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Gila National Forest

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Gila National Forest, NM

About Gila National ForestIn southwestern New Mexico, Gila (HEE-la) National Forest occupies 3,321,000 acres of forest and rangeland. The smaller of its two units extends north from Lordsburg along the Big Burro Mountains. The main unit, north of Silver City, embraces the Black, Mogollon, Tularosa and Diablo mountains. These wild ranges and remote canyons were the stronghold of such Apache warriors as Geronimo and Mangas Coloradas.

Much of the Mogollon Mountains lies within the Gila Wilderness, the first area in the nation to be so designated. Instrumental in its 1924 establishment was Aldo Leopold, the forester and naturalist whose “Sand County Almanac” and other writings have become classics of environmental literature.

A plaque 9 miles south of Glenwood on US 180 at the Aldo Leopold Overlook marks the Leopold Vista Historical Monument. The Gila, Blue Range and Aldo Leopold wilderness areas as well as Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument are north of Silver City.

In the 1870s the region was the center of a mining boom, of which ghost towns and old mine structures are silent reminders. The half-mile-long Catwalk National Recreation Trail passes through the steep walls of Whitewater Canyon. A metal suspension bridge carries hikers across a creek that once provided water to a nearby mill. Now a popular recreation area, it is reached via SR 174 from US 180. A $3 fee per private vehicle is charged to access the Catwalk National Recreation Area.

The 110-mile Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway travels from Silver City east to San Lorenzo, through the Mimbres Valley, down Sapillo Creek, past Clinton P. Anderson Vista to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, and returns to Silver City over the Pinos Altos Range. Overlooks along the byway provide perspective on the magnitude of the cliffs and the surrounding countryside.

There are numerous developed recreation areas in the forest. Stream and lake fishing and big game hunting are available in season.

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Gila National Forest, NM

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