Wilderness Areas

View into the Gila Wilderness

The Gila National Forest includes more wilderness than any other national forest in the Southwest. This undeveloped natural country can refresh the human spirit simply by its grandeur, purity, and remoteness.

The wilderness areas on the Gila comprise a vast, roadless realm astride the Black, Mogollon, Diablo, and Blue mountain ranges, varying from grassland foothills upward through juniper woodland, ponderosa pine, and then spruce-fir forests on the high peaks. Mountain meadows, aspen glades, and spruce forests border on narrow, rock-walled canyons which in some places plunge to depths of more than a thousand feet.

Wilderness on the Gila National Forest

Three wilderness areas together total 792,584 acres, or approximately 24% of the Gila National Forest. The Gila Wilderness, at 559,688 acres, is New Mexico's largest wilderness with an extensive trail system providing access.  The Gila Wilderness, the world's first designated wilderness, was created on June 3, 1924 at the urging of the great conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold. The Aldo Leopold Wilderness lies to the east, while towards the west, the smaller Blue Range Wilderness adjoins Arizona's rugged Blue Range Primitive Area.

Map of wildeness locations

Wilderness Ethics

In wilderness there are no roads; the only travel permitted is by foot or horseback. You will find no logging, resorts nor commercial uses of any kind except grazing. Hunting and fishing, however, are open to all citizens under New Mexico game laws.

Please follow these simple points to maintain our wilderness:

  • Motorized vehicles are not permitted in the wilderness.
  • Mechanized equipment (including mountain bikes) may not be used in the wilderness.
  • Leave no trace of your visit.
  • Check with the local land management agency for trail information and other considerations.