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El Rancho Hotel

Hotel or Motel
Hotel El Rancho, Gallup NM – Richie Diesterheft

Driving Directions

General Directions: When approaching from I-40, take exit 22 and turn South onto Ford Dr./Miyamura. The hotel is located on the corner of Route 66 and Ford Dr.

Hotel or Motel Description

The Home of the Movie Stars:

"R.E. Griffith's Hotel El Rancho was built in 1937 as a haven for Hollywood's famous. His well-known brother, D.W. Griffith (director of such classics as "Birth of a Nation"), encouraged using El Rancho as a base for crews and stars on location because of its access to western landscapes and the rustic elegance of the hotel.

El Rancho's elegance included superior service and food of Fred Harvey-trained personnel, accommodations for roughing it in comfort and gaming tables and liquid refreshments in the tradition of the Old West.

Stars arrived in Gallup in the insulated atmosphere of Sante Fe Railway trains. But soon they learned about the frontier in a journey to the El Rancho by wagon, carriage or buggy that met every Santa Fe passenger train. Chauffeur driven limousines arrived from Hollywood on Route 66 for use in the daily trips to the filming locations.

Although Gallup citizens mirrored the nationwide awe of Hollywood idols, direct contact in a hometown setting created a more natural relationship. The local population worked as stand-ins, extras, location employees, delivery boys, guides, stock suppliers and interpreters. Retailers sold everything from toothpaste to Indian jewelry, including, of course, proper cowboy hats. And Gallup become a working holiday away from the Hollywood image. And the distance from radio's Walter Winchell meant no gossip of their lapses from idolized stardom.

Rumors abounded in Gallup about the quantity of alcohol that flowed night and day when some actors were residents of the hotel. According to El Rancho night employees, Errol Flynn worked all day and drank all night. John Wayne usually headed straight for Monument Valley, so the only rumors about his actions circulated the reservation in the Navajo language.

Howard Wilson could have translated those observations, but he didn't. Howard Wilson and Bert Cresto were indispensable in attracting Hollywood studios to Gallup and El Rancho. Not only did they provide general transportation, extras, location and housing arrangements, and interpret the Navajo language, they provided equipment, advice, and filled in as actors on occasion. When Leone Rollie, stand-in for Marilyn Maxwell in "New Mexico" (1950), was assigned to ride a stagecoach in a chase scene along the base of the red rocks, Bert Cresto offered to ride with her. The hair-raising ride at breakneck speed, with Navajos in pursuit, still appears in film and on TV. That stage-coach careening along the edge of the Rio Puerco has become the classic western pursuit. It was shot in one take.

El Rancho was linked to Hollywood and the movie industry from 1940 through 1964. By 1964, the lure of the western hero was fading. Brilliant technicolor vistas were relpacing dramatic, stark images in black and white. The mysterious west by that time was readily available by automobile along Route 66 and the almost completed Interstate 40.

Hollywood's interest in western drama is like the title of the 1989 film shot in Gallup, "Enid is Sleeping." However, Armand Ortega's restored Hotel El Rancho is once again duplicating the star studded years. But this time the stars are travelers along Route 66.

Locally or Family Owned Business Notes

The El Rancho Hotel is owned by Armand Ortega, a notable Indian Jewelry trader and Southwestern rags to riches story, who saved this historic hotel for near demolition. His family operates all the day-to-day services in a manner consistent with its history and authentic story. Mr. Ortega visits the hotel in the early evenings daily to trade with local artists and Native American craftmakers and to check on the overall operations of this historic landmark.

Pet Friendly Notes

Yes, per the El Rancho Hotel's pet policy


Season Open

All Year Round


Rate Range

$75.00 - $250.00


Locally or Family-Owned Business


Breakfast Style Served

Breakfast Not Included

Restaurant & Bar Our restaurant is the perfect place to relax and enjoy some of the finest mexican cuisine in the area. Our bar was recently named as one of the "Best Bars in America" by Esquire Magazine.

Indian Jewelry The El Rancho Ortega's Jewelry Store exhibits some of the finest works of art from local artists, primarily focusing on the works of the Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi.

Swimming Pool Our seasonal outdoor pool is a great place for the kids after a long trip.

Free Wireless Internet With the need to stay connected, we offer free wireless internet access in all of our gathering areas.

Banquet Facilities Whether you are planning a wedding, graduation party, family gathering, or business meeting, we have the perfect space for you.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the El Rancho Hotel exudes the charm and wonder of the Old West. From the Grand Lobby to the 49er bar the El Rancho offers you the opportunity to relive the Old West. Every room at the El Rancho is named after a movie star who stayed here. Whether you are looking for cozy or extravagant, we have a room that can meet your needs. We also offer a workout room, seasonal pool, business center, and wireless internet in the gathering areas.

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