We spent a few days in the Gila National Forest and had the opportunity to spend an afternoon exploring the Gila Cliff Dwellings. From the visitor center we also learned about a few interesting hikes in the area. Being January with cold, full rivers, we opted to hike one that didn’t involve a major river crossing! Little Bear Canyon was a very cool day hike placing us in the meadows up high and then winding down into the slot canyons. Finally there’s a short clip on our jeep fun. Well fun for Steve and sometimes not so fun for me. For example, when there’s a wide crevice coming into view let’s stop immediately. There’s no need to keep getting closer!

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Scenic View from HWY 15

Visiting for the first time? Start at the visitor center.

Documented back in 1878 by a prospector and in 1907 these Cliff Dwellings of the Mogollon were proclaimed a National Monument.

The site is quite unique as you start along the 1 mile loop trail over the spring fed creek and eventually up inside a dwelling structure from over 700 years ago.

There are about 40 rooms built inside 5 natural caves. They grew corn, beans, and squashed and hunted the area’s game. The structures were about 1280. The Mogollon people came from the north and had moved on by 1300.

Hiking Little Bear Canyon

This is a nice day trip hike over meadows, down into canyons and through slot canyons. It’ll connect you with the Middle Fork River. 9 Miles round trip and took us 5 hours (4 hours hiking + stops and lunch).

At the Junction the canyon exited onto a small area over looking the much larger Middle Fork River. It was an awesome view to be greeted by the Middle Fork River surrounding itself with large towering walls and spires. From here hikers continued across the river and went further into the back country looking to camp at a natural hot springs. We ran into a handful of day hikers and a few backpackers along the trail.

Camping in Gila National Forest

Check out our previous blog post HERE. We have feedback of a few camping options in the area and a video!

Jeep fun in New Mexico

Truck campers are great for getting around and are easier to navigate for site seeing. So why do we tow a Jeep?

  • We mostly boondock on public lands and don’t want to leave our campsite just to go into town
  • Packing up camp and securing everything inside and outside is a chore we’d prefer to do only once every few days when we’re actually moving to a new location
  • There’s little downside on fuel consumption to bring Jeep along
  • Gives us great flexibility to go into town and especially larger cities such as San Antonio where we spent several days site seeing. You can park in a downtown garage!
  • We enjoy spending some time out on jeep trails and seeing more than we can do on foot when we hike
  • For kayaking, sometimes we actually need a vehicle at both the put in and the take out river spots
  • It’s just plain fun

While in New Mexico we got in some jeep fun. This was both in the Gila National Forest and right from our campground and also up near Las Cruces at the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. Enjoy!

Where to Next?

Sadly, it’s time to head back to Southern California for chores followed by a long flight to Hawaii. It’ll be time for some snorkeling, maybe a dive or two and exploring a couple new islands islands! Our time in Gila National Forest was extremely nice and I’m looking forward to another opportunity to camp and hike here again.

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Visit the campsite gallery to preview the camping areas we’ve stayed.