The Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument in New Mexico

June 24, 2014

"Gila Cliff Dwellings" Gila "national park" "new mexico"The Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument lies in the mountainous desert almost five hours west of Cloudcroft. Located near the Morgollon Historic District in Catron County, the Gila is a fascinating look into some of New Mexico’s earliest inhabitants, a tribe of the Mogollon peoples who populated the southwestern United states and northern Mexico.

Thought to have been occupied for around 25 years at the turn of the 14th century, the dwellings were originally formed in the face of the cliffs from volcanic activity, behind thick growths of trees. They provided good shelter, the five caves having been built into 46 rooms; the nearby woods also concealed the dwellings from potentially dangerous passerby. Today, the monument is accessible by hiking about a mile up a trail; you’ll also find a museum and visitor’s center.

"gila cliff dwellings" gila cave "new Mexico"While a five hour drive from Cloudcroft is kind of intimidating, the Mogollon Mountains and Gila River areas offer plenty of other hiking opportunities, as well as more ancient Amerindian sites and river rafting—if you’re staying in Cloudcroft (say at Spruce Cabins, for example) for a week, spending a couple days exploring the sites in the Gila Wilderness is a great addition to a summer vacation in southern New Mexico.