Updated: May 17
No other village in the United States has had more influence on the history of fine art or the motion picture industry. While you may have never heard of Abiquiú, you have more than likely watched an action movie filmed here. And the Mother of American Modernism, artist Georgia Totto O’Keeffe, painted many masterpieces inspired by the breathtaking landscape surrounding this picturesque village.
The shores of Abiquiú Lake feature spectacular views and luxury lodging for anyone who wishes to explore the beautiful scenery and attractions around the village. For lodging, check out the adults-only Grand Hacienda Bed and Breakfast, where the views from the windows resemble paintings in an art gallery.
#1. Tour Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio
Georgia O’Keeffe fell in love with Abiquiú and made her home here for 43 years. Her home and studio in Abiquiú is now a historic house museum. It is one of the most important artistic sites in America.
The history of the house dates back to the 1730s, and it is a single-story adobe building. After O’Keeffe purchased the house in 1943, she transformed the property into a complex mixture of modern and old. She retained the adobe walls and traditional flat roof but added huge modern-style windows and skylights to let in lots of light and provide fantastic views of the surrounding landscape that she loved.
On a tour of O’Keeffe’s home, you can see inside the studio where she created so many of her paintings. Over two dozen of her paintings were inspired by features around her home. The house has been a National Historic Landmark since 1998.
New to 2020, there are two additional O'Keeffe tours: a photography tour and a family rate tour.
#2. Visit Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch is the first place Georgia O’Keeffe visited in Abiquiú. She had heard the area was “the best place in the world” and came to check it out for herself. After falling in love at first sight, she began to split her time between New York and New Mexico.
The red rock formations around Ghost Ranch inspired many of O’Keeffe’s famous paintings. Today, the ranch has become a conference center and retreat that is popular with hikers, amateur paleontologists, film enthusiasts, and art lovers.
Over a thousand dinosaur skeletons have been uncovered in a quarry at Ghost Ranch. Most are specimens of one of the earliest dinosaurs, Coelophysis, that lived around 200 million years ago. The Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology at Ghost Ranch contains a collection of Triassic fossils recovered from the area. O’Keeffe admirers might be interested to hear that a new species of Triassic dinosaur discovered at Ghost Ranch in 2006 has been named in her honor — Effigia okeeffeae.
The scenery here has also attracted many filmmakers. Many Hollywood movies, including Red Dawn, Wild Wild West, and Cowboys and Aliens, have been filmed at Ghost Ranch. Motion picture enthusiasts can join tours of the Ranch to visit the filming locations. It’s easy to lose your way here, consider a using a GPS watch or handheld GPS device so you don’t get lost.
#3. Wander through Plaza Blanca
You might be surprised to discover that a mosque is a major attraction near Abiquiú. However, a stunning valley in the Rio Chama Hills called the Plaza Blanca (White Place) is found within the grounds of the Dar Al Islam Education Center and Mosque. Much like Ghost Ranch, this valley features in O’Keeffe’s paintings and has been utilized in movies.
Plaza Blanca is a peaceful and sublime hiking destination. The mosque welcomes visitors who wish to admire the cottonwoods and white rock landscape. You’ll find it off County Road 155 just north of Abiquiú. Watch out for a large wooden gate with the Dar Al Islam sign. Through there you’ll find a car park for hikers.
Remember to stay hydrated here, especially during summer, and use sunblock. Even though this is an amazing valley, it doesn’t see many visitors, so you can enjoy the silence.
#4. Take a rafting trip down the Rio Chama
The beautiful Rio Chama runs right through Abiquiú and is a popular destination for river rafting and kayaking. Several rafting tour organizations operate guided excursions down the Chama. Novice rafters can opt for fun trips down the moderate Class II and Class III rapids, but there are more exhilarating options through the Rio Grande Gorge for those who dare.
The biggest reason to join a rafting adventure is to see the breathtaking walls of the Chama canyon. Yellow, red, and purple stripes are painted across the sandstone cliffs, and ponderosa pines and giant cottonwoods line the shores.
#5. Scream at Echo Amphitheater
Only four miles northwest of Ghost Ranch you’ll find this amazing natural amphitheater. Visitors love to stand atop the cliffs here and shout out aloud to hear the echoes.
Red, vertical stripes of mineral varnish run down the horizontally stratified sandstone cliffs, and these have given rise to a local legend. It is said that in 1861 some settlers were murdered by a band of Navajo warriors. These settlers were executed atop the cliffs, and their blood ran down the sides causing the stains. In retaliation, the US Army is said to have executed ten Navajo men in the same location. The echoes you hear are the tortured cries of the many murdered souls.
Echo Amphitheater is one of the features of the Carson National Forest. This large forest is also an excellent destination for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. The forest is rich in wildlife, including bobcats, cougars, coyotes, foxes, black bears, elk, and mule deer. Carson Forest is known for its songbirds, so keep your ears open and take along some binoculars for watching birds.