Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who built the Gila Cliff Dwellings?

A: Ancestors of Puebloan people who once lived in the area built the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The people associated as the Mogollon Culture includes people living in portions of present day New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Mexico. The Mogollon Culture was defined by archeologists due to similar pottery, architecture,skeletal date, subsistence practices and other general artifacts of past human activity. The name comes from the nearby Mogollon Mountains which were named after a Spanish governor in the 1700s.

Q: How are the Mogollon different than the Ancestral Puebloans?

A: While the two cultures have many similiarities one of the largest differences is in subsistence. Ancestral Puebloans were more reliant on farming than the Mogollon, who preferred to get a majority of their food from hunting and gathering. The Mogollon were farmers but the people who lived at the cliff dwellings only got about 40% of their diet from farming.

Q: How do you say Mogollon?

A: Because it is a Spanish word, the Os are long and the double Ls are silent: Moe-go-yone. However, Mogollon is one of those words that has taken on several regional pronunciations and is sometimes pronounced Muggy-own or Muggy-on.

Q: How do you say Gila?

A:Gila is another Spanish word. The G is pronounced as an H: Hee-la.

Q: Does it really take two hours to drive to the cliff dwellings from Silver City?

A: The 43 mile drive on Highway 15 from Silver City is paved, steep, narrow, twisting and beautiful. Many hills and turns require slowing down and shifting to lower gears in order to avoid overheating your brakes. Slower vehicles should pull over to allow faster vehicles to pass, when possible. Between Silver City and the junction with Highway 35, Highway 15 does not have a center dividing line -- use extra caution around the curves. This section of Highway 15 is NOT RECOMMENDED for RVs over 25 feet or trailers over 20 feet. Use Highway 35 as an alternate route to avoid the most "adventurous" section of Highway 15.

Q: Can you see the dwellings from the road?

A: No. The cliff dwellings are only visible from a trail which is not accessible for strollers or wheelchairs. It is an easy hike along the canyon bottom to a viewpoint of the dwellings. To reach the dwellings themselves, you must hike 175 feet up a rocky trail.

Q: Can we go inside the dwellings?

A: Yes! We just ask that you help us protect the 700 year old walls by staying on the trail at all times and not touching or leaning on the structures.

Q: Where can we eat?

A: There is no food or drink (other than water) allowed on the trail or in the dwellings. There are picnic tables at the Gila Visitor Center, Upper and Lower Scorpion Campgrounds, andbehind the Trailhead Museum. If you don't bring food and snacks with you, you may find limited packaged food at the Visitor Center or at Doc Campbell's Trading Post. Most of the restauraunt choices are in Silver City, about 1 1/2-hours away. Some restaurants may be seasonally operated, so please call ahead to confirm availability.

Q: Why don't you have any trash cans?

A: This is a Pack-It-In, Pack-It-Out area. You are responsible for taking all your trash back to town. This helps us keep the wild animals that live in the surrounding Gila Wilderness from digging through garbage cans and invading the campgrounds. (And once you see Highway 15, you'll understand why garbage trucks don't like to drive up here.)

Last updated: June 26, 2020

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26 Jim Bradford Trail
Mimbres, NM 88049



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