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DAY HIKING FROM SILVER CITY NEW MEXICO
In the Covid winter 2020-2021, we hightailed it to southwest New Mexico where the weather was conducive to exploring outdoors, in particular, the Gila National Forest, which far exceeded our expectations with it's diversity, history and true wilderness.
ABOUT THE DAY HIKES All our hikes are in/out, during Jan-Mar 2021. Hiking speed averages 30-35 minutes per mile, depending on steepness, time out for lots of picture-taking and finding a nice place for lunch.
Roads - From Silver City, the Gila Inner Loop (Rt 15 and Rt 35) snake through the Gila with twists and turns, hairpins and steep drop-offs and the two lanes sometimes feel like 1-1/2 lanes. Rt 180 west from Silver City is paved state highway, quite desolate, not many services. Rt 152 east from Silver City up to the Black Range starts out innocently enough, then twists, turns and climbs, climbs, climbs to the Emory Pass. Rt 152 and Rt 15 may not be plowed at night or on the weekends, and can be closed due to weather or fire.
Our hiking was limited to THs with no more than 4 mile access road of packed, dirt/gravel, suitable for non 4-wheel drive. Assume there will be moments of panic when an access road narrows to single lane. County Roads and Forest Roads are dirt or gravel, some we found passable, some not. (The giant Gila National Forest map has a nice legend for road types, still we always took a scouting trip to check the access road condition).
Navigating - Our hikes were timed. Hiked in for a set time, then turn around. Carried a map & compass - maps are noted in each hike description. See resources for the list of maps. Used AllTrails to determine where we were on the trail and to prevent going off-trail or making a wrong turn. Before the hike, download the trail map on the AllTrails while you have internet, then it will track you even without a signal. If you can not find your trail, find a nearby trail and download that. You’ll find your dot and almost always see your trail line. Very convenient.
TH = Trail Head MM = Mile Marker FR = Forest Road
Water Crossings - there will be creek and river crossings. January-February, we encountered mostly dry beds, with some exceptions, as noted. There was more than average snowfall in early 2021, so during Feb - March the trails had snow-pack, ice, muddy puddles in the shady spots, and a bit more water in previously dry creek beds, most low enough to stay dry.
The Altitude - if you live at 5,000ft or above, good for you, you’ve got 4,000ft on us! We exercised our lungs the first week in and around Silver City - hiked Mt Gomez, wandered Dragonfly and Fort Bayard trails, Boston Hill - as we found our way around, studied the maps and searched online for trail descriptions.
The Weather - Please note all our hikes were done in winter, Jan-Mar. If you are hiking a different season, be sure to heed the ubiquitous warnings in all the guides to bring plenty of water and protection from the sun. Even in the winter, we wore sunscreen everyday and stashed plenty of water. Lots of sun. Wind can get wicked. Daytime temps ranged from 40 F to 70 F.
Trail Difficulty - We are in our mid-sixties. In our lifetime, we have skied, hiked and/or backpacked the White Mountains of NH(AMC's 4,000 Footer Club), Glacier Park, the U.S. Rockies, the Alps in Europe, the Andes in Chile, Germany's Franconia region and the 100 mile Rennsteig, but now prefer to sleep in a bed after a day of communing with nature. And early morning starts aren’t really our thing anymore. We are careful hikers, stay on the marked trails, watch the time so we aren’t out after dark. Some of these hikes required a bit a stamina for the steeps and flexibility for the rock scrambles, are reasonably challenging but not overly so. And, if you have even an inkling of fear of heights, stay where you are, this place is not for you.
2022 Trails to Discover
We plan to go back next winter, try to finish hikes that were impeded by snowpack, explore trails that have reopened and perhaps try a Dropoff service to hike through on some of the longer trails as noted in italics.
Aldo Leopold - Get to know him. Read his book. Great guy. Best quote I have found about him: 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. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
The Gila is huge! We have described our hikes by region, a region being the name of the largest town or named area easy to find on a map - Silver City, Pinos Altos, Glenwood, the Burros, Mimbres/Lake Roberts, Cliff Dwellings, Black Range (and that's only the southern half of the Gila!). We try to include details about the trails - trail name and number, location, directions, road access, length, difficulty, water crossings, day hike time/miles, Flora & Fauna, History, Geology (which is amazing, even if you're not a geologist!). It will be inconsistent, sorry, mostly I write to remember the hikes.
The Gila Ancestral Land is Chiricahua Apache and Mogollon. And I am sure others that I am not yet aware of. Geronimo was born here, exact spot debatable.
Happy Hiking! -- FranknSue
Continental Divide Trail west from Sapillo Camp, Gila Natl Forest NM