|The catwalk at Cave Four, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, part of a one-mile self-guided loop trail. National Park Service photo.|
Across New Mexico the Fifty Trail follows two well documented trails the entire way. First is the Grand Enchantment Trail, which runs eastward from the Arizona State Line to Albuquerque. The Fifty Trail follows it until it intersects with the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. It then turns north on the CDT and follows it to the Colorado Border.
The best of the state’s hiking is arguably through the Gila Wilderness, the world’s first designated Wilderness reserve (June 3, 1924). The route first follows the ridge of the Mogollon Mountains summiting 10,774’ Mogollon Baldy then dropping down to the magnificent canyon of the West Fork of the Gila River, emerging at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Here a self guided trail allows visitors to see these cliff dwellings (see photo) in an up-close-and-personal way. Since the Fifty Trail was unable to fit a visit to Mesa Verde National Park, this is the hiker’s chance for immersion in a prehistoric Pueblo-era cultural site.
MAPS and TRAIL GUIDES:
Continental Divide Trail: http://continentaldividetrail.org/
Free Continental Divide Trail map set (but you have to email him for it): http://www.phlumf.com/travels/cdt/cdtmaps.shtml
Pay for PDF map books for the CDT: http://www.bearcreeksurvey.com/pdf_maps.htm
Print maps and guides for the CDT: http://www.yogisbooks.com/continental-divide-trail/
Grand Enchantment Trail: http://www.simblissity.net/get/
Grand Enchantment Trail guide pages: http://www.simblissity.net/get/guide.shtml
Gila Wilderness Trails map: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd574189.pdf
Aldo Leopold Wilderness Trails map: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd574190.pdf
HEART OF THE TRAIL:
Traverse through the Gila Wilderness, the nation’s first designated Wilderness, via the Grand Enchantment Trail. Starting at Sandy Point Trailhead on seasonally open highway NM 159, following the Crest Trail (182) along the ridge of the Mogollon Mountains to Mogollon Baldy then east down Mogollon Baldy Trail (152) to White Creek Cabin then down the magnificent canyon of the West Fork of the Gila River via the West Fork Trail (151 – with some washout sections and about 40 fords of the river, back and forth) to Cliff Dweller Canyon Trailhead, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (side trip via a one-mile self-guided loop trail with up-close-and-personal tour of the cliff dwellings is not to be missed) then on past the Visitor Center to Middle Fork Trail (157) then right onto the Adobe Springs Trail (804). Where the Adobe Springs Trail exits the mouth of Adobe Canyon and reaches (then crosses) East Fork of the Gila River, the Grand Enchantment Trail turns south and crosses the EasT Fork later. To complete the ‘Heart of’ route continue east on Adobe Spring Trail another 1.6 miles to FR 225 at Trails End Trailhead (50.5 miles).
7321.2 – (add 0.0) Arizona-New Mexico border. Start of New Mexico segment. Continue on Grand Enchantment Trail, section 18.
7330.9 – (add 9.7) US 180 at Alma. Continue onto Section 19, Grand Enchantment Trail.
7336.5 – (add 5.6) Gila National Forest, Cooper Canyon. Continue onto section 20, Grand Enchantment Trail.
7350.2 – (add 13.7) Sandy Point Trailhead. Leave New Mexico Hwy. 159, turn left onto Crest Trail (Trail 182), continue on Crest and Grand Enchantment Trails.
7373.1 – (add 22.9) Reach West Fork Gila River at a locked Forest Service cabin where White Creek empties into the River. Continue down the river on FT 151, section 21 of the Grand Enchantment Trail.
7390.3 – (add 17.2) Trailhead near the end of New Mexico highway 15, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Continue on Grand Enchantment Trail section 22.
7399.1 – (add 8.8) Mouth of Adobe Canyon at East fork of the Gila River. Fork in trails. Trail 804 is the left fork, which continues 1.6 miles to the Trails End Trailhead hear the gated end of FR 225. (The ‘Heart Of’ segment uses Trails End Trailhead as its access point.) The Grand Enchantment Trail and Fifty Trail bear right, south along the East Fork of the Gila River, continuing to follow the Grand Enchantment Trail route.
7415.1 – (add 16.0) Railroad Canyon Road. Continue on Grand Enchantment Trail section 23.
7426.6 – (add 11.5) Reach merger with Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Turn north on CDT, which is also Grand Enchantment Trail section 24.
7454.6 – (add 28.0) New Mexico Hwy 59. CDT mile 269.7. Continue north on combined Continental Divide Trail and Grand Enchantment Trail, but the latter splits and heads east after 15.4 miles. Continue to follow CDT as it leaves Gila National Forest and turns westward.
7564.9 – (add 110.3) New Mexico Highway 12. CDT Mile 380.0. Continue north on Continental Divide Trail.
8002.2 – (add 437.3) Colorado border. End of New Mexico Segment. Continue north on Continental Divide Trail.
Next Segment: Colorado
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