Ghost Ranch – Box Canyon and Mesa Montosa

Ghost Ranch – Box Canyon and Mesa Montosa Hike
In Ghost Ranch Region

Map File Source:

map Hike Key: H10452
Last Updated: 06/29/2021 12:00am
Last Updated By: Marilyn Fixer
Hike Class: D (Difficult)
Hike Distance: 10 mi
Minimum Elevation: 6520 ft
Elevation Change: 500 ft
Total Uphill: 1350 ft
Total Downhill: 1350 ft
Avg. Grade: %
Route Type: InOut
On Trail:
Paved or Gravel Roads:
GPS Advised:
Drive Distance Round Trip: 248 mi
Drive Time One-Way: 2:15
Hiking Seasons: Spring and Fall
New Mexico Game Unit: 51
Hike Status: In Process


Scenic vistas of the Jemez Mountains, the Rio Chama Canyon, and Abiquiu Lake; view from above of a normally dry waterfall about 200 high at the end of Box Canyon, hike in the canyon floor with yellow and red canyon walls ascending over 1000 ft, and hike along creeks, small waterfalls, and pools.


Trekking poles recommended for rocky sections with steep ascents and descents, and creek crossings, and sun protection and ample water for mesas with little shade.

Trailhead Directions

From Albuquerque, go north on I-25 towards Santa Fe to exit 276 for NM 599 N. Left onto NM 599 and travel north 13 miles on NM 599 to the US-84N and US-285 exit for Espanola. Travel north 22 miles on US-285 to Espanola. In Espanola, follow the signs to US-84. Travel north on US-84 about 36 miles passing through Abiquiu to Ghost Ranch. Turn right and drive 1 mile on the dirt road to the fork and turn left following the signs to the Welcome Center for Ghost Ranch where someone will need to register the group. At the Welcome Center, there is a sign for a suggested donation of 5 dollars per person.

Follow the Ghost Ranch map to the trailhead for Kitchen Mesa and Box Canyon and park there.

Actual Hike

From PARK, proceed through the gate at the trailhead sign and follow the dirt road. In 100 ft, there is a sign on the right for Kitchen Mesa. Continue straight on the dirt road as it skirts the base of a monolith of Entrada Sandstone. At a fork in the road, take the right fork to the bottom of Arroyo del Yeso. Hike upstream crossing the stream many times until you reach a trail juncture at mile 1.2. At this juncture, you can take the trail to the right to hike in Box Canyon, continuing to cross the stream several times. Due to a severe flood several years ago, one is no longer able to hike to the end of the canyon. At a pool and a large boulder field, turn around and return to the trail juncture.

At the trail juncture, take the Upper Camp trail on the right that goes over and around some boulders and begins a steep ascent in another canyon. Small ponds, waterfalls, and seeps on the canyon wall are visible to the left of the trail. Ascend to a sagebrush flat called Mesa Montosa. A viewpoint overlooking the top of Box Canyon will be to the right of the trail. Continue on the trail. The trail will parallel the high cliff of the brown Dakota Sandstone to the left. The trail will then cross again the Arroyo del Yeso before climbing around a knoll. After reaching a low saddle, the trail will begin dropping into the upper Arroyo del Yeso. Before reaching the canyon bottom, bear left, cross the canyon, and climb the opposite canyon wall on an old road. There will be several branches of the trail that climb the hill. The old road contours around a point of Mesa Montosa, then climbs to the mesa top. Look for a road to the right that leads to the point of the mesa. Return to the trail juncture and then to the trailhead.


There is now a $10 user fee to hike on Ghost Ranch. Day visitors are asked to reserve in advance.

Text Author: Diane Owens
Map Author:
Waypoints Author:
Track Author:
Maintainer: Not Assigned
Editor: Marilyn Warrant