Added by Gemina Garland-Lewis
This hike offers expansive views of Pedernal and Georgia O'Keefe country and showcases incredible landscape and colors.
Kitchen Mesa is arguably one of the most beautiful hikes in northern New Mexico. The trailhead starts off from the back end of Ghost Ranch, just north of Abiquiu. Stop in at the visitor's center beforehand to sign-in and pay a small day use fee, then follow the road signs for Kitchen Mesa.
The trail immediately drops down to your right and starts off with a small water crossing (whether or not there's actually water in there will be dependent on the season), then leads you into an open area dotted with cholla cactus. You'll soon come to a set of earth stairs and climb up over a small ridge, then drop back down into the valley floor. The smell of desert sagebrush will surround you as you make your way towards the far mesa.
Climbing toward the mesa, the trail becomes a little bit less well-maintained and steeper. You'll start to scramble over some rocks and search for small cans and/or cairns that denote the trail route. Shortly you'll get to a point where you may be puzzled as to where you are supposed to go, and the answer is up! There's a short vertical slot here that requires a bit of bouldering your way up the trail in order to get to the mesa top - here you'll have your first big views of the area.
The trail turns to the right once you're out of the rock chute and soon has another small incline over a slick rock area that will have you looking for cans/cairns again. Once you're on top of this, you're on Kitchen Mesa and can explore to your heart's content. There are a number of short trails jutting off to different view points with awesome views of Pedernal and Abiquiu Lake to the south. The final section of the mesa looks more like a lunar landscape with its top layer of white rock, and is a great spot to sit down for lunch and chill out. Be mindful of sticking to the trail network while up here so as not to disturb the crytogamic soil, which takes a long time to form (and hardly any to destroy) and is a vital part of the desert ecosystem.
Once you've gotten your fill of the sights (or you just have to drag yourself away to be down before dark), head out the way you came in. Be sure to stop at Atrisco's once you're back in Santa Fe for a well-deserved margarita and enchiladas.
From Santa Fe, follow I84 (St. Francis drive) north for just over an hour to reach Ghost Ranch (when you hit Española there are a few turns at several stoplights you need to make to stay on 84, so just be mindful of road signs). Turn right off 84 when you get to Ghost Ranch and follow the dirt road past what's left of the City Slickers movie set, following signs for the visitor's center.
- 10 essentials
- Lots of water
- Sturdy hiking shoes
- Money for entrance fee at visitor's center
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
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