From City of Rocks State Park to Gila Cliff Dwellings, stunning southwest New Mexico


Yesterday, we covered quite a few miles on I-10 from Texas’ Balmorhea State Park, through El Paso and onto Deming, NM, before heading north on US 180 to City of Rocks State Park, four miles east on NM61.

CityofRocksNM_#4_JulianneGCraneThis is an absolutely amazing New Mexico public park where 62 camp sites are set among hundreds of huge boulders perched on top of, and leaning against, one another.

“Formed of volcanic ash welded together 35 million years ago, then sculpted by wind and water into rows of monolithic blocks, these incredible rock formations give City of Rocks its name. Hiking trails, a botanical garden and a public night sky observatory add to this unique destination.”

NM_GilaCliffDwelling_JimmySmith_JulianneGCraneToday Jimmy and I drove our truck/camper about 30 miles north to Silver City, NM, where we then followed (NW 15) the very curvy “Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway” to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. (This is not recommended for large rigs, definitely use your tow vehicle.)

The “Trail of the Mountain Spirits” is a 112 mile loop. Expect to take 5-6 hours including a visit to the Dwellings (about 1/2-mile hike from the parking lot). Elevations range from 5,700 to about 6,000 feet.

NM_GilaCliffDwelling_inside_JulianneGCrane For thousands of years, groups of nomadic people used the caves of the Gila River as temporary shelter. “The Dwellings consist of a series of natural caves used as homes by the people of the Mogollon culture who lived here in the 13th Century.”

Julianne G. Crane

Photos: Top: Approaching City of Rocks State Park, between Deming and Silver City, NM. Middle left: Camper snug in site #4 bathing in morning sun. Middle right: Gila Cliff Dwellings. Bottom: Looking out from cave # 5. (Julianne G. Crane)

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