Where are we now?
Town and Country RV Park, Roswell, NM
Seeing the Gila Cliff Dwellings at the Gila Forest in New Mexico were on our bucket list. These dwellings up high on a cliff in cave like openings, done by migrating humans many, many years ago, attracted us as a must see this winter break. From information gathered at the Gila visitor center up in the Gila National Forest, we learned that over a thousand years many different groups of people inhabited the region of the Gila River Valley as per archeological evidence. Puebloans of the Mogollon Area built the cliff dwellings here in the upper Gila River, which we went to see last Saturday.
But first I have to tell you about the road we took. From the Rose Valley RV Park in Silver City, it is a short hop; about 5 minutes drive to the New Mexico State Road-15, which ends at the Gila visitor center. A road sign at the bottom of SR-15 said “44 miles, a 2-hour drive” and they weren’t kidding. We drove north through the Gila Mountains on a single lane (sometimes it widened enough for a passing vehicle). The road winds, twists and turns up and down through a beautiful forest, steep hills, sharp curves or switchbacks and suddenly you face oncoming traffic on an extreme narrow curve. It could be a white-knuckle ride and takes 100% concentration and some skill on the steering wheel. Throughout we saw several camping places with erected tents (no RVs) and we saw clearings next to the road where you could stop if you wish to cool your nerves :-)
We encountered several deer on and beside the road, one oncoming pick-up pulling a trailer with lumber, which almost sideswiped us, and only three smaller passenger cars rushing down the mountain on the Saturday morning we drove up. About midway the SR-35 meets the SR-15 and from there the road becomes paved with a passing lane but climbs high through switchbacks into the mountains with fantastic views into the valleys and a scenery I had only seen before on TV. Just alone the drive and the views were a highlight of the day for me.
Filtered water bottle filling station
Once we got to the visitor center we found that there is a small entrance fee unless you have a National Park’s Pass. If you had to purchase a ticket, it had to be obtained at the center. A short drive from there took us to the trailhead parking where Park Rangers on duty at the entrance bridge would check your Pass or ticket and answer questions. Pets were not allowed on the actual trail to the cliff dwellings so we left our two dogs in the truck that we had parked in the shade with the windows open. To get to the cliff dwellings a one-mile loop trail climbs about 200 feet above the canyon floor. We found the trail easy enough and fun to hike up with benches to rest at various levels. We walked over several bridges as the trail winds and crosses a lapping and gurgling mountain stream, which enters the Gila River close by. Gorgeous scenery awaited us while we climbed up to the dwellings.
After looking at all the cliff caves or rooms (40 in total), we came to the end of the dwellings where a ladder is fastened to the cliffs and we had to climb down to hike the return trail. It was fun. Once we got back to our parked truck in the parking lot we drove a little further down the road where there are several rest areas with picnic tables and toilets to have a break and let our dogs roam a bit in the forest.
For the return drive to Silver City we opted to drive via the SR-35, which is paved with passing lane to Mimbres, and then across to Silver City. On the SR-35 we had again beautiful views of the mountains and views overlooking Lake Roberts.
You have probably noticed that we are now in Roswell, NM, so stay tuned for that trip and more pictures…