You must be signed in to save park lists.
Your Park Lists
add New List
Add Photo
You must be signed in to add photos.
state route ranger badge
New Mexico

New Mexico State Parks

responsive menu icon
USA Parks
New Mexico
Southwest Region
Gila National Forest
start slideshow
Gila National Forest © Zereshk / CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
An entrance sign for the Gila National Forest, along Route 180 in southwestern New Mexico.
Gila National Forest © Gila National Forest / CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Whitewater-Baldy Fire Gila National Forest Wildfire photo by KC Shedden 6/15/2012
Gila National Forest © Gila National Forest / CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Looking SE from Mogollon Baldy on the Gila NF
Availability Search
3005 Camino Del Bosque
Silver City, New Mexico   87825
(lat:33.3748 lon:-108.3759) map location
Email: park email button icon
Popular theory says that the word Gila was derived from a Spanish contraction of Hah-quah-sa-eel, a Yuma Indian word meaning "running water which is salty". The naming of the Gila National Forest is indicative of its interesting history and beauty. The Forest, tucked away in southwestern New Mexico, is a paradise for those seeking solitude and escape from modern society's busy lifestyle.A thunderstorm forms...

Every National Forest offers its own unique beauty. The Gila's beauty is in its diversity of rugged mountains, deep canyons, meadows, and semi-desert country. Elevations range from 4,200 to 10,900 feet and cover four of the six life zones. Flora and fauna are diverse. Ocotillo and cactus are found in the lower elevations, and juniper, pine, aspen, and spruce-fir forests are plentiful in the high mountains. Wildlife such as the black bear, mountain lion, elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, and wild turkey inhabit the Forest while the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and the red-tailed hawk soar in the wind.

The Gila National Forest boasts a rich history of the Mogollon and Apache Indians, Spaniards, Mexicans, ranchers, prospectors and miners. Apache Chiefs Mangas Coloradas, Geronimo, and Victorio, Aldo Leopold: conservationist, ecologist and author of the Sand County Almanac, and renowned lion hunter Ben Lilly are but a few of the personalities from the past that have left their mark in the Gila. Place names like Raw Meat Canyon, Tepee Canyon and Grave Canyon tell the tales of the past.Scenic View over the Blue Range Wilderness

Another unique beauty of the Gila National Forest is its wilderness. The Gila, Aldo Leopold, and Blue Range Wildernesses offer unparallel hiking and horseback riding. The magnificence of these mountainous regions imparts an indescribable feeling of awe and wonderment. Former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas may have captured the feeling when he said, "Wilderness helped preserve man's capacity for wonder ... the power to feel, if not see, the miracles of life, of beauty, and of harmony around us." The Gila Wilderness was established in 1924 as the first designated wilderness in the country.Gila Cliff Dwellings

The San Francisco, Gila, and Mimbres Rivers, the Catwalk, Pueblo Park Campground, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Mogollon Baldy, Castle Rock, Eagle Peak Mountain, Emory Pass, and the Burro Mountains are among the many islands of beauty on the Gila. Other areas of interest include Cooney's Tomb, El Caso Lookout Tower, Beaverhead, Reed's Peak, Frisco Hot Springs and Cherry Creek.

During one of Aldo Leopold's hunting trips into the Gila National Forest he eloquently stated, "We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes ... something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view." Such is the legacy of the Gila; a beautiful and unique forest with majestic mountains; a complex interwoven fabric of all living things.
 Hiking Trailyes
The Gila National Forest offers beautiful camping areas that range widely from low to high elevation, lakeside to forested and primitive to developed. The more developed campgrounds offer electrical hookups and dump stations for RV or trailer camping, while the more primitive offer only a toilet. Most of the campsites tend to be directed toward the more primitive camping experience.

Although the Gila is relatively dry, fishing opportunities can be found in many miles of perennial creeks and rivers as well as in manmade lakes. Some of the more common sport fish found in these waters include Rainbow and Brown Trout, Large and Small Mouth Bass as well as Channel and Flathead Catfish. Many native fish are also found in the streams on the Gila, several of these, such as the Gila Trout are considered threatened or endangered. Recovery efforts are underway to help establish fishable populations of the Gila Trout.

Lake Fishing : Lake fishing on the Gila National Forest is limited to three manmade lakes, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) stock all with rainbow trout in fall, winter and spring months. Quemado lake and Snow lake offer year round trout fishing and Lake Roberts offers trout fishing during the cooler months and warm water fishing for channel catfish and small mouth bass during the summer months. There are an additional three lakes, Bear Canyon Reservoir, Wall Lake, and Bill Evans Lake located adjacent to the Forest that are leased by the NMDGF where the public is welcome to fish. Follow this link to the NM Game and Fish weekly fishing report for lakes in southwestern New Mexico.

Stream Fishing : The Gila National Forest contains many miles of streams that provide both cold and warm water fishing opportunities. Both the Gila River and the San Francisco River along with their many tributaries are located within the Forest. Upper reaches and headwater tributaries of both rivers offer trout fishing, the lower reaches of both rivers offer quality warm water fishing opportunities.

Gila National Forest is


There are thousands of miles of trails in the Gila National Forest. Hundreds of miles of those trails are accessible by mountain bike. Generally, the trails are hilly and rocky, winding through pine forests and open grass lands.

The climate is warm and dry (always carry extra water) and many miles of the trails are open during the winter. During the summer monsoon season dangerous storms can develop in the afternoon; it is best to ride early in the morning.


One of the most pleasurable types of recreation to be enjoyed on the Gila NF is horseback riding.

The Forest Service offers a free brochure "Horse Sense" on tips and helpful information for recreational wilderness horseback riding.

Wilderness Trails : Riding in the wilderness can be challenging since trips are generally longer.

Non Wilderness Trails : The Gila has numerous corrals and trail heads where trailers may be parked.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
June 1 beautiful park by Tarcy Cigarroa
park review stars; one to five We went to visit the indain dewelings in Gila. It was very pleasent and educational. Our son is a cub scout and his rank is webelo. He has chosen gila to do his badge as forester. Can you send us information on the diffrent trees and vegetation,there is in gila. Thank You
June 24 road conditions by Ex NM Tourist
park review stars; one to five We just spend 5 hours of hell on HWY 150 as recommended by the NM Tourism people. By the time we figured out the road was impassible, we could no longer get turned around. Washed away road, boulders, potholes, fallen trees, no guard rails, no signs(leading to two bad turns and being more lost), sliding on gravel, edge of road breaking away under us, almost killed us. What were they thinking!
October 27 surprise at the end of a winding road by lefthand ridgetop roudy
park review stars; one to five I took my granddaughter to the Grand Canyon and Peftified Forest, by way of the Gila Cliff Dwellings. the beauty left us breathless. A dream come true... for we two. The rangers were generous with their time and the people we encountered, were kind. The dwellings, themselves are something we will always remember, and wonder about.
write a review read more reviews
Share On

Nearby Hotels

See our <A HREF="">map</A> for help in getting you there.<br>

state route ranger badge
New Mexico

New Mexico State Parks