Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Travel Guide

  • Collared Crevice Spiny Lizard
    Collared Crevice Spiny Lizard
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  • Gila Cliff Dwellings
    Gila Cliff Dwellings
    by toonsarah
  • Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
    by toonsarah

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Highlights

  • Pro
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    toonsarah says…

     You can get up close and personal with the dwellings ... 

  • Con
    toonsarah profile photo

    toonsarah says…

     ... but you will need to be fairly fit to do so 

  • In a nutshell
    toonsarah profile photo

    toonsarah says…

     A strong sense of the past lingers here 

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Things to Do

  • The path to the dwellings

    After checking out the Visitor Centre you will need to return to your vehicle and drive the two miles to the main parking lot for the dwellings themselves. It is not possible to view the cliff dwellings from the road so you will need to be able to walk a short-ish distance even to see them from a distance. Before you set out a ranger will give you...

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  • Exploring the caves

    What makes the Gila Cliff Dwellings special is not their size (several other places, such as Bandelier or Chaco Canyon have bigger groupings) but the fact that you can explore inside the caves and buildings, and can do so if you want to on your own. This makes it easier, I think, to conjure up images of the people who once lived here and to imagine...

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  • Visitor Centre

    Before driving to the cliff dwellings themselves, do make the short detour to the Visitor Centre. There are interesting displays of Mogollon artefacts from the Gila Cliff Dwellings and surrounding area and an exhibit on the Chiricahua Apache who consider the wilderness to be their homeland. There’s also a video showing what life may have been like...

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  • I Dare you to climb up

    Actually climbing down is worse.HA HA. Those Indians had real faith in those leather bindings and their handiwork.

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  • Natural History Exhibits

    There is a building containing natural histort exhibits in the parking area for the Cliff Dwellings Trail.

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  • Views From the Cliff Dwellings

    The views from the cliff dwellings are very nice and are probably very similar to the view in the 1200s.

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  • Cliff Dwellings

    The cave dwellings were built by the Mogollon People around 1276. these ruins indicate a lot of contact between the Mogollon and other peoples. Pottery used by the Mimbres People were found near the dwellings as were feathers from birds indigenous to Central America. The Mogollon also used t shaped doors common to other groups.

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  • Gila Creek and Geronimo

    The park includes part of Gila Creek. the famous Apache, Geronimo, was born near the headwaters of Gila Creek in the early 1820s.

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  • Inside the Cliff Dwellings

    You can get close to the ruins in caves 1 and 2, and can actually enter caves 3 through 5. Here is some of what you will see when you look inside or enter the caves.

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  • Cliff Dwellings Trail

    The trail leading to the cliff dwellings is a 1 mile loop trail. There is a viewpoint for the dwellings at the 1/4 mile mark that is easy to get to. I saw a lady in a knee brace do it. The trail gets pretty steep and rocky after that point. If you climb up into the dwellings you will ahve to climb down a wooden ladder or backtrack.

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  • Geronimo Monument

    The famous Apache, Geronimo, was born near the headwaters of Gila Creek in the early 1820s. There is a small monument to him in the parking area near the visitors center.

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  • Visitors Center

    Your trip should begin with a stop at the visitors center. Her you can pay your fee of $3 per individual or $10 per family, and collect a map of the park and any other brochures you may need. If you do not need any information about the park, you can also pay the entrance fee at a self-pay station.Please note that although the park is only 44 miles...

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  • Hike up the the dwellings

    There is a main parking lot where you will leave your vehicle. The park has placed a small building where there is a display of animals, and plant life with explanations. Be sure and go in here before hiking up to the ruins. There will be volunteers at the beginning of the trail who will explain where you will be going and the difficulty. This hike...

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  • Native American History

    The road goes directly to the Ranger Station. When you stop at the Ranger Station/Museum you will see a monument to Geronimo. The museum is free, and there is a great book store there. There are numerous books available for purchase in the museum which will describe the history of this famous Apache Chief.This land where you will be standing was...

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  • Pictographs

    A pictograph, or pictogram, is a figure which is either painted or drawn while a petroglyph is one which is scratched or carved into the surface of a rock. On the walls of the Gila Cliff Dwellings are a small number of pictographs, ancient symbols which are a forerunner to modern writing. It is not known whether the pictographs found here were...

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  • Ladder to the Trail Back Down the Cliffs

    The cliff dwellers used rustic wooden ladders such as the one pictured here to climb up to or down from their homes. On the loop trail, the ascent is made by way of a set of stairs, and the descent by this ladder. Those who do not want to climb down the ladder may retrace their steps and go back down the stairs. From here the trail loops a...

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  • View from the Cliff Dwelling

    We thought the view of the canyon from the cliff dwellings was stunning. While we were inside, the light rain ended and fog began to lift from the valley floor. This was an everyday sight for the cliff dwellers, who lived here nestled in their comfortable home, above a rich and beautiful river, for almost two generations.We pondered their fate. Why...

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  • Outside Terraces

    In good weather, the Mogollon performed many tasks on the outside ledges in front of their dwellings. We know that these people made cotton cloth, plaited sandals from yucca leaves, wove mats and baskets, painted designs on clay pots and jars, and fashioned jewelry out of shells and feathers. Making and repairing tools for farming, and hunting was...

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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Restaurants

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    Grey Feathers--Friendly folks, reasonable prices

    by painterdave Written Nov 4, 2006

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    One hour from the nearest gas station, then nearest town, you would not expect food that is tasty, presented well and so many choices.
    If you like barbecue beef sandwiches, this is the place. They make their own sauce.
    Breakfast is also served.

