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Things To Do and Attractions in Silver City

Gila Wilderness

The first wilderness set aside by Congress was within the vast 3.3 million acre Gila National Forest. The Gila Wilderness is the largest with 559,324-acres and is one of four designated wilderness areas within Old West Country …three within the Gila (Gila, Aldo Leopold and Blue Range Wilderness) and one within the Cibola National Forest (Apache Kid Wilderness).

Popular theory says that the word Gila was derived from a Spanish contraction of Hah-quah-sa-eel, a Yuma Indian word meaning “running water which is salty”. The naming of the Gila National Forest is indicative of its interesting history and beauty. The Forest, tucked away in southwestern New Mexico, is a paradise for those seeking solitude and escape from modern society’s busy lifestyle.

Every National Forest offers its own unique beauty. The Gila’s beauty is in its diversity of rugged mountains, deep canyons, meadows, and semi-desert country. Elevations range from 4,200 to 10,900 feet and cover four of the six life zones. Flora and fauna are diverse. Ocotillo and cactus are found in the lower elevations, and juniper, pine, aspen, and spruce-fir forests are plentiful in the high mountains. Wildlife such as the black bear, mountain lion, elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, and wild turkey inhabit the Forest while the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and the red-tailed hawk soar in the wind.

Gila National Forest boasts a rich history of the Mogollon and Apache Indians, Spaniards, Mexicans, ranchers, prospectors and miners. Apache Chiefs Mangas Coloradas, Geronimo, and Victorio, Aldo Leopold: conservationist, ecologist and author of the Sand County Almanac, and renowned lion hunter Ben Lilly are but a few of the personalities from the past that have left their mark in the Gila. Place names like Raw Meat Canyon, Tepee Canyon and Grave Canyon tell the tales of the past.

The Gila National Forest is big: It includes more than 500,000 acres of rugged land, dominates the landscape of our county and extends west all the way to the border with Arizona. Hundreds of recreational activities and popular spots exist within the forest.

To get your bearings, spend a few minutes with the rangers in each of the ranger districts.


  • Silver City, NM, 88061
  • 0 miles from hotel

Mining District

The Central Mining Districtis a 45 square mile area in Grant County and includes the population centers of Bayard, Hurley and Santa Rita. The district also includes one of the largest open pit mines in the world (at Santa Rita) and a large copper ore processing facility south of Hurley.

Mining goes back a long, long way in Grant County. When the Spanish explorers first arrived to this area, the native Americans were already well established using copper from what is now the area of the Santa Rita mine. The Europeans brought in increasingly sophisticated technology, and over the years much of the development of Grant County was related to the successes and failures of local mining.

Santa Clara, formerly called Central, is nine miles east of Silver City on US 180. The oldest village in the District, its history is closely tied to Fort Bayard. Soldiers from the fort would go to Santa Clara for recreational pursuits.

At Santa Clara, NM 152 branches off US 180 and climbs north through four miles of lovely, thickly forested hills to its crossroads with NM 356 at Hanover. A mile from Hanover on NM 152, an overlook offers visitor a view of the enormous Santa Rita open pit copper mine–1500 ft. deep and 1.5 miles across! To the east is the Kneeling Nun, a geological formation which has served as a landmark through history. It holds special significance for many residents.


  • Silver City, NM, 88061
  • 0 miles from hotel

Silver City Museum

The Silver City Museum creates opportunities for residents and visitors to explore, understand, and celebrate the rich and diverse cultural heritage of southwestern New Mexico by collecting, preserving, researching and interpreting the region’s unique history.

Opened in 1967, the museum is a department of the Town of Silver City with support from the Silver City Museum Society and The Institute of Museum and Library Services. Housed in the restored 1881 Mansard/Italianate H.B Ailman House, the museum collection resource materials include some 20,000 objects relating to the peoples and history of southwest New Mexico.

A twelve-member Board of Directors, appointed by Silver City’s mayor, oversees strategic planning and policy for the museum.

Museum operations are administered by our small Museum Staff, supplemented with a large corps of volunteers.


  • Silver City, NM, 88061
  • 2 miles from hotel

City of Rockes State Park

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.

A Rocky Vacation: Rock formations like those at the City of Rocks State Park exist in only six other places in the world. Imaginative visitors may see the rock formations as a small city with houses, chimneys, courtyards and streets. Visitors can choose from 62 campsites scattered among the rocks, from which they can hike, bird watch, picnic, bike, take in the interpretive exhibits at the visitor center, explore the park’s botanical garden or star gaze.

