The Gila National Forest boundaries cover a vast amount of land in southwest New Mexico and the terrain varies greatly. In this place there are arid desert areas, mountain peaks, deep pine forests and some of the most rugged rock outcrop areas that can possibly be imagined. Many ancient native heritage sites exist in this National Forest too and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument certainly is world famous. In fact, the highest percentage of visitors only do a tour of the cliff dwellings, then maybe a scenic drive through the forest on the way home. What this all adds up to is there will be no big crowds practically anywhere else in this vast National Forest Wilderness Area and it will be very easy to make a great escape happen!
The Gila National Forest has a designated wilderness area that is large enough to protect a wide variety of diverse environments. In the Gila Wilderness Area, no vehicles or mountain bikes are allowed and access is limited to hikers, horseback riders or seasonal hunters. The "pack it in-pack it out" primitive camping rules apply for overnighters inside the wilderness area and there are several developed sites to be found around the borders along the roads.
As mentioned earlier, the terrain varies greatly in the Gila National Forest and this wilderness area certainly does offer many challenges to overcome. The jagged rock outcrop mountainsides in this region do require rock climbing skills to overcome and the thick forests are deep enough to get lost in forever. Careful planning and reliable navigation is required for deep back country excursions. There are natural springs and creeks throughout these mountains, which is a real plus for survivalists and long distance hikers.
For those who seek an easier going approach, there are plenty of activity options along the roads that border upon the Gila Wilderness. There are picturesque picnic areas near creeks and rock climbing areas that offer plenty to do. Rock and mineral collecting is a pastime in this region, but checking the rules at the National Forest website is best to do before breaking out the rock pick. Even just taking a scenic drive will be a rewarding experience and there is nearly always some wildlife to see. The Gila National Forest Wilderness Area definitely offers plenty of breathing room in a pristine environment and this is the best reason to make the plan happen!
Leave no trace!
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