Preparing your Trip

The Gila National Forest and Wilderness

Driving west from Kingston, you pass the historic cemetery, and enter the Gila (HE-la) National Forest. One of the largest wild areas in the Southwest, the Gila stretches from high desert to alpine forests. Its unique habitat has been protected since 1899, and the Gila became the world’s first designated Wilderness Area in 1924.

gila-national-forest.jpg.352x198_0_39_15999Teeming with wildlife, this scenic canyon country is home to deer, elk, bear, mountain lion, pronghorn antelope, fox and javelina, as well as a multitude of bird species – from hummingbirds to bald eagles.

In 1937, the Black Range Highway (NM 152) opened these rugged mountains to auto traffic, looping over prairies, through pinon and juniper woods, and up into forests of ponderosa pine, fir and aspen. The highway winds its way up to Emory Pass, where intersects with the Continental Divide Trail.

Be sure to stop here – at the Emory Pass Vista — where a breathtaking view awaits you.

You can stay and stretch your legs along a forest trail to the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, or continue on by car down the mountain and into the heart of the Gila. As you drive, keep a sharp lookout and you may be rewarded with the sight of curious deer at the roadside or a herd of javelina (wild pigs) crossing into the bush.

Favorite destinations in the Gila National Forest include the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, the City of Rocks State Park, Lake Roberts, Silver City, and The Glenwood Catwalk. Rock formations at the park are so unique that they are only known to exist in six other places in the world.

Things to do in the region include basking in local hot springs, hiking, biking, birding, boating, swimming, fishing, golfing, tennis, rockhounding, galleries, concerts, festivals and other activities. Click here for up-to-date cultural events in the area.

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