Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Hands down, traveling > vacation.  No planning, no such thing as “last minute.” We only plan as far as the campground for the next evening–nothing more than that–because flexibility is priceless.  The real Jean in the office at a desk M-F, 8-5 could never possibly fathom the carefree spirit, but in this current lifestyle, to be carefree is a necessity.

When I explained our road trip to the national park ranger at the Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center, she handed me a pamphlet with information on all the New Mexican parks and monuments.  I had only heard of Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico, but the pamphlet introduced me to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

“Ooh, let’s go here!” I exclaimed, pointing at the photo in the pamphlet.  We couldn’t fit in Colorado’s famous Mesa Verde National Park in this trip, so I figured we should at the very least try to visit the smaller archeological preserve.

And so off we went.  We arrived early afternoon to the most deserted national park/monument I have ever seen.  (And to our pleasant surprise, there was a free RV dump and potable water!)  To get there, one must drive for about 1.5 hours through the windy roads up into the elevated forests of Gila National Forest.  The drive was long but scenic and serene.IMG_9126

The roundtrip hike to and from the cliff dwellings was only a short mile but we still enjoyed the stroll through the forest and learning about the historic dwellings from 700 years ago.

Volcanic activity some 28 million years ago formed the natural alcoves, but it wasn’t until the late 13th century when people began to inhabit them.  Between the short period of 1275 and 1300, the Mogollan people (Southwest Indians) built and resided in these dwellings. Why the people abandoned the dwellings is still a mystery today.

IMG_9101 20141212_121705IMG_9106IMG_9111IMG_9110IMG_911420141212_12244720141212_12440720141212_12443920141212_130418IMG_9121

Our visit at the cliff dwellings was brief; the drive to and from the national monument took longer than the hike itself.  It was our final stop in New Mexico and our final national monument on this entire road trip before heading westward toward home.  I’ve never been to New Mexico prior to this trip, and I will say that New Mexico’s weather in December is perfect for the outdoors.  As we drove into the sun toward Phoenix, I contemplated my next visit to New Mexico but next time, the trip will include Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

This entry was posted in New Mexico. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s