4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Gila, Geronimo and More in New Mexico

Visit for the Gila River Festival, 9/13-16.

New Mexico's 700-year-old Gila Cliff Dwellings.
New Mexico's 700-year-old Gila Cliff Dwellings.

Along the Gila River built into five interconnected caves high in a canyon wall, in the 2.7-million-acre Gila National Forest and Wilderness Area, is a 700-year-old Mogollon pueblo designated as the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Although only 47 miles from Silver City, New Mexico, it takes hours to arrive at the dwellings due to the steep-pitched shoulderless road that snakes through the forest where speed limits rarely exceed 40 m.p.h. and herds of cattle free range. The rugged terrain and plunging canyons of this southwestern corner of New Mexico have left the region undeveloped. Be forewarned: for this reason, glorious, unadulterated 360-degree views appear through the trees at nearly every bend.

A view of wild sunflowers from the road in southwestern N.M.

Not surprisingly, two National Scenic Byways lined with belts of wild sunflowers, yellowing aspens and Ponderosa pines transverse the forest, the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway and the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway.

A tributary of the Colorado River, the headwaters of the 650-mile Gila is said to have been the birthplace of Geronimo. The river, incidentally, was also the impetus for 25 German WWII POWs to dig a 178-foot tunnel and escape from the Papago Park Prisoner of War Camp in 1944. Due to the efficiency of the newly constructed Hoover Dam, the riverbed was a dust-filled arroyo and they didn’t get far.

Archeologists have determined that there had been 46 masonry rooms housing up to 15 families in the cliff. Most of the wooden lintels are original, although about 90% of the artifacts that had once been in the dwellings were looted, including several mummified human remains.

The cliff dwellings are not the only ancient ruins within the forest. Overlooking Lake Roberts, one of three manmade reservoirs within the forest, are ruins of a pit house settlement. Ruins have also been located above the cliff and at the base of several sandstone buttes.

The second-most visited site in the Gila National Forest is the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. It's a hanging walkway that retraces a former “catwalk” that ran above a water pipeline feeding a mine. (The catwalk is currently closed due to the Whitewater/Baldy Fire Complex.)

There are numerous campgrounds within the forest and monument, several near natural hot springs, and a few lodges, hotels and B&Bs towards the outer edge of the forest. The extremely affordable Little Toad Creek Inn and Tavern with its attentive and inviting staff, however, is centrally located at the junction of Routes 15 and 35 south of the monument.

Although food as well as spirits may be procured at the downstairs tavern (which will soon be distilling its own whiskey and brewing its own ale), the posh dining room that claims the upper level of the lodge serves an incredible gourmet seasonal menu offering selections like the pecan-encrusted pesto pinwheel pork loin, a slab of succulent lamb drenched in a marsala balsamic reduction, and crispy orange ginger tilapia. The creamy butternut soup was delicate, yet full of flavor, and the Golden Ball of Light, a bulbous blob of vanilla ice cream rolled in roasted coconut flakes and candied lavender, was uniquely delightful.

Although the Tavern hosts live music regularly, it also hosts the forest’s annual Hummingbird Festival, drawing birders from around the globe.

With the eighth-annual Gila River Festival scheduled for September 13-16, staff will gladly connect patrons with local outfitters and tour guides able to tailor your visit according to your particular interests. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance offers the Gila Wilderness Wolf Backpack package, and the ornithologists and conservation biologists at Gila Backcountry Services lead hikers and equestrians on Nature Study Tours. Wild by Nature conducts women-led tours, and WolfHorse Outfitters hosts Native American–led extreme adventures.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

New and old favorites win beer medals, despite pandemic

A virtual Great American Beer Festival shows consistent fondness for San Diego beer
Next Article

Cooler weather just an opening for Pelly's clam chowder

Northwest oysters, local fish, and a sourdough bread bowl in Carlsbad
New Mexico's 700-year-old Gila Cliff Dwellings.
New Mexico's 700-year-old Gila Cliff Dwellings.

