Chimney Rock is 12 mi. n.w. on US 84; watch for the signed turnoff. The signed trailhead is located at the arroyo behind the Ghost Ranch museums and past the Corral Block complex.
This is the most popular of several hiking trails at Ghost Ranch, and deservedly so; it's a stunner. The wide dirt trail starts out at a level pace, with tall, spire-shaped Chimney Rock in the distance. The sere landscape beckons. You'll see drought-tolerant vegetation like cholla, prickly pear cactus, saltbush and piñon pine, brightened in spots by wildflowers growing in sheltered rock crevices.
Soon the trail begins ascending a ridge to the top of a red rock mesa that is within striking distance of Chimney Rock. The climb is moderately strenuous; watch your footing and keep an eye out for the designated markers painted on rocks in order to stay on the trail. After reaching the top of the mesa hikers approach Chimney Rock from behind, getting close enough for a dizzying look at the valley floor below.
Spectacular 360-degree vistas take in the Piedra Lumbre basin, Mt. Pedernal on the western horizon and an array of multicolored sandstone and gypsum formations. The views as you climb from 6,500 to 7,100 feet are absolutely splendid.
Note: The round-trip distance is 3 miles. Hikers should check in at the Ghost Ranch Welcome Center office before and after hiking. Wear hiking boots or non-slip athletic shoes and a hat (there's no shade) and bring water. Do not attempt to climb any of the rock formations or get close to the soft rock edges at the top of the mesa.