America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico

It would be one of the first native national sites signed into Federal protection when President Theodore Roosevelt, using presidential proclamation through the Antiquities Act, established 533 acres of the Gila Cliff Dwellings on November 16, 1907. Now two significant dwelling sites of the Mimbres Culture and the Mogollon people, with several smaller sites, were preserved for generations to come and witness. Cliff Dweller Canyon has five caves with forty-six rooms. The TJ Ruins overlook the Gila River. Nobody knows why they were abandoned, but today, you can take the Cliff Dwellers trail to witness how the indigenous people lived from 1275 for several generations. Image above: Gila Cliff Dwelling, 2012, Rociomcoss. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons via license C.C. 4.0.

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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Gila Cliff Dwellings 1914

Gila Cliff Dwellings NM, New Mexico

While the two main ruins, Cliff Dwellers and TJ, are the main stars of the attractions around Gila, there are more sites to witness. First, smaller caves like Javalina House, West Fork Ruin, and the eleven room Cosgrove Ruin. The Visitor Center is located near the TJ Ruins and is run together between the National Park Service and the National Forest Service, as their site, the Gila National Forest, basically surrounds the monument.

For most, the Cliff Dwellers Trail, which crosses the stream at some points, is the highlight of their tour. It rises from the canyon floor, 180 feet in elevation, to near 6,000 feet above sea level. Take plenty of water and make sure you're capable of making that hike. For those that can not climb that far, about 1/4 mile into the hike you can see the cliff dwellings on the hillside above. They can be visited by guided or self-guided tour.

Image above: Gila Cliff Dwellings, 1914. Courtesy National Park Service. Below: Interior view of Cave 4, 2010. Courtesy National Park Service.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Where Is It

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument lists its mailing address as 26 Jim Bradford Trail, Mimbres, NM 88049. It is not near any of the major cities, located forty-five miles north on Route 15 from Silver City. It is nearly a five hour drive from Albuquerque, 258 miles, and 155 miles northwest of Las Cruces.

What is There Now

Gila Cliff Dwellings NM

Besides the cliff dwellings along the Cliff Dweller Trail, the park has a Visitor Center with small museum, park film, orientation, and facilities, plus a second building called the Trailhead Museum two miles north on Highway 15. That museum includes a bookstore, picnic tables, and vault toilets. A second section of the park is east of the main entrance, but to visit, you must drive through the Gila National Forest to get there.

There are two picnic areas near the Visitor Center and Trailhad Museum. There are no camping facilities at the monument, but there are four campgrounds nearby in Gila National Forest.

When Open and How Much

The Visitor Center, Cliff Dweller Trail, and contact station are open daily, except major holidays, although there is currently short staffing due to the pandemic. Call ahead to make sure of the situation that day. There are guided tours some days and no fee to enter the monument. The Gila Wilderness and Gila National Forest trails, including corral facilities, are open daily with no restrictions.

Fees subject to change.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Gila National Forest

History Nearby

There's so many attractions in the same genre as Gila Cliff Dwellings in this part of the southwest, it's hard to name them all. Then when you add in Carlsbad Caverns, Old Town Albuquerque, and White Sands, you're starting to see New Mexico as much more than a place of sand and cactus.

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