Along the Gila River built into five interconnected caves high in a canyon wall, in the 2.7-million-acre Gila National Forest and Wilderness Area, is a 700-year-old Mogollon pueblo designated as the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Although only 47 miles from Silver City, New Mexico, it takes hours to arrive at the dwellings due to the steep-pitched shoulderless road that snakes through the forest where speed limits rarely exceed 40 m.p.h. and herds of cattle free range. The rugged terrain and plunging canyons of this southwestern corner of New Mexico have left the region undeveloped. Be forewarned: for this reason, glorious, unadulterated 360-degree views appear through the trees at nearly every bend.

A view of wild sunflowers from the road in southwestern N.M.

Not surprisingly, two National Scenic Byways lined with belts of wild sunflowers, yellowing aspens and Ponderosa pines transverse the forest, the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway and the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway.

A tributary of the Colorado River, the headwaters of the 650-mile Gila is said to have been the birthplace of Geronimo. The river, incidentally, was also the impetus for 25 German WWII POWs to dig a 178-foot tunnel and escape from the Papago Park Prisoner of War Camp in 1944. Due to the efficiency of the newly constructed Hoover Dam, the riverbed was a dust-filled arroyo and they didn’t get far.

Archeologists have determined that there had been 46 masonry rooms housing up to 15 families in the cliff. Most of the wooden lintels are original, although about 90% of the artifacts that had once been in the dwellings were looted, including several mummified human remains.

The cliff dwellings are not the only ancient ruins within the forest. Overlooking Lake Roberts, one of three manmade reservoirs within the forest, are ruins of a pit house settlement. Ruins have also been located above the cliff and at the base of several sandstone buttes.

The second-most visited site in the Gila National Forest is the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. It's a hanging walkway that retraces a former “catwalk” that ran above a water pipeline feeding a mine. (The catwalk is currently closed due to the Whitewater/Baldy Fire Complex.)

There are numerous campgrounds within the forest and monument, several near natural hot springs, and a few lodges, hotels and B&Bs towards the outer edge of the forest. The extremely affordable Little Toad Creek Inn and Tavern with its attentive and inviting staff, however, is centrally located at the junction of Routes 15 and 35 south of the monument.

Although food as well as spirits may be procured at the downstairs tavern (which will soon be distilling its own whiskey and brewing its own ale), the posh dining room that claims the upper level of the lodge serves an incredible gourmet seasonal menu offering selections like the pecan-encrusted pesto pinwheel pork loin, a slab of succulent lamb drenched in a marsala balsamic reduction, and crispy orange ginger tilapia. The creamy butternut soup was delicate, yet full of flavor, and the Golden Ball of Light, a bulbous blob of vanilla ice cream rolled in roasted coconut flakes and candied lavender, was uniquely delightful.

Although the Tavern hosts live music regularly, it also hosts the forest’s annual Hummingbird Festival, drawing birders from around the globe.

With the eighth-annual Gila River Festival scheduled for September 13-16, staff will gladly connect patrons with local outfitters and tour guides able to tailor your visit according to your particular interests. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance offers the Gila Wilderness Wolf Backpack package, and the ornithologists and conservation biologists at Gila Backcountry Services lead hikers and equestrians on Nature Study Tours. Wild by Nature conducts women-led tours, and WolfHorse Outfitters hosts Native American–led extreme adventures.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Beating back fear of Tijuana, why I keep thinking about Mexico, a cross-border kidnapping

The normalcy of smuggling across the line, party people re-take TJ, deported but not angry
Next Article

New and old favorites win beer medals, despite pandemic

A virtual Great American Beer Festival shows consistent fondness for San Diego beer
Comments
2

Great info, just returned from a trip to Az, Tx and northern NM ,next trip I will take in that part of NM. Leave in a couple of weeks to Canada.Thanks for sharing !!!!!!!!!

Sept. 7, 2012

Thanks for reading, fad44.

Sept. 10, 2012

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close