Backpacker Magazine Albuquerque: Gila Loop 

Lush river canyons meet high desert mesas on this 23.7-mile, 3-day loop in the Gila Wilderness.

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Author: Backpacker Magazine
Date: 10 Sep 2006 2:43:35 PM
Activity: Hiking
State: New Mexico (NM)
Distance: 23.75 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 5522 ft
Total Loss: 5529 ft
Net Change: -7 ft
Difficulty: 8 / 10
Tags: Albuquerque, Datil, Hiking, loop, New Mexico
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

TO TRAILHEAD: I-25 S to NM 152 W; turn R onto NM 35 N, then drive 28 mi. and turn R onto NM 15. In 17 mi., park in Cliff Dwellings lot at end of road.

Position Format: Datum:


Distance: 23.75 mi Points: 3091
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Gila Loop

Points of Interest


Location: 33.229382, -108.264000
Head NW on Gila West Fork Trail, crossing NE corner of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument


Location: 33.234890, -108.272003
Sandy path runs by alligator juniper, easily ID'd by its unique scalelike bark


Location: 33.237339, -108.280403
Continue NW, passing side trail to EE Canyon. Small wild grapes grow in moist nooks along the West Fork of the Gila River


Location: 33.244480, -108.291801
Climb steeply out of West Fork Canyon to sun baked mesa. Collard lizards scurry among prickly pears and yuccas at speeds up to 16 mph


Location: 33.251610, -108.291100
Bear R @ Y, bearing N


Location: 33.277748, -108.297798
Grab lunch under shady ponderosas before dropping into Big Bear Canyon


Location: 33.287029, -108.310097
Cross dry creek bed; trail climbs NW


Location: 33.297581, -108.324402
Steep switchbacks drop nearly 1,000 ft. into The Meadows, a high-desert oasis with shady campsites near the cool ripples of the Middle Fork


Location: 33.304470, -108.319397
Optional: Turn L to explore narrows of Indian Creek


Location: 33.294140, -108.297401
Wind along lush canyon floor while crossing the Middle Fork multiple times


Location: 33.272171, -108.259903
Turn R @ Y; follow Little Bear Canyon through dim, moss-covered slot canyon


Location: 33.266270, -108.259003
Camp the 2nd night in flat, open spots just off trail


Location: 33.234871, -108.248199
Trail swings SW toward road. In .9 mi, turn R onto road, hike 1 mi. to trailhead

River Crossing

Location: 33.305103, -108.318726
©Bill Velasquez

Canyon Views

Location: 33.298573, -108.321991
©Bill Velasquez


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