    Favorite Dish: Great Pie!

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    • Family Travel

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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Transportation

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    by toonsarah Updated Oct 23, 2011

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    The only road to the cliff dwellings is Highway 15. It is a very winding and for the most part narrow road – the stretch between Pinos Altos and the Highway 35 turning in particular, with no central stripe. If you drive the 43 miles from Silver City you will see a sign soon after leaving town, warning you that the journey time to the cliffs is about two hours. Don’t ignore this. It may be only 43 miles but at the speed you will need to drive this road (SLOW) it will take close to two hours.

    This section of Highway 15 is not recommended for RVs over 25 feet or trailers over 20 feet. You need to use Highway 35 as an alternate route to avoid the most “adventurous” section of Highway 15 if you’re driving one of these, or if you’re nervous about narrow roads. But if you don’t mind giving it a go, this is really a lovely drive with lots of stunning views along the way.

    If you don’t have a car then unfortunately you’re going to find the Gila Cliff Dwellings pretty difficult to get to. There is no public transport and I haven’t seen anything to suggest that there are any organised tours either. Your best bet would probably be to ask around in Silver City (perhaps where you are staying or in the friendly Buffalo Bar) to see if anyone is heading this way and would like a passenger willing to pay towards gas ;-)

    My photo shows a typical view from Highway 15.

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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Warnings and Dangers

  • Watch out for rattlers

    We didn't come across any snakes here but the warning signs are there for a reason. This is rattlesanke country. So watch where you are walking and stay on the paths - certainly you should avoid walking anywhere where you can't see the ground in front of you. It's a good idea to make a noise as you walk too, so you don't take a snake by surprise.If...

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  • Accessibility

    The trail to the cliff dwellings, which is the only way to view them, is described as being a mile in length, but we felt that it was probably longer than this, though it’s hard to judge when you’re stopping frequently – either to catch your breath on the steep parts, to take photos of the fantastic views in places, or to explore the interior of...

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  • A Very Remote Setting in the Gila...

    This is more of a forewarning than a danger. From Silver City, the closest town, it is 44 miles to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument via NM-15, however the travel time is approximately two hours due to a narrow road over twisting and winding mountain terrain. An alternative route from Silver City is along NM-35 and goes through the Mimbres...

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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Off The Beaten Path

  • Lake Roberts

    If you take Highway 35 on your way either too or from the Gila Cliff Dwellings you might like to stop off at lovely Lake Roberts, its deep blue waters a surprising sight in this rocky landscape. The lake was created in the early 1960s by damming Sapillo Creek, but it nestles among the pines in avery natural-looking wayThis is a good spot for a...

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  • The Last County in New Mexico

    Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is REALLY off the beaten path, with only one dead-end, narrow, steep, twisting mountain road leading in and out. Just a couple of miles before we got to the cliff dwellings, we crossed the Catron County Line, which was a real personal milestone for me. With it I have now "collected" all of the 33 counties in...

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  • Gila National Forest and Wilderness

    Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is surrounded by the Gila National Forest and the the Gila Wilderness. The National Forest occupies 3,521,000 acres of forest and rangeland and embraces the Big Burro, Black, Mogollon Tularosa and Diablo mountains. Elevation range from 4,000 feet in the desert to 11,000 feet at Whitewater Baldy.Much of the...

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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Sports & Outdoors

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    A Gila National Forest Trailhead Marker

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Jan 2, 2005

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    The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and the surrounding National Forest and Wilderness area offers almost limitless opportunities for the casual hiker or serious backpacker. There are literally hundreds of miles of trails which lead from the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert to the brink of Alpine Tundra, through 4 of earth's 6 life zones.

    Two of the better known trails are the historic one-mile-long Catwalk National Recreation Trail and also a portion of the Continential Divide National Scenic Trail, which stretches along the backbone of America all the way from Canada to Mexico.

    For a map and descriptions of the trails contact the Gila National Forest through the web link below.

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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Favorites

  • Remote and Unique

    These cliff dwellings are a miniature version of Mesa Verde National Monument. What makes them unique is that there are far few visitors due to where these cliff dwellings are located.Surrounding the cliff dwellings is the Gila Wilderness. Don't get lost in this place--they may not find you!Try to visit in the Fall, the weather at that time is...

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  • Headwaters of the Gila River

    The Gila River rises in the pinyon and spruce forests of the Elk Mountains near the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The river, draining 58,000 square miles (150,000 sq km) flows 630 miles (1,014 km) west and southwest over desert land to the Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona.The Gila's chief tributaries are the San Francisco, which it...

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  • Birthplace of Geronimo

    After the farming indians of the Mogollon culture left this region 700 years ago, the area may have been uninhabited for a period of years. In any case, these rugged canyons and mountains at the headwaters of the Gila River, later became the stronghold of nomadic bands of Apaches led by such warriors as Geronimo and Mangas Coloradas. This monument...

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Explore Deeper into Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Plan Ahead
Warnings and Dangers
Snakes and Gila Monsters
Warnings and Dangers
Drive with care
Warnings and Dangers
Construction Techniques
Things to Do
Roof Beams or Vigas
Things to Do
Arriving at the Cliff Dwellings
Things to Do
First View of the Cliff Dwellings
Things to Do
The Cliffs
Things to Do
Gila Cliff Dwellings Trail
Things to Do
Cliff Dwellings Trail Head
Things to Do
Wilderness Areas are WILD!
Warnings and Dangers
Visitor Center
Things to Do
One Bear of a Drive
Warnings and Dangers
Map of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

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