Sep 8, 2020 at 7:43 am #3675210John “Jay” MennaBPL Member
We just got back from a wonderful five day hike in the Gila wilderness.
I found it strange how little information there is about this national forest and given that it’s the oldest in the country. Usually you can find a Google group, Forum or at least a reddit sub. But I couldn’t find one for the Gila
Video: https://youtu.be/3J8glVnZ5ok (warning, the intended audience is my 85-year-old mother)
Distance: 60 miles ? Really hard to say with all the lateral movement. My inreach came up with 40 , but Gaia and caltopo say closer to 60. It was 4, 10 hour days and 1, 6 hour day.
Difficulty: Only one climb of substance on the entire route. But the trails are a bit overgrow. You need good trail eyes to stay on trail.
Water: Everywhere. Probably 100 river crossings.
NB: Long pants and shirts unless you wish to be a scratched up mess when it’s over.
I hiked the Gila 30 years ago with my father. It was the last backpacking trip he ever did. So it holds quite a lot of memories for me. I haven’t been back since. I forgot how pretty it was. This is a no permit, easy access if you are willing to make the drive hike.
We left from the cliff dwellings on a 4 1/2 day loop, counterclockwise from the cliff dwellings/West Fork of the Gila River Trail head. The first day was beautiful but pretty uneventful. We saw one person (And his ill behaved dog whom I had to whack on the head with a treking poll). We encountered monsoon rains, which were interesting in that the raindrops are gigantic, numerous, and very very cold.
The only claim of the loop is a horse trail, with reasonable switchbacks, that takes you up into the plateau between the two River forks. Really nice. On top is a wonderful forested area where they have re-introduced gray wolves. We managed to see a few, and heard the puppies yelping just after sunset.
On day three we descended down into the middle Fork. The middle Fork we had more trout that I haven’t seen anywhere in my life. I have been trout fishing for more than 50 years. Unfortunately/and fortunately, all of these trout were endangered Gile Trout. So catch and release was the order of the day. It was extremely interesting to note that when we got very close to the end, within a days walk at the trail head the trout population went from the millions to almost zero.
Most folks choose to get up out of the middle folk and opt for the trails in the plateau. We decided to Stay in the canyon even if it meant A lot of bushwhacking and river walking. There are no Blazers marking these trails. There’s a whole lot of blow down in flotsam from prior flash floods. Be prepared to bushwhack. But you’re heading down a slot canyon so you really can’t get that lost. If you do this trip, be sure to stay down in the river. The sections that were the most difficult were stunning.
The very end from Jordan Hot Springs, back to the trail head was full of people. We hit this on a Sunday afternoon so the weekend crowd was in full force. Jordan Hot Springs on the weekend is to be avoided.
Rather than the 2 mile road walk at the end, back to the car we chose to bushwick our way down a ravine. 200 yards form the end I encountered the single largest rattlesnake I have ever seen. It was way too close for comfort. Needless to say the ranger in the parking lot was quizzical as we crashed out from the undergrowth to the parking lot in a adrenaline fueled run.Sep 8, 2020 at 9:08 am #3675220HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
The Gila is a great place, and after a number of really bad fires, use tends to be even more concentrated in the area you were at (near the Forks/cliff dwellings/visitors center). It is really popular in springtime as the usual summer rains (“monsoon” – remnants of Pacific hurricanes) can feature some serious thunderstorms. This year it was reportedly the “nonsoon” due to the lack of storms. Thanks for reminding me to give the place a visit soon.Sep 8, 2020 at 3:24 pm #3675258Mike MBPL Member
Looks nice :). My wife and I did a 4 day/3 night trip in the Gila about 10 years ago. It was on the west side. We were super impressed on how many distinct biomes you went through, changing with elevation. I remember when we got high enough that I told my wife if you shut your eyes and then opened them, you could easily have been back in Montana.
Sadly I think most of the area we were in has been severely burned :(Sep 8, 2020 at 4:15 pm #3675262John “Jay” MennaBPL Member
While we saw evidence of the burns, That particular section has been recovering quite nicely.
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