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Gila National Forest, NM

May 21 - May 28, 2017 -- $1300 ★★★

There is a vast wilderness in the middle of an imaginary triangle formed by Phoenix, Albuquerque and El Paso known as the Gila Wilderness within the Gila National Forest. It is a remote, immense desert of stunning beauty, so much so that part of it was named for Aldo Leopold who designated it for protection.

Besides hiking in the wilderenss, our journey will include the ancient Pueblo Gila Cliff Dwellings that date back over 700 years. Plus we'll soak in the remote and natural Jordan Hot Springs, tucked in a cubby hole above the Middle Fork of the Gila River.

Our trek will run out of El Paso, TX. We'll leave early and shuttle up to Gila Wilderness (4+ hours). When we arrive, we will warm up with a visit to the Ancient Cliff Dwellings before we begin backpacking.

We'll set out towards the West Fork of the Gila and spend the next few days hiking up the West Fork towards a place called Hells Hole. Fortunately, we'll be near water the entire time. We then have a long climb up onto a plateau before visiting an abandoned homestead called Prior Cabin. We spend the next night at an incredible wilderness area called "The Meadows". Then we head down the canyon via the Middle Fork of the Gila River, crossing the river many, many times before taking our relaxing soak in the hot springs and hiking out through magnificent high-walled Bear Canyon the final day.

We will be visiting this geologic wonderland just as spring warms the Southwest high desert. It's prime time to visit, so why not join us to see this wonderful, remote destination?


Weather is always an important concern when hiking. Spring is an ideal time to hike in Gila Wilderness. Expect daytime hiking temperatures into the 70s & 80s and nighttime temperatures in the 30s & 40s, though it may reach the 90s during the day and freezing at night. Here are the historical weather averages. Expect sunny, fair weather, but be prepared for frigid nights because of the arid climate and radiational cooling.

Trip Leaders

Steve Silberberg
2nd guide TBD


$1300 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a room with another participant during the 2 hotel nights. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from El Paso International Airport (ELP), personal equipment, restaurant meals eaten off the trail and any gratuities.

Covered expenses include 2 hotel nights, 6 days of trail meals, ground transportation to/from El Paso, National Forest permits, insurance, satellite phone and awesome guides.

Important Note

On Friday, we will be crossing the Middle Fork of the Gila all day long. We may have to walk through the river 50 times or more. The water temperature may be very cold and the water may be almost waist deep in places. You will need sturdy water shoes for this trip.

Although the elevation and incline of the trails are often moderate, there will be a few steep uphill climbs and downhill descents. However, the real difficulty is the countless water crossings that we'll encounter as we walk down the canyon -- both the West and Middle Forks of the Gila River. We will be wearing sturdy water shoes, but they offer little ankle support so make sure to bring trekking poles. Plus the water may be quite cold.

The upside is that we get to carry less water. Normally desert trips require us to carry as much as 2+ gallons of water (at 8 pounds per gallon). Here, we will not only be able to carry less water, we will be at much less risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion, even though we'll often be exposed to the hot desert sun.

Civil Rights Compliance

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

To file a complaint of discrimination: write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

This institution is operated under special use permit with the Gila National Forest.

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Packing List
Guides for this trip
Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)
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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fly into El Paso International Airport (ELP) or drive/bus into El Paso, TX. The best time to arrive is between Noon-3PM, but if you can save a significant amount by arriving a few hours earlier or later, then do so.

Take a free airport shuttle to Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham El Paso Airport, 6789 Boeing Drive, El Paso, TX 79925, 915-778-6789

Equipment shakedown

Trail mix distribution

"Before" body composition measurements taken

Trip to Academy Sports + Outdoors, 201 S Americas Ave, El Paso, TX 79907, (915) 860-5800, for forgotten or last minute equipment

Go out for dinner at a local restaurant (Dinner cost not included in package)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Second set of "before" measurements taken

All the items that you won't bring on the trail will be set aside and put in storage.

Free breakfast at Hotel

Shuttle 4+ hours to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Park at West Fork Trailhead

Tour of the Gila Cliff Dwellings

Start hiking in the Gila National Forest at the West Fork Trailhead, elevation 5800'

Hike 4.0 miles along the West Fork of the Gila on Trail 151

Camp near the West Fork, elevation 5800'

Miles today: 4.0. Total miles: 4.0

Bailout: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hike 6.5 miles in a high walled canyon on Trail 151, crossing the Gila West fork many, many times to a dispersed campsite, elevation 6500'

Wilderness camp along the West Fork of the Gila, elevation 6500'

Miles today: 6.5. Total miles: 10.5

Possible bailout: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hike 2.0 miles in a high walled canyon on Trail 151, crossing the Gila West fork many, many times to Hells Hole, elevation 6500'

Hike 1.0 steep uphill miles on Trail 268 (Hell's Hole Trail) to Trail #164 (Lilley Park Trail), elevation 7400'

Hike 0.5 flat miles on Trail #164 (Lilley Park Trail) to Trail #156 (Prior Cabin Trail), elevation 7400'

Hike 2.0 downhill miles on Trail #156 (Prior Cabin Trail) to Prior Cabin, elevation 700'

There is a water source here, but it is unreliable

Miles today: 5.5. Total miles: 16.0

Possible bailout: At least 1 day away

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hike 3.5 uphill miles on Trail #156 (Prior Creek Trail) to Trail #28 (Big Creek Falls Trail), elevation 7400'

Hike 1.5 steep downhill miles on Trail #28 (Big Creek Falls Trail) to Trail #157 (Middle Fork Trail), elevation 6000'

Hike 0.1 miles upstream on Trail #157 (Middle Fork Trail) to The Meadows, elevation 6000'

The wide-open grassland flat of The Meadows is surrounded by brushy rock strewn hills that rise more than 1000' to distant rims

Mileage Map for some of this region

Camp at The Meadows

Miles today: 5.1. Total miles: 21.1

Possible bailout: Route 159

Friday, May 26, 2017

IMPORTANT NOTE: We will be crossing the Middle Fork of the Gila all day long. We may have to walk through the river 50 times or more. Please make sure you have sturdy water shoes.

Hike 7.5 downstream miles on Trail #157 (Middle Fork Trail), crossing many, many times to Jordan Canyon, elevation 6000'

Take a soak in Jordan Canyon Natural Hot Springs

Hike 2.0 downstream miles on Trail #157 (Middle Fork Trail), crossing many more times to Little Bear Canyon, elevation 5900'

Camp at Little Bear Canyon

Miles today: 9.5. Total miles: 30.6

Possible bailout: Park Office

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Break Camp Early

Hike 1.8 uphill miles to Trail 164 (Lilley Park Trail), elevation 6300'

Hike 2.2 downhill miles to TJ Corral, elevation 5800'

Hike 0.5 road miles to the West Fork Trailhead, elevation 5800'

Miles today: 4.5. Total miles: 35.1

Possible bailout: TJ Corral

Shuttle back to Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham El Paso Airport, 6789 Boeing Drive, El Paso, TX 79925, 915-778-6789

"After" body composition measurements taken

Dinner and awards Ceremony (Dinner cost not included in trip cost)

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Free Hotel Breakfast

Free airport shuttle

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