New Mexico’s Gila National Forest is home to the first federally declared wilderness area in the United States. Officials have divided this 3.5-million-acre forest into five different sections with headquarters at Truth or Consequences, Glenwood, Reserve, Quemado, and Mimbres. The San Francisco, Gila, and Mimbres Rivers are fantastic places to go fishing and boating while the Cooney's Tomb, El Caso Lookout Tower, Beaverhead, Reed's Peak, and Cherry Creek areas are terrific hiking destinations. When you visit Gila National Forest, leave time to explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The diversity of elevations makes this forest a unique place to visit because; while lower elevations can be hot and dry, higher elevations often stay cool and wet.
The Black Range Crest Trail is broken into two segments. The most accessible part runs from Emory Pass to Forest Road 886 through thick forest. The second segment runs from Emory Pass towards Hillsboro Peak, and it climbs to the highest elevations of the Black Range. The second segment runs through the dense wilderness.
Length: 36 Miles
The Ladrone Gulch Trail climbs 2,000 feet over the course of three miles to reach the top of Hillsboro Peak. At the top of the peak, climb the observation tower for amazing views of the entire region. Then, descend the east slope until it intersects Trail 127 to get back to your starting point. This trail runs through the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, and dense forest makes some of this trail hard to navigate.
Length: 9.25 Miles
The Apache Creek Interpretative Trail is a short trail through prehistoric rock art interpretive exhibits. Interpretative panels along its edge allow you to understand what you are seeing and when it was made. This trail is very near the Apache Creek Campground.
Length: 0.9 Miles
The Frisco Box Trail near Reserve starts by providing views of unique rock formations. Then, it descends to run along the San Francisco River through a gorge. As you hike further along, the gorge will become narrower before it finally opens about 2.3 miles before the end of this spectacular hike.
Length: 8.3 Miles
The first segment of the Turkey Creek Trail starts at the mouth of Turkey Creek. It runs through a canyon before and after crossing a saddle between Skeleton to Sycamore canyons. Then, it runs from the Diablo Range and into McKenna Park until it meets the West Fork of the Gila River.
Length: 28 Miles
Quemado, Snow Lakes, and Lake Roberts are stocked with trout. You can also go fishing in Bear Canyon Reservoir and Bill Evans Lake. Additionally, the upper reaches of the Gila and San Francisco Rivers are excellent places to go trout fishing while the streams in lower elevations are often good for bass and catfish fishing.
New Mexico has a geocache hidden in each of its counties. The Gila National Forest covers part of Catron County, where the cache is in a secure location that Geronimo and Elfego Baca called home. In Grant County, the cache is near the windmill on Allie Canyon Road Highway 35, north of Membres. In Sierra County, a cache is on Bureau of Land Management land near Highway 152. The cache in Hidalgo County is within 100 feet of a parking area, but you may have to bushwhack your way to get to it. Remember that all caches may not be in their original location or may be completely missing, so be sure to double-check before you head out.
There are also terrific places to see animals in their natural habitats. Almost 350 bird species have been spotted. The forest is home to black bears, mountain lions, elk, and mule deer along with at least 80 other mammals. The most frequently seen mammals are mule deer, javelinas, and squirrels.
The remoteness of many locations in Gila National Forest makes them ideal spots to go stargazing. Special steps have been taken at Cosmic Campground to qualify it to become an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. The nearest significant light pollution to this area is over 40 miles away. Star parties are often held there. Guests must cover their flashlights and camera lenses with red filters, and the use of cellphones is highly discouraged. There are four concrete pads that telescopes can be placed on.
Address: Gila National Forest Headquarters, 3005 E. Camino del Bosque, Silver City, NM 88061
Fee: Entry Fee (per person) There is no entry fee.
Gila National Forest is a unique place where you can go fishing, hiking, and camping. There are beautiful plants and animals to see in their natural habitat. An RV is a convenient and comfortable way to explore all that Gila National Forest has to offer. If you do not have an RV, it is easy to rent one on RVshare.com.