Borrego Springs, CA

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

As I headed out this morning to go to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, I took US 180 heading northwest out of Deming. It's about a 56 mile drive to Silver City, and then you take NM 15 for 44 miles to the monument. During the first ten miles north of Deming, I decided this should be called the Chili Pepper Highway. Both sides of the road were strewn with red chili peppers. Many 18 wheelers come north from Mexico with truckloads of peppers. Apparently, one of these trucks had a little problem with his load. Can you imagine how surprised the trucker will be when he discovers that a good share of his load has mysteriously disappeared when he gets to his destination?

The drive on NM15 was a surprise for me. It is barely a two lane road through the Gila National Forest with many twists, turns, and steep grades up and down. That 44 miles took two hours to navigate!
The scenery through the National Forest and mountains was spectacular, but slow going.

It was noon before I arrived at the monument, which meant I was about a half hour too late to go on the ranger led hike of the dwellings....dang! I had packed a sandwich, so I ate lunch in the parking lot at the trail head before heading up to the ruins.
The trail is a one mile loop, and begins with a rather steep climb up to the caves.
The trail is not paved and includes many steps, but is a very peaceful hike criss-crossing one of the forks of the Gila River.

There are six caves that were used by the Mogollon (pronounced Muggy-own) culture over 700 years ago.

The Tularoa Mogollon built inside these caves with rock, mortar, and timbers. These people combined hunting and gathering with farming.

What a view these people had out of the caves. While I missed the ranger led tour, it turned out that I had a private tour of the dwellings by the volunteer stationed at the caves. How nice that was! I'm sure she knew as much as the ranger and we took our time exploring the area. What a difference from the tour at Casa Grande.

This was the exit out of the caves, which I navigated without disaster. The biggest problem was how hot the ladder was to the touch. It is made of pine and was really hard to hold onto as it sits out in the afternoon sun.
From there, it was a half mile walk down to the parking area. I'm thinking it's really harder to go down than up! My legs were a little stressed from all of the steps down.
Then it was the twisty, windy, slow going drive back to Deming. I didn't get back until 4:30. Emma was more than happy to get out of her crate. We have done several walks around the park since then to help burn off her energy. ;)
All in all, this was a fantastic day. The monument is well worth the visit, even though it is way off the beaten path.
Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy


  1. have thought about volunteering at Gila Cliffs sometime in the future, but wonder how it would be taking a 34' 5th wheel up those roads. Recommendations? Thanks.

  2. Gypsy,
    If you are patient and calm, I think it could be done. There are lots of curves and grades, but you'd only have to do it once in and once out. Definitely avoid the first twenty miles of NM15 going out of Silver City. It would be dangerous to attempt with a large rig. I would suggest NM 35 to NM 15. A longer route, perhaps, but do-able...slow and steady. Be aware that it is a two hour drive to the grocery store. :)