casitas de gila guesthouses bed and breakfast new mexico 575-535-4455

Southwestern Guesthouses on 265 Acres
near Silver City, New Mexico
overlooking Bear Creek and the Gila Wilderness

hiking southwest new mexico

For additional day hikes, check out Michael's
Gila Nature Blog!

Hiking Near Casitas de Gila (within 25 miles)

Trails Farther from the Casitas
Hiking Opportunities in Southwest New Mexico …

Guests interested in Hiking will find
much to enjoy at Casitas de Gila Guesthouses!

Hiking on Casita Lands …

hiking gila wildernessWe have 265 acres of unspoiled high desert terrain that comprise the Casitas de Gila Nature Preserve. At present the Preserve is accessed by 12 different trails offering over 6 miles of hiking and walking through diverse, natural landscapes ranging in elevation from 4,700 feet to 5,500 feet. The trails vary from short, easy hikes right out the door of your Casita to longer, more difficult hikes into the hills and mountains beyond. Download our Trail Map for a look at our trails.

One trail that is popular with all of our guests is our Self-Guided Nature Trail. This 0.6 mile loop trail winds its way across the slopes in front of the Casitas and then along the Bear Creek floodplain below. A detailed trail guide, provided in each Casita, will introduce you to the natural and human history of this special part of Southwest New Mexico by means of numbered markers at selected stops along the trail. In addition to identifying and providing interesting information about the plants, shrubs, trees, rocks, and rock formations encountered on the trail, the trail guide offers insight into the local geologic history, geomorphology, Native American history and pioneer ranching heritage.

hiking southwest new mexicoSeveral additional trails are designed to highlight other fascinating aspects of the Bear Creek Riparian area that extends for 3/4 of a mile through the middle of the Casita lands. Over the millennia this unassuming little creek, which normally babbles along quietly year-round about a hundred feet below the Casitas, has cut deeply into this desert upland to produce a spectacular cliff-lined canyon, heavily vegetated with groves of cottonwood, sycamore, willow, walnut, and gray oak. Several of the cottonwood and sycamore are very large and ancient, measuring up to 25 feet in girth and several hundreds of years in age.

hiking southwest new mexicoBehind and immediately adjacent to the Casitas there are easy to moderately difficult trails across the juniper, pinon, mesquite, catclaw, and cactus covered flats and hills along the road leading into the Casitas. One easy trail leads up to a nice picnic spot that overlooks Bear Creek Canyon, Turtle Rock, and the multi-colored lava flows and ash falls which make up the steep-walled escarpment of the Pinos Altos Range in the Gila Wilderness just five miles away to the north.

Across and beyond the creek, challenging and steeper trails await the more adventurous hiker. One interesting trail, a favorite with rock and mineral collectors, leads up a dry wash side canyon lined with colorful cliffs of Gila Conglomerate. Another trail, strictly for the physically fit, climbs abruptly some 800 feet in about a mile to provide an eagle’s eye view of the whole Gila Valley, the Pinos Altos and Mogollon mountains, the Gila Wilderness, the Blue Mountain Wilderness, the Burro Mountains, and beyond into Arizona.

hiking southwest new mexicoEach Casita has is a nature library with various books, guidebooks, and information about hiking in general and the major hiking trails in the area. Your hosts, Becky and Michael, are also quite knowledgeable about hiking in the area and will be glad to direct you and provide detailed topographic maps for specific trails and nearby areas when you are ready to venture away from the Casitas. Additional maps and information about selected trails in the Gila National Forest and Wilderness areas are available from the very friendly folks at the Glenwood Ranger Station, and also on display on a wall in our Art Gallery courtyard.

art gallery silver city new mexicoCaps, hand-carved walking sticks, and books and maps detailing hikes and hiking in the area, are available for purchase in our Art Gallery. Walkie-talkies are provided for guests who are walking alone on the Casita lands.


Day Hikes in the Gila National Forest
and the Gila Wilderness
from your base at Casitas de Gila Guesthouses

The Gila National Forest, with its enclosed Gila Wilderness area and Aldo Leopold Wilderness area, offers over 2,500 miles of unlimited trail hiking opportunities ranging from easy, low-gradient walks along the Gila River to strenuous hikes across alpine peaks and ridges for experienced outdoor enthusiasts. This is true wilderness hiking, offering outstanding natural beauty, vegetation, and wildlife. With the exception of a few trails around the more popular visitor destinations (such as the Catwalk or Gila Cliff Dwellings) most of the trails are unimproved and little traveled.

