Hiking Gila Wilderness

We came to the Gila Wilderness in search of ancient cliff dwellings and were pleasantly surprised with so much more.

We camped at the beautiful Lake Roberts campground in our RV, it had electricity and water hookups. It had been a few weeks since we’d stayed at a campground and not just an RV park and we were all happy for the change. As nice as RV parks can be (or not :-o) with their heated pools, hot showers, and laundry facilities, they just don’t compare to a wilderness campground with fresh mountain air, lots of trees, and soft earthen ground.

We love exploring ancient cultures and learning how people used to live. The Gila Cliff Dwellings was a great place to do both. These naturally formed caves are not only positioned just perfectly to provide shelter and safety but are also located just above a year round natural creek. It’s very remote, but beautiful, and because of the temperature differences between the canyons and the cliff top it has varied and abundant wildlife and plant life. 

The last people to occupy the cliff dwellings were the Mogollon from around 1280 – 1300 AD. They are the ones who built the visible walls and structures we see today. It’s estimated that about 40-60 people lived in this community. They ate berries, hunted game, farmed corn, and harvest wild plants like Yucca. No one really knows why they left the cliff dwellings after only 20-30 years, as they had no written language, but their legacy lives on 700 years later in the walls and artifacts they left behind.

One struggle we’ve run into is having too much to see and do. We may camp in a certain area so we’re close to the “main” attraction, but often the campground that we’re staying in is beautiful too and deserving of a day to explore. So we took a day to rest up a little and hike around Lake Roberts. It was an easy hike about 1.5 miles but full of adventures. Ransom got some fishing in (didn’t catch anything), and we saw lots of wildlife (Bald Eagle, Osprey, Bullfrog, Deer, and ton’s of little swallows). Our campsite also backed up to a nice open field which allowed the kids to run around and play games.

On our final day in the Gila Wilderness we decided to take a long two hour drive to The Catwalks. Just for the record two hours for a day trip is a little too long for us. But the Catwalks were pretty incredible. Originally created as just a water pipe running downstream to power the local mill, the CCC upgraded the narrow precarious wooden walkway to something more family friendly. Originally called the Catwalk because you had to have cat like skills to walk it. The engineering is pretty incredible and consists of almost a mile of catwalks anchored into the sheer granite cliff about thirty feet above the water. If you’re ever in the area, it’s a really fun and easy hike.

Our time in the Gila Wilderness was a great experience and nice introduction to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.