Located in southwest New Mexico, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument was created to protect Mogollon cliff dwellings in the Gila Wilderness. It is thought that the Mogollon people lived in the region from 1275 into the early 14th century. The monument includes 533 acres and was established in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt through executive proclamation. In the far southern part of Catron County, the monument can be reached by heading north from Silver City, New Mexico for about 37 miles.
The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is home to two prominent ruins as well as a number of smaller sites within the Gila Wilderness. The landscape of the monument has an elevation between 5,700 and 7,300 feet above sea level and follows the Gila River’s branches. Around the ruins, the terrain is rugged and includes canyons with steep sides that have been cut by spring rivers. Visitors will also see mesa and bluff that have Ponderosa pine, Gambel’s oak, Douglas fir, New Mexico juniper, pinon pine, and alligator juniper. Hot springs that are the result of the area’s volcanic history, can be found within the monument.
With a rich history as well as natural beauty, the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a must-visit location for your next RV adventure.
From Albuquerque, take I25 south for 161 miles to exit 63, which is for NM-152. Turn right onto NM-152 S and proceed for 51.1 miles. Next, turn right onto NM-35 N and continue for 27.5 miles. Make a right on NM-15 N and drive for 18.5 miles until arriving at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
Parking is available throughout the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
Public transportation is not available to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
Available year-round, Upper and Lower Scorpion campgrounds and the U.S. Forest Service Campgrounds that are along the West Fork of the Gila River, about half a mile south of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
While there is no drinking water at the campgrounds, it is easy to get from the RV station that is located in the parking area for the Gila Visitor Center, which is about a mile and a half away (2.4 km). Sites are suitable for tent camping as well as trailers and small RV’s. Pits toilets are available and sites offer picnic tables and grills. Camping is first come, first-served.
Open year-round, the Grapevine Campground is located along the East Fork of the Gila River, about five miles south of the National Monument, off of NM State Highway 15 just south of the Gila River Bridge. A U.S. Forest Service campground, sites are primitive and the only water available is that of the river.
Camping is appropriate for tents and first-come, first serve. While the campground lacks amenities, it offers a quiet place to relax and easy access to all of the activities in the area.
Camping is available in the Gila National Forest Surrounding the National Monument. The Forks Campground is open year-round for primitive camping along the Gila River’s West Fork.
Located about five miles south of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, the campground has vault toilets and is suitable for tent-camping only. The campground does not offer any other services; plan to pack in your own water or filter or treat water from the river. Camping is first-come first serve and free of charge.
The Gila National Forest offers a great range in elevation, resulting in a variety of types of vegetation. This means that there is a great diversity in the fauna that reside in the Monument. During your visit, keep your eyes open. You may catch sight of any of the 30 species of fish, 11 species of amphibians, 44 species of reptiles and 84 species of mammals. While some of the species are common, there are some that are rare, listed as endangered, threatened or sensitive, according to the federal government.
The Gila River offers excellent fishing opportunities. The Middle Fork of the Gila River is accessible through the trail system of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and offers a higher brown trout population than other parts of the Gila River system.
Fishing is a great way to relax and enjoy the park’s scenery while possibly reeling in your next meal. There are also smaller tributary streams like Willow, Turkey, and Little Turkey creeks that offer opportunities for fishing.
The area of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument includes a few popular hot springs. Lightfeather Hot Spring is the closest wilderness hot spring, just a 20 minute walk from the Gila Visitor Center. Jordan Hot Spring, which is a six or eight mile hike from the Visitor Center (depending on the trail taken), is considered the area’s most popular. There are also private hot springs in the community of Gila Hot Springs, which is just a four-mile drive from the Monument. The hot springs are a relaxing way to enjoy the area.
Visitors to the Gila Wilderness National Monument can visit the cliff dwellings on their own or join a guided tour. For those who wish to explore on their own, a self-guided brochure, called the Cliff Dweller Companion, is available at no cost.
The trail to the cliff dwellings is open at 9am each day and visitors must start on the trail by 4pm and exit the monument by 5pm. Tours led by Rangers are offered beginning the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and run through the Monday of Labor Day weekend. Tours begin at the cliff dwellings and are a great way to learn more about the history of the area.
Horseback riding is a popular activity in Gila Wilderness National Monument. Two corral/camping sites are available that make excellent places from which to launch your adventure, whether it be for a day or for several. Both offer easy access to popular trails.
Trail #160 leads out of Woody’s Corral and takes you into the southern part of the Wilderness where you can explore on horseback. Expect a few river crossings as you enjoy the fresh air and the area’s majestic scenery.
The Gila Wilderness National Monument includes more than 400 miles of trails that can be explored. This means that there are plenty of opportunities for day hikes for visitors of all skill and experience levels.
You can walk an easy one mile loop with an elevation gain of 180 feet on the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument Trail. Or choose a longer hike like the EE Canyon Loop, which is eight miles long with 970 feet in elevation gain. This trail takes you through a ponderosa pine forest where you will come across rocky outcrops and panoramic views of your surroundings. Any hike you choose will offer the chance to experience the park’s natural beauty.