Life on the Rocks: City of Rocks State Park lies in the Mimbres Valley of the Chihuahuan desert. The park and surrounding grassland support yucca, agave, cacti and ocotillo, while growing among the rocks are Emory and gray oak. Mule deer, roadrunners, javelinas, cactus wrens, western diamondback rattlesnakes, ground squirrels, coyotes and jackrabbits all make their home here.

History on the Rocks: Until 1200 A.D., Mimbres Indians roamed this area, leaving arrowheads and pottery shards as evidence of their culture. The park also lies within the traditional homelands of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache. Spanish explorers and settlers arrived in 1500 and mule trains loaded with copper from the nearby Santa Rita mine passed nearby on their way to Chihuahua from 1804 to 1834. After the Mexican War of 1846-48, the Mormon Battalion blazed a trail south of the park to link newly acquired New Mexico and Arizona with the eastern United States.

First Astronomical Observatory: Southern New Mexico is famous for its clear night skies and New Mexico State Parks established its first astronomical observatory at City of Rocks State Park. The observatory is a 12’ x 16’ building with a roll-off roof and is equipped with a 14″ Meade LX-200 telescope. The entire facility is solar-powered and includes a 20-inch monitor, which enables visitors to view images of the planets, stars and constellations transmitted through the telescope.Click here to find out more about upcoming star parties.

Getting There: To get to City of Rocks State Park from Deming, take US 180 northwest 24 miles; then go northeast on NM 61 for 4 miles to the park entrance road. Includes: 52 sites‚ 10 w/ electric‚ restrooms‚ showers.


  • Faywood, NM, 0
  • 30 miles from hotel

Gila Cliff Dwelling Monument

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument offers a glimpse of the homes and lives of the people of the Mogollon culture who lived there from the 1280′s through the early 1300′s. Containing 533 acres, it was established on November 16, 1907. The dwellings are located forty-four miles north of Silver City, New Mexico, on Highway 15.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is surrounded by the Gila National Forest and lies at the edge of the Gila Wilderness, the nation’s first designated wilderness area. Wilderness means the intrusion of roads or other evidence of human presence will not alter the character of the area. This unique area comprising homes of prehistoric Indians in southwestern New Mexico offers a glimpse of the homes and lives of Indians who lived here from the 100′s to 1300.

Settlers in the early 1870′s penetrated the mountain wilderness, where rise the three forks of the Gila River in search of water and fertile land on which to homestead. They were surprised to find traces of an earlier race of men, who in the dim past had lived, loved and farmed the narrow valleys. Fallen walls of stone, strewn with pottery fragments, clearly indicated a people of high culture who made their homes there.

The cliff dwellings were built in the 1280′s. These Pueblo people built their homes in natural caves and in the open. There are examples of both types of settlements in the monument area. Probably not more than 8 or 10 families lived in the cliff dwellings at any one time. The rooms were probably not used more than one generation.

These small, diligent, artistic people lived in cliff houses and riverside villages, tilling mesa top and riverside fields with digging sticks, grinding cornmeal with metate and mano, fashioning pottery and cloth, carrying on trade with Indians of other communities, hunting, and gathering wild plants and fruit to supplement their squash, corn, and beans. They were skilled potters, producing handsome brown bowls with black interiors and black-on-white vessels.

The women averaged 5’1″ and the men about 5’5″ in height. They were slight of build, yet muscular, with dark hair and eyes and brown skin. The sounds of their voices and laughter echoed in the canyon. And then there were only the sounds of the streams and birds.

Seven natural caves occur high in the southeast-facing cliff on a side canyon, and five of the caves contain the ruins of cliff dwellings–about 42 rooms. Walls of the buildings were constructed of stone. All the timbers seen in the dwellings are the originals. Tree-ring dates obtained from these timbers range through the 1280′s. The cliff dwellers had abandoned their homes and fields by 1300. Why they left and where they went are not known. Perhaps they joined other Pueblo Indians to the north or south.

Climate, Recommended Clothing: Mild climate, with rainy season July to August, usually in the afternoons. Spring and Fall have moderate days and cool nights. Winter months often have nice afternoons with cold mornings and nights.

