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.
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
Hours of Operation: Open daily, hours at the visitor center and caves vary seasonally; closed Christmas and New Year's Day
Learn about these other national monuments:
To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- New Mexico State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in New Mexico as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.