Special Places

The Gila National Forest offers many natural attractions to the visitor. Each provides a unique experience. These range from accessible trails at the Catwalk, historical insights at the Gila Cliff Dwellings, or the serenity of hiking in the wilderness.

Wilderness Areas

Horseback riders cross a meadow on the Gila Wilderness

Wilderness holds a special place on the Gila National Forest, as it was here that the first Wilderness was proclaimed on June 3, 1924 at the urging of the great conservation... full article

Highlighted Areas

Catwalk Recreation Area

The Catwalk's history began with the discovery of gold and silver in the rugged Mogollon Mountains above Whitewater Canyon. In 1893, the small town of Graham (also known as Whitewater) grew around a mill, located on the west hillside near the present day of parking area. The mill only lasted about 10 years. In the mid-1930's the Civilian Conservation Corps rebuilt the Catwalk. The Catwalk bridge system washed away post the Whitewater-Baldy Fire. It was rebuilt and is now open for approximately .5 miles from the parking lot. This is a very accessible area and easily hiked by all ages.


Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a National Park Service managed area that is surrounded by the Gila National Forest. The surrounding area includes a number of campsites, an interpretive trail and an educational/visitors center. Please visit their website for information regarding the Cliff Dwellings, possible closures, and other area information.


Gila Wilderness

The 558,065-acre Gila Wilderness, created in June 1924 at the urging of the great conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold, was the world's first designated wilderness.

“The richest values of wilderness lie not in the days of Daniel Boone, nor even in the present, but rather in the future.” ~ Aldo Leopold


Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary

Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary (CCIDSS) is the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary located on National Forest System lands and also in North America. International Dark Sky Sanctuaries are lands possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights.  For more information on dark skies or the International Dark Sky Association - http://www.darksky.org/.

The CCIDSS offers a 360-degree, unobstructed view of the night sky, and often hosts “star parties” in cooperation with the partner group “Friends of the Cosmic Campground.” This site is situated where there is little light pollution and low development.

Night vision is necessary to enjoy the night sky. In order to preserve the quality of night sky viewing for fellow star gazers visitors are asked to respect several ground rules including:

  • No parking on the observation pads
  • No camp fires on observation pads
  • No white flashlights – recommend using a red filter over the lens
  • Try to arrive before dark, that way your headlights won’t distort your night vision
  • We recommend no generator use between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

CCIDSS is a primitive campground with minimal site amenities including an information kiosk, a pit toilet, and four concrete telescope/observation pads. Currently, there is very minimal shade available however, future planning developments intend to erect a shade pavilion as well as improve individual campsite amenities as funding comes available.