The first stop on my New Mexico road trip was the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The main attractions here are the well preserved dwellings perched high up the side of a cliff; inside natural caves once lived in by the native Mogollon peoples over 700 years ago. The dwellings had approximately 46 rooms and were called home to only about 50 people.
After a fairly long and slow drive through national forest we made our way to the walking trail, which totals 1 mile in length from start to finish.
The trail is scenic and pretty, but not well protected from the sun. It is hot but we enjoyed the gradual climb up the side of the cliffs which were not steep or strenuous. We share the trail with only a couple other visitors along the way and it is quite peaceful and easy to take the beauty that surrounds us.
Not too much wildlife in the desert but today lizards were in abundance, and this one made his presence known after I unknowingly rested my hand right next to him.
About 15 minutes into the walk we hit a bend in the trail and get our first view of the dwellings yet to come.
Now we make our way up the exposed side of the mountain and find our way to the first caves. They’re well in-tact and it’s easy to see the quality craftsmanship. Although restored since being looted and burned in the early 1900’s these are still 80% original.
After passing the first two caves the third has stairs and an entrance you climb up into, which leads you through caves four and five. There are many well preserved walls, rooms and storage areas inside. It’s quite large and easy to imagine what a great home this would have made. It’s completely sheltered from the hot sun and rain.
After a half hour of exploring and enjoying the cool shade, we climb down a 10 foot wooden ladder to exit the caves and make our way back through the end of the trail.
The entire hike took about 2 hours and was a great time. After previously visiting Montezuma Castle cliff dwelling in Arizona there are similarities between these two sites. The cool thing about this visit was that we are allowed to enter and see inside the dwellings.
Check out the gallery for many more pictures.
Visit the official site for more info: www.nps.gov/gicl/