El Rancho Hotel signageR.E. “Griff” Griffith built the El Rancho Hotel on Route 66 in Gallup. He was the brother of legendary movie director D.W. Griffith. In addition to a convenient location on the “Mother Road”, the hotel is on Trail of the Ancients Byway, one of the designated New Mexico Scenic Byways.

El Rancho Hotel

R.E. Griff arrived in Gallup in the early 1930s. He fell in love with stark landscapes, the mesas and endless vistas. He returned a few years later to build the hotel. When it opened in 1936, it immediately became a base for movie productions. Both Griff and his brother encouraged movie makers to use El Rancho as a base for film crews and movie stars while on location. It wasn’t a hard sell. The rustic elegance of the hotel and the striking western landscapes were appealing. Furthermore, the El Rancho boasted superior service and accommodations, with staff trained by the famous Fred Harvey Company hotel and restaurant chain.

Hollywood History

During the 1930s and 1940s over 100 westerns were filmed around Gallup, with everyone notable staying at the El Rancho. The guest log includes a lengthy list of iconic stars from, like Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Errol Flynn, Mae West, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, and Humphrey Bogart (among others). Overall, more than 150 movie stars from the golden era of Hollywood stayed stayed at El Rancho. As a result, the rooms are named based on the most well known star to have stayed in that room. Complete list of the Stars that stayed at the El Rancho Hotel.
Though El Rancho was linked to Hollywood and the movie industry until the mid-1960s, the appeal of westerns waned by 1964 and the hotel gradually fell into disrepair. However, a well-known Indian trader in the area, Armand Ortega, bought the hotel. He invested the time and money needed to restore the property to its former glory. His work paid off. The hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. It is, once again, a popular stop for Route 66 travelers.

El Rancho Gallup upstairs balconyThe Property

The El Rancho is the embodiment of the Western Ranch House from the classic westerns. At one point, it was the vibe was distinctly “Wild West”, with patrons enjoying raucous piano playing, gambling, brawling, and drinking. Erroll Flynn was known for riding his horse into the bar when he wanted a drink. Though guests are more law abiding these days, the spirit of the west can be felt when you walk in the doors.

The main entry leads into a square lobby with a crisscross balustrade balcony running around the perimeter of the second-story. The ambiance is distinctly western, part movie set, part hunting lodge. They furnished the lobby with heavy, carved, dark wood furniture. There are Navajo rugs hanging from the balcony, deer head trophies hanging from the walls, and stamped tin lights. At the back of the lobby, there is a walk-in fireplace cove made of brick and random stonework. On each side of the massive fireplace, wooden stairways, made of split logs, wind their way up to the balcony. The balcony encircles the first floor. The walls are packed with history and movie memorabilia from the movie stars and films associated with the property.

This is one of those places where you meet people (if you want). For example, it isn’t unusual for staff to answer questions and chat with guests around the fire in the evening.

Guest Testimonial

Charming Historical Hotel | “The El Rancho opened in 1937 after being specifically built to provide high-quality accommodation for the Hollywood stars who filmed many movies in the area. The lobby is a museum in its own right, filled with photos of the stars, western decor, Native arts, and crafts. The latter can also be found for sale in an onsite high-end gift shop. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there for the ambiance, very friendly staff, good bar, and excellent meals from the restaurant. Anyone who is looking to follow historic ‘Route 66’ or has an interest in Hollywood Westerns should seriously consider making the El Rancho a stop on their tour of the west.”

~ Steven P., Pueblo Colorado

El Rancho Gallup ortega shop in lobbyOrtega Trading

Armand Ortega owns the jewelry store at the El Rancho, as well as the hotel itself. He has been in the jewelry business his entire life. He is a 4th generation trader, working at the family trading post in Holbrook, Arizona as a kid. Today, he is one of the premier traders in the region and his store provides an extensive collection of beautiful, authentic jewelry from Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi artists.

Additionally, hotel guests are in one of the few places where they can literally travel to the communities where the jewelry is made and learn more about the culture and traditions behind the designs.

el rancho hotel pet friendlyAmenities

  • Free WiFi
  • Free Parking
  • Bedroom Comforts
  • Coffee Maker
  • Washer & Dryer
  • Pool
  • Pet friendly

Restaurant & Cantina

The Restaurant at the El Rancho Hotel serves mostly American and New Mexican food, like steaks, burgers, enchiladas, fajitas, and tamales. The cantina has local musicians nightly.

El Rancho Hotel Gallup

1000 E. Highway 66, Gallup, NM 87301
(505) 863-9311

Gallup is approx. 23 miles east of the Arizona border, encircled by Zuni and Hopi Pueblos, as well as the Navajo Nation. As a result, Gallup is one of the best places in the world to buy Native American crafts. They have both the best selection and the best prices.

The El Rancho Hotel is located at 1000 East 66 on the corner of Route 66 and Ford Dr. in Gallup, NM. When approaching from I-40, take exit 22 and turn south onto Ford Drive/Miyamura. The hotel has both overnight accommodations and a restaurant.

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