Second side trip of the 2019 season. Silver City to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument via New Mexico 15. This is a pretty drive of about 44 miles one way up and over the Continental Divide at 7080 feet then back down to 5800 or so at the Monument. We were greeted by Park Service personnel who collected the fee and gave very good advice on walking the trail and information on what to see. The trail is a 1.1 mile loop that ascends approximately 300 feet. On the other side of the Gila River is the beginning and end of the trail, you can go either direction. The trail left is the “steep climb” through the narrow valley with a stream and lots of shade. The trail to the right is a switchback. low stairway climb in the sun. Peg and I chose to take the steep climb due to the shade. Note that dogs and chewing gum are not allowed across the Gila River, so Scout sat in the truck. The park does have kennels available; however, I chose the truck for Scout. Nice breeze blowing plenty of water and he is very comfortable in his truck.
This is a very nice moderate walk with bridges back and forth across the creek with plenty of places to sit. You can see the dwellings way up on the cliff and where the trail turns to climb the rock there is a nice view point. This is where Peg wisely turned back. From there, it is pretty much 18 stories up of rough rock stairs that take you to the caves. This is not for the faint of heart. In point of fact if you are not in at least average shape then either way up to the caves is a bit much.
The cave dwellings are interesting and just looking around at the lay of the land, available water and other resources it is to see why people chose this site. I left the dwellings via the wooden ladder, which creaked and groaned to the point that I was expecting to be a pile of human waste at the bottom of the cliff! However, I successfully transited the ladder. Following the “easy path” down began with some difficult stone steps with no hand holds or railings, difficult travel. Once past this stretch the trail was a moderate decline via switch backs through the forest fire area with wonderful views of the Gila River.
Gila Cliff dwellings is a nice place and we had a good time. When in the Silver City area, i recommend visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings. However, the traveler needs to be aware that NM 15 is a difficult mountain traverse that climbs up and down close to 2000 feet over the 44 miles of road. There is an 18 mile stretch of narrow road with full 180 degree switch backs with blind curves and few guard rails. This road provides an absolutely stunning view of the surrounding valleys and mountains.
A link to pictures of the trail is below. Enjoy.