It is highly recommended that if you are thinking about doing serious hiking in the more remote areas of the Gila, you do some planning and investigation before you arrive in Southwest New Mexico. Becky and Michael will, of course, be more than happy to share their local knowledge and information, as well as answer your questions regarding hiking in the area. One good guidebook that we can recommend is Hiking New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness by Bill Cunningham and Polly Burk, published by Falcon Publishing (1999). There’s a copy of this book in each of our Casitas, and it's for sale in our Art Gallery as well.

Displayed on a wall in our Art Gallery's courtyard are maps of the Gila National Forest and Wilderness, making it convenient for guests to study hiking opportunities without having to purchase maps. We can also print detailed topographic maps for specific trails and nearby areas before you set out on your hikes.

The western portion of the Gila Wilderness (which lies east of US 180 between Cliff/Gila and Glenwood) contains the highest mountains, most rugged terrain, and least traveled trails. There are numerous trailheads in the area that provide good access into this fascinating part of the Gila Wilderness and adjacent Gila National Forest. You will find more information on hiking and other activities in the Gila National Forest on their website.

Below we've listed and described a few of the more popular hikes that are located near Casitas de Gila Guesthouses. There are more hikes described in Michael's Gila Nature Blog.

Hiking Near Casitas de Gila (within 25 miles)

Trails Farther from the Casitas

Hiking Near Casitas de Gila (within 25 miles)

Hiking Near Casitas de Gila (within 25 miles)

Your hosts at Casitas de Gila Guesthouses are happy to provide maps, driving directions, and other appropriate information on these hike to guests at the Casitas.

Gila Riparian Preserve and Upper Box of the Gila
Easy-to-Moderate Hike; 20-minute drive from Casitas
Season: year round

gila riparian preserve new mexicoJust 10 miles from Casitas de Gila Guesthouses, the largest river in Southwest New Mexico, the Gila River, emerges from the mountains and canyons of the Gila Wilderness at a site locally-known as the Upper Box of the Gila.

The Gila River Riparian Preserve is a 1,200+ acre preserve that is open to the public, situated within the Upper Box of the Gila River, and surrounded by the Gila National Forest. Its spectacular surroundings offer incredible opportunities for birding, wildlife viewing, and general nature study. The area offers unlimited access to the Gila River as it emerges from the Gila Wilderness to flow through magnificent groves of old-growth cottonwood and sycamore that are hundreds of years old. An easy 2-mile hiking trail along the west side of the river follows a four-wheel-drive access road that leads to the Gila River Flow Gaging Station. Take a picnic lunch with you to enjoy under the trees along the river just below the gaging station. You might even see a coatimundi!

For more information on this hike, see Michael's blog of July 2012.

Middle Box of the Gila (FT 746)
Easy-to-Moderate Hike; 30-minute drive from Casitas
Season: year round most of the time, except during high water periods; 1 river crossing

gila river new mexicoTen miles east of Casitas de Gila Guesthouses the Gila River re-enters the Gila National Forest as it begins to transect the ancient Burro Mountains. This is the Middle Box of the Gila, located off US 180 on Bill Evans Lake Road (CR 2-52) and then continuing on CR 2-53 to end at Billings Vista and the FT 745 trail head. FT 746 offers a 2+ mile hike along the Gila River into the Narrows of the Middle Box of the Gila in scenic old-growth riparian forest and adjacent side canyons.

For more information on this hike, see Michael's blog of June 2012.

Lower Gila River Trailhead and Gila River Trail (FT 724)
Easy to Moderate Hike of about 6 hours; 40-minute drive from Casitas
Season: late spring, early summer, late fall

gila national forest hikingFive miles from Casitas de Gila Guesthouses, NM153 becomes CR 2-24 at the boundary of the Gila National Forest. Usually requiring a higher clearance vehicle (but not four-wheel drive) CR 2-24 continues about 6 miles into the Gila National Forest and then dead ends at the Gila River. From this trail head, FT 724 leads upstream some 35 miles almost to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. FT 724 provides the hiker with unlimited access to the inner canyons of the Gila Wilderness. A rewarding easy-to-moderate day hike of about 8 miles round-trip in and out along this trail will lead you into the Gila Wilderness through outstanding old-growth cottonwood-sycamore riparian forest along the Gila River, below towering volcanic cliffs, to riverside rock alcoves used by pre-historic Native American cultures.