Fees, Facilities, Trails and Programs

  • Gila Cliff Dwellings entrance: $3.00 per person for ages 16 and older.
  • Museum, visitor center and contact station located at the monument.
  • Adjacent Gila Wilderness and Gila National Forest have over 1,490 miles of wilderness hiking and riding trails.
  • One guided tour is offered daily, beginning at 1:00 pm (except holidays). It is a half mile walk from the parking area to the beginning of the guided tour, so visitors should allow extra time for that.

For More Information: Call Wilderness Ranger District at 575-536-2250, 575-536-9461, or 575-536-9344. These last two numbers are the numbers for the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.


  • Silver CIty, NM, 88061
  • 44 miles from hotel

Cat Walk Trail

If a cat could walk on the Catwalk
Would a cat, should a cat walk the Catwalk
If on a Catwalk a cat could walk?

The Catwalk of Whitewater Canyon is a great place for everyone. You won’t find any cats. You will find parents and children, couples holding hands, backpackers hiking into the Wilderness, seniors, photographers, birders, people from Europe, Australia or Canada, and locals like me who have been here countless times and keep coming back because it’s just so darned beautiful. Sometimes you won’t find anyone at all. You’ll have this gorgeous place of hidden waterfalls and pools, colorful cliffs and giant boulders, walkways and bridges, all to yourself. You’ll have the Catwalk experience.

The drive from Silver City to the Catwalk is a wonderful experience in it’s self. Highway 180 curves and rolls along the foothills of the Mogollon Mountains, a sky bound fortress of peaks cut by deep, craggy canyons. Whitewater Canyon is one of them.

In the village of Glenwood you turn off the highway and five miles up the valley the road ends where the Catwalk narrows begin. There’s a beautiful National Forest picnic area shaded by giant Sycamore trees along the banks of Whitewater Creek and educational signage telling the history and geology. From here you have a choice of two trails that will take you to the narrows. One is carved out of the rock and the other is a paved universal trail. Both trails converge at the beginning of the narrows. The first section of the Catwalk through the narrows is universal and can accommodate people of varying abilities.

The Catwalk is a passage to hidden, secret places. Sheer cliff walls rise out of the streambed and the walkways, supported on steel beams 20 feet above the stream, zigzag from cliff to cliff as they wind through the narrows. The canyon suddenly opens into the light and the trail continues on with short series steps, hard-surfaced trail and scenic footbridges that span the cascading stream. Waterfalls echo in hidden grottos inviting you to linger and listen.

At the 1.1 mile marker a metal bridge, bouncing slightly under your steps, takes you to a sheltered ledge and waterfall pouring out of the rocks into a deep trout pool. The ledge is a dead end and the end of the Catwalk.

From the bridge the trail continues up Whitewater Canyon. It’s worth going about 100 feet further to an overlook above the bridge to get a view of the canyon. If you want to hike further continue on up the canyon and you’ll be rewarded by the beauty of Whitewater Creek and spectacular rock formations.

The Catwalk is a relaxing and rewarding way to spend the day enjoying a natural wonder and making memories. Take lots of pictures.


  • Silver City, NM, 0
  • 65 miles from hotel

Fort Bayard

Fort Bayard played an integral role in protecting settlers and miners in the Los Pinos and Silver City mining districts. Copper, silver, and gold mining spurred economic development of this region of southwestern New Mexico.

Soldiers from the fort battled many of the most famous Apache war leaders, including Victorio, Nana, and Geronimo. The first all-black regular army units made up of enlisted personnel, referred to as Buffalo soldiers, were organized in 1866 in the close of the Civil War. Fort Bayard was home to hundreds of black soldiers, who fought Apaches with distinction and who participated in the chase for Geronimo. His capture by Brig. Gen. Nelson A. Miles in 1886 effectively ended the Apache wars.

An unusual sequence of events has helped preserve the integrity of Fort Bayard. The post buildings were transferred to the Surgeon General of the Army, then the Veteran’s Administration, and finally to the State of New Mexico as a hospital. Continuous use has ensured its good state of preservation. Its layout and many of the buildings date to the late 19th century and offer the visitor a rare opportunity to see a military fort as it would have appeared in the 1800′s.

Today, the fort maintains many historic buildings and monuments, including the life-sized monument to the Buffalo Soldiers stationed here. Fort Bayard also hosts an annual historic re-enactment of fort life in the 1800′s.

