Let me tell you a little something about this amazing place. It is really… it’s really out there in its own location. This drive through Gila National Forest was really winding and really steep through the mountains. Even in first gear in a Jeep Wrangler, I was having to use the breaks for those crazy curves. And occasionally I’d pull over so other vehicles could fly past. I can’t imagine the havoc they wreaked on their breaks. Try not to be that person. It is a very long drive because of the safe speeds we went, but worth it.
If it’s possible for you, I would suggest camping closer by so you don’t have as long of a drive to get there on your day of visiting. We left quite early from Truth or Consequences, but a closed road took us around it on an even longer route! We would’ve stayed longer and done more hiking if we were able to get there earlier. So I would suggest camping closer by, or getting there in the morning so you have more time to explore the area. There are more unmarked cliff dwellings in the area so those would’ve been cool to hike out to see. Next time for sure!
Getting to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument:
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument – Check ahead for any park alerts
Address: Gila National Forest, Silver City, NM 88061 (I plugged the visitor center into my Google Maps, you can also do the trailhead)
Fees: Free (this used to have an entrance fee, but has since been removed)
This place is so cool! Even though there are cliff dwellings in Utah, I have never been to them (I know, I need to get out there!), so this was a really cool experience for me. There are pit bathrooms here if you’re needing it after that winding ride. There is also a small trailhead center slash gift shop that was open here in mid April. We both bought a few things here and took them back to the Jeep before hitting the trail.
The hike itself isn’t too long, but it’s, as described on the website, moderately strenuous, 1-1.5 hours on average to complete. On the way up, my asthmatic lungs needed to rest for a couple of minutes when we were almost to the top. It wasn’t too bad, though a bit steep with uneven ground and some steps.
You get a glimpse of those amazing cliff dwellings during your hike up, too. It’s really cool.
Approaching these, I just… I mean, it was indescribable. I was in so much awe, and incredibly impressed.
These belonged to the Mogollon people, normally nomadic, but built these incredible structures and lived here about 20 years before moving elsewhere.
These date back to the late 1200’s. How cool is that? Whenever I am traveling in other countries, the age of some of the sites I visit astounds me. In America, our modern history is still so young in comparison. But there is so much to see and learn about if you look beyond it.
I believe you used to be able to climb into some of these, but whether Covid related or preservation, all cliff dwellings were closed to enter. You can still get right up to them and peer inside the windows and really get a good look at the amazing structures. It is an amazing experience even without getting to climb inside of them.
We took our time checking it all out, and only sharing the trail with three other people. We were all courteous of taking turns and not rushing each other. If you end up sharing the trail, please let everyone get their time to see things up close.
The trail down didn’t seem quiet as steep as the one up, but there were still some sharp angles, so be careful going down.
We Stopped at the Trail to the Past at the Lower Scorpion Campground on the drive down to see another small cliff dwelling (that you can go inside) as well as a really large and detailed pictograph panel.
These are short trails and the pictograph panel, though not paved, is smooth enough (dirt/gravel) that you might be able to get a wheelchair there to see them (parks website mentions you can).
We had a long drive to Santa Fe after this, so unfortunately we couldn’t stick around to explore more, but for what we were able to see here, the drive is so worth it!
Have you been to Gila Cliff Dwellings? Were you able to stay a bit closer to maximize your time there? Let me know if you have any lodging suggestions!