Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Some of the cliff dwellings preserved at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument preserves and protects a site left by the ancient Tularosa Mogollon people who lived in this area more than 700 years ago. Today, these cliff dwellings are surrounded by the Gila National Forest and the access road and National Monument are actually "cherry-stemmed" into the Gila Wilderness.
There are pit houses in the area that were first constructed around 100 CE. Later came masonry structures above ground, built and occupied until around 1000 CE. The cliff dwellings are built in a series of natural caves high up in the rocks. Tree-ring dating places the wood as being cut in the mid-to-late 1200's CE. There were probably no more than 50-60 people living in these dwellings, even at their height. And the cliff dwellings were probably only occupied for one generation.
After the Tularosa Mogollon disappeared, nomadic bands of Chiricahua Apache moved into the area. Geronimo is recorded to have said he was born near the headwaters of the Gila River.
The Park Rangers offer guided tours of the cliff dwellings every day, starting at 1 pm. Most folks take half-an-hour or more to hike from the contact station to the place near the dwellings where the guided tour starts. On Saturday mornings at 11 am there's another guided tour offered that takes folks to a much-less-visited alcove dwelling and a large pictograph panel. The Saturday morning tour departs from the Lower Scorpion Campground (about a ten minute hike from the Visitor Center).
There are several popular natural hot springs in the area. Lightfeather Hot Springs is about a 20-minute walk from the Visitor Center. The most popular hot springs in Jordan, and depending on the trail you use to get there, it's 6 or 8 miles into the wilderness. There are private hot springs located about 4 miles south of the monument at Gila Hotsprings.
The National Monument is a day-use only site. There are several campgrounds available nearby in the Gila National Forest. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument charges families a $10 per family per day use fee, payable at the trailhead or at the Visitor Center. Individuals (over 15 years of age) cost $3 per person per day. The cliff dwellings are open all day, every day of the year, from 9 am to 5 pm (from Memorial Day through Labor Day the days begin half-an-hour earlier and end one hour later). The Visitor Center is open from 8 am to 4 pm most of the year but from 8 am to 5 pm during those same summer months. The Visitor Center is about two miles from the parking lot and cliff dwellings traihead.
The catwalk to Cave 4 at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
The footbridge across the Gila River from the contact station
The visitor center at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
The Forks Campground, about five miles south of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument