Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Cliff Dwellings And A Rock City

Rose Valley RV Ranch
Silver City, NM
November 8-15, 2019

Rose Valley RV Ranch came highly recommended by friends Lisa and Mona Liza which made it real easy for us to plan our stay in Silver City.  

It is a quiet park located in the middle of town.  Unbelievably,  there was no road noise, sirens, or horns blowing...just sweet quietness day and night.    

The sites (we had a pull-thru...#72) are very spacious and even better, very private.

The puppies always enjoy a picnic!

And Joe and I always enjoy a sunset!

Gila Wilderness (775,000 acres), located in the Gila National Forest (3.3 million acres of forest, mountains, and pasture lands) was established in 1924.  

It is the "first designated wilderness" area in the world.  And it is no wonder as the area boasts a rich history....Mogollon and Apache Indians, Spaniards, Mexicans, ranchers and miners all lived here and left their mark.  

Names like Raw Meat Canyon, Teepee Canyon and Grave Canyon tell stories of the past.  One such place, Cliff Dweller Canyon was the real draw for us to visit Silver City.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument : November 10 

Around 1276, Puebloan people built cliff dwellings along the fertile Gila River.  They grew corn, beans and squash,  foraged for native plants and hunted for game in the surrounding forests.  These resourceful Puebloan people chose to build their home inside the caves of Cliff Dweller Canyon with rock, mortor, and timbers.   It is unknown why, but around 1300 there were many migrations in the Southwest (probably due to drought) and, like other locations, these cliff dwellings were abandoned.

Gila Cliff Dwellings NM is about 44 miles north of Silver City via NM -15N.  

This 44 miles of curvy, narrow road is part of the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway.  It took an hour and fifty minutes to make the trip each way.  

A nice volunteer met us at the trailhead.  He shared information about the one mile loop hike and the dos and do nots at the dwellings site.   
I loved the "Deposit Gum Here" box!

The trail starts by crossing the West Fork of the Gila River.

And the excitement begins !

The lower section of trail winds around the canyon floor with several more small bridges for the creek crossings.

About 1/4 mile, the trail makes a sharp turn right and from there it becomes a steady climb.  Just past the turn is a clearing and the first glimpse of the dwellings.

There are five natural caves high in the south-facing cave wall. These caves contain over 40 rooms.  There are only a handful of sites like this where visitors can actually step inside the ruins.  The trail meanders through some rooms and past other rooms that are easily viewed using steps or ladders.  Usually rangers are present to answer questions and to insure that no damage is done, but on our visit there wasn't one present. 

The ceiling is black from soot. 

One of the most beautiful picture windows I have ever seen!

So many peep holes...pretty cool to look out them from the inside.

The trail from one cave to the next...

 One last look...

From here, the trail traverses the side of the cliff and descends back to the trailhead/parking lot.

City of Rocks State Park : November 13

City of Rocks was established in 1952.
About 32 miles east of Silver City is a little gem of a state park.  To get there, take US-180 for 26 miles then make a left turn onto NM-61 which leads right to the park entrance.

There is plenty of parking at the Visitor Center which has huge and colorful exhibits explaining how City of Rocks was formed and some of the history about who inhabited the area.
It seems a volcano erupted about 34.9 million years ago forming the rocks in an instant.  Erosion over the past millions of years slowly formed the sculptured columns.

Hiking trails (in several different directions) start at the VC.  A giant lizard greeted us as we headed off to enjoy an easy pace on the City of Rocks loop trail that eventually connects to the Hydra Trail that led us back to the VC.  We knew from the get go this was going to be fun ! 

Look out for the giant lizard...

We discovered that Silver City is a nice stop when traveling south or north in the area.  It has lots to offer for outdoor activities as well as cultural enlightenment.  We barely scratched the surface with our short time there.

Up next, Florida's emerald gulf coast and state parks so stay tuned.  Until then, 


FYI...When returning to Silver City from Gila Cliff Dwellings on NM-15 S, look for a left hand turn onto NM-35 S at about 18.5 to finish out the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Byway.  This will take you by Lake Roberts.  Next turn is on NM-152 S towards Silver City.  This goes by Santa Rita Copper Mine...it is huge!  The folks at Rose Valley are awesome and have lots of maps and info.


  1. You guys really did find some great things to do in the Silver City area. We definitely need to go back!

    1. We liked Silver City Janna. And it’s not that far from your Arizona home!

  2. Great pictures of the Gila Cliff Dwellings. As you say in your post "Happy Trails".

  3. These are all the places I had on my list before we got snowed out. The gentleman from Rose Valley was so nice to call and suggest we might want to cancel since they were having a snow storm. But it is on our travel list for next year!! Thanks for all the suggestions. Love the photo of you and Joe!! Great header!

    1. You will like a Rose Valley Pam. We also wanted to go the Catwalk Recreation area, but missed it because it was cold. Silver City had lots of festivals in town, but none when we were there.

  4. We absolutely loved our stay at Rose Valley and the surrounding area. I found walking through the pretty and quiet cemetery next door to be fascinating, so many different styles and tributes to loved ones there.
    We took the entire Trail of the Mountain Spirits while we were there and explored many interesting turnoffs along the way. Lucky you, no ranger in the Cliff Dwellings themselves. I feel they are best seen and appreciated in silence, don't you?

    1. I love those twisty narrow roads...joe was wishing we were on a Harley! We didn’t have time for any side roads or other hikes...I would love to revisit the area!

  5. It's funny - good friends of ours volunteered at Gila Cliffs over the summer, so they blogged about their experiences meeting tourists at the bottom of that trail and then being up inside the cliffs to answer questions and ensure no one wrecked anything. It's funny seeing your experiences from the other side (and I'm actually amazed they allowed anyone up into the dwellings without supervision... our friends had many stories of poorly behaved tourists...) Anyway, it's on our list. Thanks for the tip about good local camping.

  6. Thanks for sharing your visit to these wonderful ruins!! And very cool rocks too :-)) Not a ladder fan, but I'm glad they've kept the authentic means of traversing the dwellings. Such a great pic of you two!!