New Mexico Backpacking

GILA WILDERNESS, BIG PINE COUNTRY

New Mexico $1,950 in 2017 (inclusive*) • Next Scheduled Trek in April, 2019

Snowy PeakSouthwestern New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness in the Gila National Forest (pronounced Hee’-la) is a big and rugged land of startling contrasts and tremendous diversity, where mule deer, elk, coyote, black bear, mountain lion, and wild turkey abound in a magnificent, mostly forested setting. Here are the wild tributary canyons of the Gila River, characterized by rich riparian deciduous forests. There are ten thousand-foot mountains, too. We’ll explore woodlands of juniper and pinyon pine and the world’s largest remaining virgin ponderosa pine forest: it is majestic! Spectacular vistas from high ridges and mesas are some of the most awesome in the entire Southwest. April is normally dry and mild sunny days prevail, but nights are crisp, and in the high country, travelers should be prepared for any kind of weather from cold rain or snow to eighty-degree sunshine. And, the Mexican Gray Wolf has now been re-introduced into the Gila! The Gila is America’s first designated Wilderness, originally protected in 1924 at the urging of legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold. This trip is fairly strenuous, and its base is Tucson, Arizona. This trip is offered only in odd-numbered years.

Most years, we do a loop trip that begins and ends near the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (which we usually visit at the end of the trek), north of Silver City. We usually take a mid-trip layover in beautiful McKenna Park, deep in the virgin old growth ponderosa pines at the foot of the Diablo Mountains.

New Mexico Backpacking

New Mexico Backpacking

TREK BASE:  Airport La Quinta Inn, 7001 S. Tucson Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85706, 520-573-3333 or 800-753-3757, www.lq.com.

MEETING TIME: Pre-trip orientation plus food/gear handout and safety talk at 6 PM the evening prior to the first advertised trip day, in the La Quinta lobby.

TRANSPORTATION: Air service to Tucson, call motel for quick shuttle from airport. Alternate: fly to Phoenix and take bus or van shuttle to Tucson, or rent a car (1.5 hours).

TREK RATING: It’s fairly strenuous, mostly on good trails with a bit of easy bushwhacking, but we cover a lot of territory, usually with a couple of 10 or 11 mile days. Count on a mid-trip layover.

ELEVATIONS: 5500-8500 feet, possibly higher in a dry year if high elevation snowpack is minimal. Maximum one-day elevation gain with backpack is about 2,000 feet.

WEATHER: Sunny warm days with cold nights, often below freezing, are typical. Spring is usually the dry season, and there are often huge diurnal temperature variations in the high dry thin air. However, occasional spring storms can drop either rain or snow, so be ready. Star-gazing is usually spectacular! Click here for the National Weather Service forecast.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Despite the far southwestern location, the Gila is mostly high, forested mountains and mesas cut by deep river canyons. The world’s largest remaining virgin ponderosa pine forest is here, and the huge widely spaced trees are majestic; it’s a magical forest like no other! There are big views where one can see forever, plus mule deer, elk, black bear, wild turkey (gobble gobble) and Mexican gray wolves, which have been reintroduced and can sometimes be heard howling. This is truly big and wild country, by far the largest forest wilderness in the Southwest.

Babes in the WoodsSPECIAL TIPS: Avoid unnecessary gear, as you will be grateful for a relatively lightweight backpack, especially on the longer days. Don’t skimp on clothing, though, because it can be cold at these altitudes!

STATUS: The Gila was our first officially protected wilderness (!), thanks to legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, who convinced the reluctant Forest Service to protect it in 1924.

ITINERARY: We usually do a loop route, and the trailheads are 4-5 hours or so from Tucson.

Note: The exact route varies, depending upon conditions, so mileages and elevations are approximate.

*All trip prices include equipment (backpack, day-pack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, eating utensils), food and cooking (3 meals/day plus snacks), cooking gear, trip planning, comprehensive safety instruction, all user/permit fees, transportation from town to and from the trailheads, and our professional guide/naturalist staff. There is a $300 discount if you bring your own equipment. 

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Space is limited!
Have questions? Call (406) 848-7000

River CrossersWest Fork GilaLittle Man, Little Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Mexico Backpacking

Canyon LightLittle CreekGuided Backpack Trips

*All trip prices include equipment (backpack, day-pack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, eating utensils), food and cooking (3 meals/day plus snacks), cooking gear, trip planning, comprehensive safety instruction, all user/permit fees, transportation from town to and from the trailheads, and our professional guide/naturalist staff. There is a $300 discount if you bring your own equipment.

Annual Trip Calendar

 

Capitan Lake - photo from one of our backpacking treks

List prices include our complete gear package and there is a $300 discount if you bring your own (see our Canoeing List, Backpacking List, and/or Questionnaire for details – found here). Also, we offer a $300 discount for the second trip in a calendar year. Scheduled trips are for persons ages 14 and over. Exceptions to the age requirement will be made by us on a case-by-case basis.

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or Call (406) 848-7000