Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

At the edge of the Gila Wilderness, the United States' first designated wilderness area, is the small but intriguing Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Established in 1907, this 533-acre site is jointly run by the National Park Service and the Forest Service.

The 44-mile drive from the town of Silver City to the monument winds through the mountains of southern New Mexico, providing breathtaking views of rugged canyons and wild lands that look much as they did when the ancient Mogollon people built their homes in the cliffs of the Gila River Valley.

The Mogollon people lived in natural caves, open to visitors at the Gila Cliff
Dwellings National Monument.

Visitors can hike throughout the high desert and pine forest of the monument and up to the caves perched 180 feet above the canyon floor. The dwellings, built in the late 1200s in natural caves, contain about 40 rooms. The Mogollon quarried local stone to build the walls.

The Mogollon were farmers who cultivated squash, corn, beans and other crops on the mesa tops and along the river. They are known for the distinctive white pottery they made and decorated with black designs of stylized fish and animals. The Mogollon grew and hunted food, traded with other tribes, and fashioned jewelry and art here. Then, in the early 1300s, they moved from their homes and left for places unknown.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Information

Address: 44 miles north of Silver City on State Hwy 15
Telephone: 505/536-9461
Hours of Operation: Open daily, hours at the visitor center and caves vary seasonally; closed Christmas and New Year's Day
Admission: Free

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To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:



Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.