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 you should see a snake, give it a wide berth. Everyone says that they won't bother you if you don't bother them, but their idea of bother may not be yours, so don't take any chances.
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 these fascinating caves. On the late September day when we were here it was also pretty hot, especially on the long shade-less descent from the caves, so in mid-summer it must be even more so. Take plenty of water (the only refreshment allowed on the trail, and the most needed), wear a hat, and go carefully. As an inexperienced hiker I found my trekking pole invaluable on the steepest parts, if a bit if a nuisance on the ladders.
Talking of the ladders, the only one of any length is the descent from cave five, which you can avoid if you’re willing to retrace your steps a little. The ladders are sturdy and stable so shouldn’t present a problem to anyone fit enough to manage the trail itself, but that final one is in full sun and the wood had got surprisingly hot – so much so that I could barely hold it!
If you don’t feel able to walk the full trail you should consider at least going to the viewpoint if you possibly can. It’s about ¼ mile with a few steps in places, so unfortunately not accessible to wheelchair users or anyone with real walking difficulties, but most people should make it that far and be rewarded with at least a distant view of the dwellings.
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 Valley. Even though it is 25 miles longer than Highway 15, it is less winding, wider, more level and easier to travel, therefore it takes about the same amount of time as the shorter route. We went by one highway and came back by the other. Both roads cross over the Continental Divide and both offer spectacular scenery.
If your vehicle, travel trailer, or RV is over 20 feet in length, you should take Highway 35.
The last stretch of road approaching the monument is a steep 10-12% grade for several miles. Save your brakes by using lower gears when driving these steep sections of road. It snows often at these high elevations in winter and the highways approaching the National Monument are not plowed at nights or on weekends.
This article was posted in the news Jan. 15, 2007. It reminds one to take food, and prepare for the worst when you go into the Gila Wilderness. This is not like camping at a state campground in California where there is a store nearby, showers, and firewood cut to buy. This is serious camping.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A camper who became stranded nearly five weeks ago in a national forest because she could not cross a swollen river was rescued Sunday, more than two weeks after the search for her was called off.
A New Mexico National Guard crew waded across the icy Gila River to rescue a dehydrated and weak Carolyn Dorn of South Carolina, who entered the Gila National Forest alone on Dec. 6 for a two-week camping trip.
I would think that if you want to know more about this article you can google Carolyn Dorn and it will pop up.l
The name of this place is Gila Cliff Dwellings and it is located in the Gila Wilderness. On a warm day you can expect that Rattlesnakes and Gila Monsters are taking in the warm sun. When it gets too hot they go under a bush, log, brush, or in a crevise. Therefore, sitting down near these or sticking you hand or foot near them is potential trouble. Look first.
A Gila Monster will bite down and its jaws are powerful. They will hold on as the poison drips into the wound.
The rattlesnake is so quick at striking that you hardly see it. By then it is too late to get away.
These animals are colored so that they blend in with the environment. Always look down as you walk along a trail.
If you do that, you will be safe and have a great time.
To identify a rattlesnake in comparison to a non poisonous one: they have cat eyes, and their cheeks bulge out because this is where the poison is kept.
Especially beware of the young rattlesnakes as they can be more vicious in their behavior.
There are many deer in this area. In the evenings and early mornings they feed along the roads. Slow down when you drive.
The roads have many turns, you never know what is on the road just around the bend. This is not the place to practice driving the Indy 500.
The Gila Wilderness is a scenic area preserved in as natural a condition as possible. These natural conditions can be hazardous to you. Although every effort is made to provide for your safety, you must remain alert and exercise individual caution. The most dangerous thing we encountered was several very slick areas of ice on the trail leading up to the cliffs.
Mexican Wolves, Black Bears, Mountain Lions and Rattlesnakes all make their home in the Gila Wilderness and present a potential danger to people, although encounters are uncommon.
By my own standards (I grew up in Iowa), the road to the National Monument is the worst and scariest I have ever driven. While the road itself is in good condition, it is so steep and winding that my brakes started to overheat going there and I feared going off the road on the way back. Also, my fellow Midwesterners must be reminded that, unlike the flatter places we grew up with, 30 miles on the map does not equal 30 minutes on the road. Don't bother driving up here unless you plan to spend at least one full day at the monument(and without driving back at night!) or you REALLY, REALLY want to see these ruins (which aren't as good as, say, Bandolier or Chaco Canyon). If you do bother, note that the eastern road (from City of Rocks) is easier than the western road (which begins getting bad north of Pinos Altos).
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