Fort Bayard History: In 1865, General Carleton, Commander of the District of New Mexico, requested that a new fort be established in the southwestern region of New Mexico to protect the early miners, settlers and travelers from Apache Indians. Fort Bayard, located in the homeland of the Apaches, was established in August 1866, by Company B of the 125th U.S. Colored Infantry under the command of Lieutenant James Kerr. He established an encampment near the mining communities of Pinos Altos and Santa Rita.

Major General John Pope, Commanding Officer of the Military Division of the Missouri, recorded:

“I have established only one new post on the Apache frontier, and that is located near the head of the Mimbres River, about one hundred and fifty miles west of the Rio Grande River. This post, with Fort Cummings at Cooke’s Spring, Fort Selden on the Rio Grande, and Fort Stanton on the Bonito River between the Rio Grande and the Pecos, form a line of posts covering the southern frontier of New Mexico from the Apache Indians.”

The Indian threat ended when Geronimo surrendered at Skeleton Canyon, New Mexico, in September 1886. Fort Bayard was home to Native American Indian scouts, several Buffalo Soldiers including Chaplain Allen Allensworth, several Medal of Honor recipients, and William Cathay (a.k.a. Cathy Williams) who was the only known female Buffalo Soldier. Some of the military leaders who served at the post were Generals George Crook and “Black Jack” Pershing.

In 1899, as the military post was being prepared for abandonment, an unusual sequence of events helped to preserve the integrity of Fort Bayard. In that year, Surgeon George M. Stemberg proposed transferring the post to the Army Medical Department because of the healing qualities of the high altitude and the dry sunny climate. Later that year Fort Bayard became the first sanatorium dedicated to the treatment of U.S. Army Officers and enlisted men suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. Among its medical leaders were Major D.D.M. Appel and Major Dr. George E. Bushnell. Both completed outstanding research discoveries and procedures in the treatment of tuberculosis. Registered Nurse Dita Kinney, later director of the Army Nurses Corps, supervised the inclusion of female nurses in the Army Nurses Corps.

On May 1, 1922, Fort Bayard came under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Administration. The military post sanatorium became a central hospital for the care and treatment of veterans. In 1944, Fort Bayard had lost a lot of their male maintenance people to the draft so they “borrowed” German prisoners of war from the Lordsburg POW camp, who then helped to maintain the post. They were paid the same wage as an Army Private. In 1965, the State of New Mexico assumed control of the post as a long-term health care facility and presently employs approximately 400. The post’s adjoining military cemetery, dating back to 1866, became a National Cemetery on July 5, 1976. Fort Bayard became a New Mexico Historic District in 2001 and was named a National Historic Landmark on March 19, 2004.

Under the management of Pinon Health Care, Fort Bayard continues to play a vital role in the health care of the people of Grant County and the surrounding area.


  • Silver City, NM, 88061
  • 8 miles from hotel

Gila National Forest

From the cottonwoods of the Mimbres Valley, you will quickly enter the juniper, pinon and ponderosa pine country of the Gila (pronounced ‘HEE-la’) Forest. Here, spruce and fir thrive on the highest peaks, while the desert agave clings to the vertical cliffs of deep canyon walls. Almost one fourth of the 3.3 million acre forest is in wilderness. Largest of these is the 438,360 acre Gila Wilderness, promoted by conservationist Aldo Leopold and set aside in 1924 as the first such area in the United States.

Some 400 miles of fishing streams lace the entire forest. Wildlife in the Gila includes Rocky Mountain mule deer, Sonoran White-tail deer, beaver, elk, bobcat, mountain lion and black bear. The lucky motorist may spot wild turkey, antelope and other animals in the right season.

Largest federal land mass encompassing more than any other forest area except Alaska. The Continental Divide meanders through the Gila for 170 miles of solitude and grandeur. The Gila lies from Silver City north to Reserve and west from Hillsboro to the Arizona border.

New Mexico’s Most Remote Spot: On December 6, 2001, the Albuquerque Journal named a location in the Gila Wilderness as “New Mexico’s Most Remote Spot.” A team examined the point most distant to roads and to population density. They chose a point 11.5 miles west of the Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitors Center.

Largest federal land mass encompassing more than any other forest area except Alaska. The Continental Divide meanders through the Gila for 170 miles of solitude and grandeur. The Gila lies from Silver City north to Reserve and west from Hillsboro to the Arizona border.


  • Silver City, NM, 88061
  • 8 miles from hotel