A two-hour drive from Silver City, New Mexico, the Gila Cliff Dwellings provide visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the secluded beauty of this national monument. The Gila Cliff Dwellings offer access to the historic splendor of the dwellings themselves, as well as 3.3 million acres of forest trails and wilderness to explore.
Between 1260 and 1280 C.E., the Tularosa Mogollon people lived within the naturally occurring caves that now make up the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The Mogollons developed a complex society in the area, hunting, trading, and creating pottery that is now preserved within the Gila Trailhead Museum.
Abandoned in the 1300s, these former homes were discovered by European American settlers during the nineteenth-century and explored by archaeologists. The area was even home to a resort established by the Gila Hot Springs, with tours of the dwellings offered to guests.
As early as 1906, efforts were made to preserve this site and the artifacts within it, and by 1933, control of the monument was given to the National Park Service. The Gila Cliff Dwellings is now considered a National Monument.
The Gila Cliff Dwellings have several permanent attractions that draw visitors from around the country.
Gila Trailhead Museum – The Gila Trailhead Museum is located in the Visitor Center. Park rangers are available to help plan hiking routes, while the museum itself details the area’s history and provides information about the previous dwellers, the Mogollon people. Artifacts from the dwellings are also displayed here, and visitors can watch a short informational video about the dwellings and park.
The Dwellings – Visitors of the monument are invited to step into the lives of the Tularosa Mogollon people. Treading carefully, guests can actually enter these dwellings and walk through the rooms of the families that once lived there. The dwellings are accessible by foot to all visitors.
Hot Springs – Accessible by car or foot, hot springs are nearby for visitors looking to relax amidst the beauty of the Gila Cliff Dwellings.
Hiking – Visitors of all experience levels can enjoy hiking through the Gila National Forest and Wilderness. Millions of acres are available to explore, but park rangers can help guests decide how to plan their hikes according to their ability level and desired experience. Hiking is truly the best way to see the beauty of this monument.
Potential visitors are invited to call the Visitor Center for information about guided tours, which vary in availability.
The Gila Cliff Dwellings takes part in the Bureau of Land Management’s Junior Explorer program. This program educates young people about the various lands managed by the BLM. Educational materials and fun booklets guide children through the historical and natural elements of the Gila Cliff Dwellings. This program gives young visitors the tools they need to become respectful visitors of national monuments, while also encouraging them to have fun. Materials can be obtained online or at the Visitor Center.
The park does offer fee waivers for some school visits. Teachers interested in setting up field trips to the park should contact the Visitor Center in advance to schedule their visit and discuss fees.
The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument offers limited special events to small groups of participants. Guests must make reservations in advance for all events.
Moonlit Hikes – When the moon is full, visitors are invited to participate in the park’s full-moon hikes. With the guidance of a park ranger, visitors will tour the cliff dwellings and explore the grounds after dark. Hikes last one hour. Contact the park for a full schedule of events.
Gila Nights Program – The Gila Cliff Dwellings also offer a stargazing event that focuses on the skies above the dwellings. Aided by telescopes, park rangers help visitors explore the night sky above the monument.
Dining and Shopping
The Gila Cliff Dwellings do not offer any dining options, and there are few nearby restaurants. Guests are advised to bring plenty of water to ensure that they do not become exhausted during any hikes. Water availability within the park should not be assumed.
Some packaged food can be purchased at Doc Campbell’s Post (3 miles from the Visitor Center), but rangers recommend that visitors bring their own food. Food or drink, apart from water, are not allowed within the dwellings themselves or on the trail, but picnic tables are offered in several areas of the park.
Located conveniently in the Gila Visitor Center, the park bookstore has a variety of souvenirs for visitors to enjoy.
26 Jim Bradford Trail Mimbres, NM 88049, Phone: 575-536-9461
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