New Mexico Plein Air Painting Sites

Ghost Ranch - Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

Ghost Ranch is where Georgia O'Keeffe used to live before moving to Abiquiu.  It is a Conference Center now but anyone can go there, use the trails and paint or take photos.  Check in at the Visitors Center for further information if you need it.  We painted here in October 2016 and had a fabulous day there.  Bathrooms are available and a small cafe for food and drink.  

To get there, take New Mexico Route 84 west of Abiquiu for about 13 miles - The entrance to Ghost Ranch is on the right and it has a beautiful entrance that is well sign posted.  Highly recommend painting in this amazing spot.  One could paint here for years!

The White Place - Abiquiu - New Mexico

The White Place - Where Georgia O’Keeffe painted some of her famous New Mexico cliff paintings.

This site personally visited and painted by artist: Jean Thomas of California.

Directions: North on 84 through Abiquiu - As you leave Abiquiu, you cross the Rio Chama. After 0.4 miles past the bridge is a right turn onto a county dirt road, Rio Arriba #155. The faded sign here says "Abiquiu Pack Trail." Follow this road .25 miles and turn left onto a very bumpy road. Follow this road  and you will soon see the White cliffs.  

Bring everything you need. No services, water or anything at this spot.

Christ in the Desert Road - Road #151

Just past Ghost Ranch look for NM Route #151 - a dirt and gravel road on the left.  13 miles of the most glorious scenery you can imagine - A monastary is at the end of this road!  One way in and one way out.  Do not attempt this road after heavy rain - you will get stuck!  Better to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle too.  The Chama River flows in this valley - stop at a place called Big Bend and paint and have lunch there.  Lots of trails and wonderful stuff along this road.  Magical!  Another New Mexico winner!

This Note from Liese - traveling and painting solo on her experiences in New Mexico in April 2017

 Hi Sue - In my last week of painting in NM, mostly in the Taos area.  I've been up to the Wild Rivers Rec. Area near Questa, painting at LA Junta campground area which is also a picnic area so enough traffic to feel comfortable being solo. I've also painted in Pilar, there are lots of campground areas with hosts and again enough traffic. Today I went off to Ojo Caliente trails that you access at the spa, wonderful at 7 am.  Just wanted to pass on wonderful places that I hav'nt seen mentioned anywhere. 

 Thinking of driving down to Santa Fe and the Aspen Vista road, 'course it'll be bare trees ....

Happy painting,


Liese - Thanks so much for sharing this update with our readers and other artists.  Suzanne - Editor of

Rio Grande Gorge - Taos, New Mexico

Rio Grande Gorge Overlook, Nr. Taos, New Mexico

My personal favorite Plein Air Painting site in the whole State. The road from Santa Fe to Taos is a distance of about 90 miles - you will be on Highway 68. You drive North of Santa Fe and follow the Rio Grande River most of the way up to Taos.

About 10 miles South of Taos the Rio Grande has eroded an immense gorge through the flat plain. As you crest a high pass the Gorge comes into view on the left side of the highway. There is an area with picnic tables on the right side of the road. This is just before a long decent into the Taos valley. Pull off here and park. You can enter the pinon and sage brush area across the road thru an entrance in the fencing. This is a protected public area and is a magnet for artists. Best time of day to paint here is either early morning or evening light so that shadowing on the Gorge walls gives definition to work with in your composition.

Site Cautions: We do not recommend painting in this area if you are alone - Please go with companions and be alert - for rattlesnakes and other dangers. Wear boots and levis to protect yourself from the environment here which is very rugged. Bring lots of water to drink. No bathroom or drinking water available Watch out for the effects of altitude if you just arrived from sea level.

Santa Fe Plein Air Painting Sites


The Santa Fe River runs through the middle of old Santa Fe - the street that runs parallel is called The Alameda. There is a park with benches and walking trail next to the river. One can easily walk there from any of the Hotels near the Plaza. It is also near Canyon Road which is one of the major art gallery areas in Santa Fe. Lots to paint from landscape to urban scenes and views of Adobe houses.

During the Summer, the Santa Fe River doesn't actually have any water in it but the cottonwood trees are nice and shady and of course beautiful in Fall.

MUSEUM HILL, SANTA FE Take a bus out to Museum Hill - in addition to 4 different wonderful museums there are also great views of Santa Fe from up above town. Lots of gardens, sculpture and many different painting subjects.

Travel between Museum Hill and the Santa Fe Plaza has never been easier. Take the "M" line operated in collaboration with Santa Fe Trails, the city's bus line.

Departures start at 7:15 am from the Sheridan Street station and continue throughout the day for a short 15-minute ride through Santa Fe's beautiful neighborhoods.

Take the New Mexico Rail Runner to Santa Fe, take the Santa Fe Pick-up to Downtown, Sheridan Ave Bus Stop and take the M-Line to Museum Hill.

Complete schedules, a map and fare information can be found online at

DIABLO CANYON - 30 Minutes from Santa Fe

Diablo Canyon is located northwest of Santa Fe - about 30 minutes drive. This is a favorite climbing site for those into rock climbing. The beautiful canyon has steep cliffs with huge boulders strewn along a sandy wash. If you follow the dry wash for about a mile, you will end up at the Rio Grande. Views within the canyon include the amazing cliffs and boulders. Distant views of the Jemez Mountains to the west and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east.

Site Cautions: No Restrooms. No water. Bring everything you need. Plan to paint with a companion.

Directions from Santa Fe:

1. Take NM-599 (Santa Fe Bypass, Relief Route or Veteran's Memorial Highway) to the Camino La Tierra Exit.

2. Go North at the exit toward Calle Nopal/Las Companias.

3. Turn Right at Camino La Tierra (CR-77S) and head northwest for about 2.3 miles.

4. Go slightly to the left at Camino La Tierra (CR-77N) and continue for 2.5 miles.

5. Right onto Old Buckman Rd. a dirt road.

6. Follow the dirt road for about 7.4 miles. You will see the opening of Diablo Canyon on the left (west).

7. Turn Left on the road that heads toward the canyon - it ends at the parking area at the head of the canyon.

Many More Plein Air Painting Sites in New Mexico are coming - Building still in progress

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