Underrated Escapes: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in Pinos Altos, NM

Uncover hidden gems and underrated destinations from the team at Rand McNally. This time, Steve, a Sr GIS Analyst for Rand McNally, shares his favorite spot. 

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in Pinos Altos, NM

The Vibe: “The drive on State Road 15 from Silver City (Road Atlas page 68, bingo I-2) to Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument is winding and scenic showcasing Utah’s high rich pine forests, says Steve, a Sr GIS Analyst for Rand McNally. “This southwest part of the state offers up all types of geography, from grassland foothills to juniper woodlands and ponderosa pines. If you want to get away from the crowds, this is the place to go.”

How to Get There: “Starting out from the small town of Pinos Altos, you head north for nearly 40 miles that takes about an hour and a half. This winding road follows a ridge most of the way there until you drop into the Gila River Valley below. There you come across an even smaller town of Gila Hot Springs that offers up not much more than camping. This National Monument is located 155 miles west of Las Cruces, NM and 250 miles from Tucson, AZ.”

Why It's Great: 

1. The History: “The history of Gila Cliff Dwellings is very interesting to me, the time it takes there is well worth it, says Steve. “There is a small visitor center that will help you get the lay of the land. The hiking trail to the dwellings takes 1 to 2 hours depending on your pace. I would certainly take advantage of any guided tours by a park ranger at the site to truly understand the significance of the history of the people, culture, and dwellings.”

2. The Natural Beauty: “In addition to the history, you also get a close view of the nature surrounding this historic site with steep-sided canyons with green patches of trees and shrubs amongst nearby desert environments. At times we occasionally come across camouflage mule deer negotiating up and down the difficult terrain.”

3. The Tranquility: “To me this area represents serenity, here you will find no large resorts, logging nor commercial uses of any kind except grazing on the region’s large ranches. Our overnight stay was at a tucked away cabin near the old mining town of Pinos Altos.”The ghost town of Pinos Altos: A historic mining town named after the Spanish word for tall pines located on this area located along the Continental Divide. The downtown looks like it came out of an old western TV show. There is great southwestern food to enjoy after hiking and visiting the national monument.”

4. The Night Sky: “Each night after a colorful sunset when it gets completely dark, I would make a point of finding a clear spot away from the trees to catch a full brilliant night sky filled with countless stars and other celestial objects.”

Don't Miss: “On the way to Gila Cliff Dwellings, stop at the City of Rocks State Park along US-180 between Interstate 10 at Deming and Silver City. You don’t have to camp there to enjoy the large boulders that exist there. These monolith boulders come in all types of formations that can be as large as houses, with trails amongst a desert botanical garden. What is cool is walking under, between and on top of these boulders, making it a challenging game of hide-and-seek.” 

Author: Rand McNally Publishing Team
Date:Apr 24th 2024