Just north of Silver City, NM is the Gila National Forest (pronounced Hee-La). It’s this countries first national forest thanks to Aldo Leopold, ecologist and conservationist, who wanted to protect his favorite wildlife area.
You don’t typically think of a forest with tall pine trees in the middle of New Mexico. But here it is.
It covers approximately 3.3 million acres and has elevations that range from 4200 feet to 10,900 feet. More information can be found here.
It’s a beautiful drive that takes you through mountains and snow covered passage ways.
The road is long and very windy through the forest. Do not attempt this road with anything other than your car. Fair warning.
Their is a lot of horse back riding in this area of New Mexico and people bring their horses into the forest for camping trips. I don’t know about you but it looks like a lot of work.
It takes a while to get to the Gila Cliff Dwellings in the forest just because of the twisty road.
But it’s worth the trip. Trust me on this one.
The trail leading up to the cliff dwellings is a nice one. You pass over the Gila River which wasn’t flowing to strongly when we went. The trail can be steep in some places.
You are climbing a cliff face people.
The Trail To The Cliff Dwellings.
It’s nice in the fact that the trail is one way. So you don’t come across people hiking down from the cliff dwellings. You exit from a different path. Nice.
The cliff dwellings were made and occupied by the Mogollon people. They lived in pre-historic times. That’s over 700 years for those of you trying to do the math in your head.
It’s amazing to think that Mogollon people would climb these cliff faces on a daily basis, without the help of the nicely groomed trail from the parks department.
When you step inside the cliff dwellings the view can take your breath away. On the other hand, maybe it was the steep climb and steps.
Pretty spectacular if I do say so myself.
Inside The Cliff Dwellings. Note The Heavy Build Up Of Soot On The Ceiling From Fires.
One of the main rooms in the dwelling you can see years of soot built up on the ceiling from the many fires that were lit to keep the Mogollon’s warm and safe.
Their Is Actually A Basket That Was Found At The Site Filled With Ancient Corn That The Mogollon’s Used To Farm.
The Mogollon people used the Gila River below the cliff side to grow corn and farm the land. With all the work and effort it took to build this place, it’s amazing to learn that they only occupied the cliff dwellings for one generation.
These particular cliff dwellings, from what we understand, are the only cliff dwellings in the country that you are still able to go inside of. All others have been closed off due to vandalism. So sad.
Brenda Touching A Tree That Had Burned In The 2011 Fires That Swept Through The Forest.
On the path down from the dwellings you come across a lot of burned up, dead trees. The Gila National Forest had lost 88,000 acres due to a human started fire.
Tragic to see all those burned up dead trees. Make sure your camp fires are out completely people!
Their were Petroglyphs on the side of the rock wall by the smaller dwelling. The parks department says these date back to pre-historic days. Just like the Cliff Dwellings. Amazing that they are still visible.
So if you are in this area, or even if you are not, make a detour and head to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and take a giant step back in time.
We were tempted to stop & check this out on our way West – looks like we should have!