Gila Cliff Dwellings

New Mexico

 

A little more than seven hundred years ago, a peaceful people, called the "Mogollon" (mug-ee-yone) by modern archaeologists, sought refuge from marauding enemies and the elements. They built forty rooms within five spacious sandstone cliff caves, located in what is now the heart of western New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, on the edge of the Gila Wilderness. The ruins were designated as a national monument on November 16, 1907.

 

 

The Mogollon band at the Gila cliff dwellings, like Mogollon bands who lived in small groups along river systems as far south as Mexico, appear to have been influenced by the Anasazi who lived to the north, in the Four Corners region, during the same period. The clues lie both in the architecture and the artifacts from the Mogollon sites.

A one mile-long trail leads across the west fork of the Gila River to the Gila Cliff Dwelling caves, which are about one hundred and fifty feet above the canyon floor. Walking through the ruins, it is not difficult to imagine this ancient culture going about its daily routine .

 


Location

From Deming, on Interstate 10 in southwestern New Mexico, follow US 180 north to NM 61, turn right, follow NM 61 to San Lorenzo. Take NM 35 northwest to Lake Roberts, turn north on NM 15 and follow it to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. At San Lorenzo, be sure that you turn onto NM 35, not NM 152. The interchange is confusing.

Alternatively, from Deming, follow US 180 north to Central, turn left on NM 90. Just before you reach Silver City, turn north on NM 15 and follow it north past Lake Roberts to the cliff dwellings.

NM 35 is narrow with some curves. NM 15, while scenic, is narrow and curving. Drive carefully. For either route, the drive from Deming to the cliff dwellings will take about three to three and one-half hours.

Rates & Fees

$5.00 - Day
Free entrance for children 15 and under. Exact change is necessary and is available at the Gila Visitor Center.

Campgrounds

Four Forest Service campgrounds available in the surrounding Gila National Forest, on a first come, first served basis: the Upper Scorpion Campground, Lower Scorpion Campground, Grapevine Campground, and the Forks Campground. Click here for more information on campgrounds.


Hours for the Gila Cliff Dwellings & Visitor Center/Wilderness District Office
Open seven days a week, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the winter and 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Closed on Christmas and New Year's Day.

Facilities / Features

Gila National Forest and the adjacent Gila Wilderness offer camping, fishing, hiking and horseback riding on over one thousand four hundred and ninety miles of scenic trails.

Several hot springs can be reached by a hiking trail.

Accessibility


The visitor center and the "Trails to the Past" (which lead to prehistoric pictographs) are handicapped accessible.

The cliff dwellings are not handicapped accessible because of the steep and winding one-mile trail.

Museums/Stores/Food/Supplies

The small interpretive museum at the visitor center offers books, posters, videos and postcards related to the Mogollon culture and surrounding Gila Wilderness.

Groceries, gasoline and other supplies can be purchased in Silver City or at the small Gila Hot Springs community.

Programs & Events

Excellent interpretive guided tours on weekends and summertime campfire programs are available.

Rules, Regulations & Precautions

Dogs and cats must be kept on leash.


Gila Cliff Dwellings - Photo by Jay W. Sharp

 

Call ahead for winter road conditions (1-505-536-9461). Roads are not plowed for snow on weekends or at night. In all seasons, trailers over twenty feet in length must take the NM 35 route. Watch for flood water and debris running across dips and low spots on roadways during or after heavy rains.

Wear good footwear with substantial soles for hiking on the cliff dwelling or monument trail. The path is natural and quite steep in places.

Take sensible precautions if you are not accustomed to high elevation hiking since it is more strenuous than trekking in the lowlands!

Other rules, regulations and recommendations may be obtained from the visitor center and all Gila Forest Ranger District offices.

by Pam Hendrickson

Contact Information
Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitor Center: 575-536-9461

Hotels/Motels

There are hotels and motels in Silver City, NM with something for every taste and price range. For more information and a complete list. Click Here. (Rates, availability and reservations online)

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