtaking landscapes along the way. Listen to birds sing. Smell the aroma of sage mingled with juniper and piñon. Come explore the rock formations, flora and fauna at Ghost Ranch.
There is no fee to hike, but we ask for a $3 conservation fee. Also, for safety reasons, we ask that you check-in at our Welcome Center before hiking.
*NOTE: SOME HIKING TRAILS MAY BE CLOSED AT CERTAIN TIMES DUE TO EXTREME FIRE DANGER or MONSOON SEASON FLOODING.
When hiking it should be remembered that the formations are composed primarily of soft and disintegrating sandstone or gypsum. Do not attempt to climb any rock formation or stray from clearly marked trails. Do not hike in arroyos (ditches). Snakes are comparatively rare and most are harmless, but caution should always be exercised. Wear sun protection and carry plenty of water.
Click on the trail map below and view a larger, printable version.
Maps and guides are not necessary to enjoy any of the trails. However, information about the terrain and length of hikes is available at the Welcome Center. The most popular hikes are to Chimney Rock, Box Canyon, and Kitchen Mesa. The Continental Divide Trail also runs through Ghost Ranch. Numbers correspond to locations on the map.
1. Chimney Rock:
The trailhead sign for this most popular hike is located at the arroyo (ditch) behind the Museums and past the Corral Block complex. Cross the arroyo and follow the trail up the ridge. From the top there is an excellent view of the Piedra Lumbre basin. This hike of 1 ½ – 2 hours has wonderful views as the trail climbs from 6,500 to 7,100 feet. (Round trip – 3 miles.)
3. Box Canyon – TI B’UIU’U:
Follow the road to Long House (by car if you wish). Continue past the Kitchen Mesa trail, the hogans and the upper irrigation pond. Follow trail signs up the canyon. At a small pool, cross the arroyo where the trail continues on the right bank, over large rocks to the box of the canyon. For a shorter hike, turn back at the small pond. This hike follows a gently uphill grade from 6,400 to 6,900 feet. (Round trip – 4 miles).
The Camposanto Wall is a sacred place dedicated to the memory of those who have loved Ghost Ranch. It is a place of remembrance that reflects the beauty and serenity of the canyon, while respecting the integrity of the land that surrounds it. It is an enduring testament to the generations whose lives have been enriched by Ghost Ranch. Follow the instructions for the Box Canyon hike, until you reach a barbed wire fence. Go through the opening, immediately turn left and walk for approximately 100 yards.
4. Kitchen Mesa:
Entrada Cliffs above the Dining Hall-The marked trail begins just past the chain across the road at Long House (see Box Canyon guide). The trail goes behind Kitchen Mesa before it ascends to the top. This more difficult hike includes a 15-foot chimney through a cleft in the cliff. The 3-4 hour trip climbs from 6,500 to 7,100 feet. (Round trip – 5 miles).
8. Matrimonial Mesa: PORTION OF TRAIL CLOSED
This short, easy-to-access trail system affords spectacular views of the Ranch, Orphan Mesa and Piedra Lumbre basin. Peace and tranquility can be found just minutes into this hike as you are transported out of the Ranch and into the rolling red mounds at the base of the sandstone cliffs you see from the road. There are a number of trails around and along the top of Matrimonial Mesa which give you the freedom to create your own path. Begin at the trailhead (Matrimonial) on the road into the Ranch across from the High Ropes Course or the trailhead (Cliffside) behind Staff House near the Dining Hall.
2. Pack Memorial: This path climbs the mesa behind Ghost House. A plaque honors Arthur and Phoebe Pack who gave Ghost Ranch to the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1955. From the top there is a good view of the ranch. This is a steep, quick 5-minute walk.
5. Labyrinth, Karesansui (zen Garden), Waterwheel:
Follow the path beyond the Social Center for 150 yards.
6. Mesa Trail:
This begins at the top of the road behind the main office building. This short walk of 30-45 minutes offers good views of the immediate campus as well as distant views of Pedernal and Polvadera. You may return via the Pack Memorial Trail.
9. On A Lark Trail:
This trail begins at the Lark Cabin at the top most end of Upper Mesa. You may begin at the Pack Memorial Trail or any upper mesa access route. Follow a narrow ridge for ¼ mile then switch back up the broader mesa following the cairns (rock piles) to a large boulder at the ridge’s high point (¾ miles at 6,800 feet). Return by the same route. Short and sweet with spectacular views… just for fun!