Turkey Creek Hot Springs (FT 155)
Moderate-to-Strenuous Hike of 6 to 8 hours; 40 minute drive from Casitas
Season: late spring, early summer, early-late fall; 3 river crossings

turkey creek hot springs new mexicoOne mile upstream from the Lower Gila River Trailhead (FT 724 listed just above), the Turkey Creek Hot Springs Trail (FT 155) branches off from the Gila River Trail (FT 724) and begins its ascent up Turkey Creek. About 3 miles up the trail, on a short side trail, are the Turkey Creek Hot Springs and a nice swimming hole in the creek, complete with a natural rock water slide.

A trip to the Turkey Creek Hot Springs makes for a moderate to strenuous day hike in and out of about 8 miles roundtrip. While the distance is not great, the trails are rugged, primitive and not marked. It is not uncommon for hikers to return without finding these hot springs.

A cautionary note: These hot springs, like others in the wilderness, contain the amoeba Naegleria fowleri that can cause meningitis. Users of hot springs are cautioned not to submerge their head or get water in their mouth or nose.

For more information on a hike to Turkey Creek Hot Springs, see Michael's blog of April 2011.

Mogollon Creek Trail (FT153) and Rain Creek Trail (FT189)
Moderate-becoming-Strenuous Hikes of 1 hour to all day; 60-minute drive from Casitas
Season: year round, but not when it's been raining

rain creek trail gila forestAbout 15 and 20 miles respectively from Casitas de Gila Guesthouses, the Mogollon Creek and Rain Creek trails offer entry into some of the most rugged portions of the Gila Wilderness. Both of these trails are accessed from Sacaton Road/CR 2-1 loop road which runs north from NM 293 in Cliff to intersect US 180 about 5 miles south of the community of Pleasanton. The first two miles of these trails offers a fairly easy half-day introductory Wilderness hike with good vistas of rugged canyons and terrain within the Gila Wilderness. Beyond the first two miles, both of these trails become steep, rocky and physically challenging.

Leopold Vista Trail (FR 4077G)
Easy Hike of 1 to 4 hours; 25-minute drive from Casitas
Season: year round; mostly open terrain, hot in summer

gila national forestThe Leopold Vista Trail (FR 4077G) is a scenic, relaxing, and easy hike suitable for all ages and physical abilities. The trail follows an old, seldom-used, four-wheel-drive track across a slightly undulating high-desert juniper and piñon landscape that extends westward from US Route 180 and parallels Little Dry Creek Canyon to the north. At several points less-used tracks split off from the main track which offer views, as well as occasional unmarked access, down into Little Dry Creek Canyon and several of its side canyons. Incredible long-view vistas extend out in all directions along every part of this hike. Exceptional opportunities for expansive landscape photography abound, particularly in the late afternoon when the sinking sun lights up the towering Mogollon Mountain escarpment five miles to the east and casts deep shadows over the pristine rugged mountains and canyons of the San Francisco River country to the west.

lodging near silver city new mexicoThe Leopold Vista Trail ends on a narrow finger of a ridge overlooking and 250-feet above the junction of Little Dry Creek Canyon and its tributary Eliot Canyon that comes in from the south. Here, beneath the welcome shade of a juniper, is a great place to rest and have lunch. It is a great observation spot to look for birds and game while scanning canyon bottoms below that stretch off to the west and south and the mountains beyond.

For the experienced hiker, this trail can also serve as a good access point for more strenuous and challenging off-trail and cross-country exploration of the rugged San Francisco River mountains and canyon country to the west.

For those experienced and physically adept hikers who wish to do off-trail and cross-country hiking in the rugged San Francisco River Country beyond the end of the Leopold Vista Trail, it is strongly advised that relevant 1:24,000 USGS topographic maps, a compass, or a good hand-held GPS, plus additional water, be taken. While very beautiful, it is very easy to get lost in this up-and-down landscape.

Hikes farther from Casitas de Gila Guesthouses

Becky & Michael O'Connor, Owners
50 Casita Flats Rd • PO Box 325 • Gila, New Mexico 88038


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