World's First Designated Wilderness

Gila National Forest is excited to join with friends and partners to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Gila Wilderness Area in 2024!

Event Calendar

Special events to celebrate the Gila Wilderness' 100th birthday will be going on throughout the year including group hikes, virtual/in person speaker series, art shows, and volunteer trail work/clean up days.  The Forest and partner organizations also plan to participate in events including the Fourth of July Parade in Silver City, the Grant County Fair and other community events and festivals.  Events will be added to the calendar as details become available, so check back often!

About the Gila Wilderness

  • Gila Wilderness

    River passing by trees and a tall outcrop of rock

    On June 3, 1924, 755,000 acres were set aside by the Forest Service as the Gila Wilderness--the first designated wilderness in the world! The Gila Wilderness is a place where visitors can enjoy the natural beauty and walk in the footsteps of prehistoric Indians, the Apache and the settlers of long ago, where natural systems can function, and the diversity of plant and animal species can be maintained.

  • Aldo Leopold

    It was Aldo Leopold, a Forest Supervisor in New Mexico, who proposed setting aside the land. He saw the importance of preserving the biological diversity and natural systems giving way to development. Learn more about the man who inspired wilderness preservation.

    Aldo Leopold gazes out over a wide valley

Wonders of the Gila

  • Cliff Dwellings

    Cliff dwellings

    The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is also preserved within the Gila Wilderness. The Mogollon people were the early inhabitants of the Gila landscape.

  • Biological Diversity

    herd of elk in a green pasture

    The Gila Wilderness is a place where visitors can enjoy the natural beauty and walk in the footsteps of prehistoric Indians, the Apache and the settlers of long ago, where natural systems can function, and the diversity of plant and animal species can be maintained. From elk to gila monsters, aspen trees to prickly pear, the Gila is rich with biological diversity.

  • Explore Photos

    Cliff dwellings

    Our Flickr album has 100 photos of the area, some dating back to the early 1900s--before the Gila National Forest existed!

Get Involved

  • You Can Help!

    group of volunteers

    Help continue the legacy that conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold started by volunteering! Gila National Forest and partner organizations rely on the generous contributions of people like you.

  • Thank You for Your Submissions

    collage of winning entries

    Gila Wilderness Centennial Poster Contest winners have been announced!

History of the Gila

The Gila Wilderness area is located within the Gila National Forest in Southwest New Mexico. As John A. Murray writes in his book, The Gila Wilderness: A Hiking Guide:

Perhaps no other wilderness area in the Southwest or elsewhere so much embodies and reflects this national history and natural philosophy as does the Gila. Many of the important events in the development of the region, from the first expedition of Coronado in 1541 to the more recent raids of Geronimo, occurred either directly in the Gila Wilderness Area or in the immediate vicinity.

The cliff dwellings of the ancient Mogollon civilization are present here, as are the campsites and battlegrounds of the Apache and the U.S. Cavalry, the abandoned cabins of pioneers, the secret retreats of outlaws, and the remnants of once active mines.

A peculiar human richness abounds throughout the Gila country, and the hills and valleys resonate with a multitude of historical associations while at the same time offering the spectacular beauty of the desert uplands (1988).

 

Learn More