See the tall sandstone cliffs, water-carved arroyos, and juniper-studded hills that Georgia O’Keeffe fell in love with. Take US 84/285 north of town, then branch onto 84 near Española. Pedernal, a flat-trop thumb of rock that the late Abiquiú-based artist painted again and again, towers above the road. You may recognize other landmarks, too, as you follow the Chama River toward Ghost Ranch, a remote area where O’Keeffe spent her summers. You can get permission to hike through magnificent red-rock country at the retreat center here. Tours of O’Keeffe’s restored adobe hacienda in Abiquiú are arranged by appointment, but book as far in advance as possible.
Nearby attractions include man-made Abiquiú Lake, with seasonal boating, fishing, and swimming. Echo Amphitheater is a natural sandstone echo chamber. Farther up US 84 in Los Ojos, visit the showroom of Tierra Wools, as weaving co-op producing tapestries and other traditional Rio Grande-style woolens. Nearby Heron Lake and the Brazos River provide excellent trout fishing—local outfitters supply guides and great. Chama is the southern terminus of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which runs steam trains along narrow-gauge tracks through alpine backcountry into Colorado.
The most scenic route back to Santa Fe is east from Tierra Amarilla to Taos on US 64, winding through the San Juan Range before descending to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge for a dramatic crossing. (US 64 is devoid of services and sometimes is closed in winter.) If there’s time, you can see the sights of Taos before following US 68 south along the Rio Grande to Española, where you take US 84/285 into Santa Fe. This is about a 250-mile round trip.
Map of North Central New Mexico
#1: West on the Jemez Mountain Trail
#3: North to Taos
#4: East to Las Vegas
#5: South on the Turquoise Trail
Five Santa Fe Trips
Santa Fe, New Mexico