See below for: overview, highlights, images
Cipher Canyon Ranch sits at the foot of Black Mountain, on the west side of Skull Valley, seventeen miles southwest of Prescott, Arizona. The narrow, granite-strewn canyon for which the campus is named shelters a small, perennial stream shaded by native cottonwood and willows. Several seasonal swimming holes line the canyon. At 4200 feet above sea level, Cipher Canyon Ranch enjoys cool, but mild winters and summers more moderate than those of Arizona’s Sonoran desert. Oak and mesquite chaparral and sculptural granite hoodoos combine to create the campus’s rugged landscape, which is home to dozens of species of year-round and migrating birds as well as coyotes, deer, javalina, mountain lion, bobcat, fox, snakes, and other creatures.
The foothills that rise on either side of the canyon are webbed with four miles of pathways and meditational sites, built by the former owners of the property, the Sadhana Society, an interfaith religious organization founded in California in 1968 by the well-known and revered teacher Swami Ramananda. When the Sadhana Society left the property in 2003, they left behind an extensive system of stone pathways, staircases, causeways, standing stones, and named shrines associated with several faith traditions.
Cipher Canyon Ranch was operated for two decades as a multi-use retreat, meditational, and educational center before it became a private residence in 2003. Cipher Canyon Ranch provides a natural setting and quiet community environment. If again opened as a retreat center, guests might include: individuals, practicing professionals in the arts and other disciplines, educational groups, business and civic groups, churches and other spiritual organizations, student interns, and volunteers. Cipher Canyon Ranch seeks to be a sanctuary within the world that prepares those who spend time here to return to the world, renewed and equipped to balance self-reflection, creativity, and service. Overnight accommodations of various kinds could be available, and day use of the pathways and other facilities could also be available to guests not staying on campus.
The campus’s extensive pathways provide opportunities for walking meditation, historically a central practice throughout the fifty-seven acre campus. Many of the shrine sites contain devotional objects, either statuary representing the particular figure that the shrine is named for, or some token meant to provide focus for meditation or thought. The sites also provide texts to read–sometimes books of poetry, sometimes information about the name of the shrine, sometimes words that represent the purpose of the shrine. In this way, the shrines can be used for both educational and contemplative purposes. It is easy to spend the day wandering the pathways and visiting the meditational sites.
Two camping sites have been developed on campus: Hawk House, a simple but very comfortable permanent platform on the top of Sadhana Hill overlooking the canyon, and Canyon Camp, a primitive camping site on the floor of the canyon next to a refreshing seasonal swimming hole. Cipher Canyon borders public lands to the west, and campus pathways access a vast network of hiking and horse trails that lead to nearby pre-historic Mountain Patayan Indian ruins as well as to the summit of Black Mountain and beyond.
In addition to the wild landscapes traversed by its pathways and the vast open spaces beyond, the more developed areas of Cipher Canyon Ranch provide facilities for lodging and community gatherings, group and organizational meetings and retreats, and individual studio space for visiting writers, artists, and other professionals. An extensive organic vegetable garden and greenhouse space not only help feed both permanent and visiting members of the community but also provide internship and other learning opportunities. Service project opportunities could be available in conjunction with the maintenance of both the developed facilities and wild areas of the campus.
The center of activity at Cipher Canyon Ranch is Valley House, a simple, comfortable lodge surrounded by calm garden landscapes that serve as a portal to the campus’s web of meditational pathways. A cluster of other buildings nearby serve a number of uses. Cottonwood House and Chaparral House are small apartment suites for visitors, and Chaparral House offers a dedicated meeting and seminar venue, the Wa-Ya Meeting Room. A workshop provides tools and workspace for facilities maintenance and special projects, and the strawbale Pumphouse serves the domestic and irrigation water needs of the campus. Valley House provides do-it-yourself kitchen and dining facilities for the use of visitors and informal gathering spaces. Total living space at Cipher Canyon Ranch is 2843 square feet. The garage is 576 square feet. The workshop is 384 square feet. The Pumphouse is 144 square feet.
For many years, daily life at Cipher Canyon Ranch has in many ways been akin to what many Norwegians have come to call Friluftsliv, sometimes translated as “open air life.” The campus provides only simple living accommodations. There are no in-room bathroom facilities, and in some cases bathroom facilities are in other buildings. Only Valley House, Cottonwood House, and Chaparral House are special needs accessible. The entire Cipher Canyon Ranch campus has long been smoke and drug free.
“In creation, everything is created perfectly,” wrote Swami Ramanada. “The purpose of the human being is to be a co-creator – to continue this perfection. Humans must try to expand perfection.” Cipher Canyon Ranch is an unusual place invested with the spirit and history of this process. For those who live here, as well as those who simply visit both the developed and wild landscapes of its expansive campus, Cipher Canyon Ranch can provide an opportunity to participate in the co-creation that occurs here, a rich and unfolding experience of pleasure and significance.
Cipher Canyon Ranch sits at the foot of Black Mountain, on the west side of Skull Valley, seventeen miles southwest of the picturesque town of Prescott, Arizona’s former territorial capital. The narrow, granite-strewn canyon for which the campus is named shelters a small, perennial stream shaded by native cottonwood and willows. At 4200 feet above sea level, Cipher Canyon Ranch enjoys cool, but mild winters and summers more moderate than those of Arizona’s Sonoran desert.
- 25 minute drive from Prescott, Arizona
- Located on 57 acres adjacent to Arizona State public lands and near the Prescott National Forest.
- Many recreational opportunities include hiking, mountain biking, climbing, boating
The property includes almost 4 miles of pathways/trails formerly used for walking meditation
- Over 2 dozen view and meditational sites
- 2 designated camping sites
Buildings (total living area—2843 sq ft)
Main house (1984/1993/1996)
- 2267 sq ft
- 4 bedroom/2 bath
- Spacious kitchen open to large dining areas
- Wine cooler
- Wood fireplace
- Laundry room with washer/dryer
- Covered walkways to unattached sleeping quarters
- Several outdoor seating areas
- Panoramic views
Library/office/sleeping quarters (1994)
- 576 sq ft
- Short walk from the main house
- Electric heat
576 sq ft
- 384 sq ft
- Includes Kubota tractor with loader implements
- Includes yard/lawn care tools
- Includes power tools
- 144 sq ft
- Domestic well with pressure tank
- Concrete floor
- Stuccoed strawbale construction
- Domestic well
- Hiking in nearby mountains
- Wildlife viewing
- Fully fenced
- Suitable for livestock
- Large garden area
- Glass greenhouse
- Extensive grounds around building
- Other building sites
- Arizona Public Service power
- Propane heat and central AC
- Telephone & internet ready
- Prescott School District
- Close to basic services in Skull Valley
- Skull Valley Elementary School 1 mile
- Easy highway access
- Close to Granite Basin Recreation Area
- Airport in Prescott