Recreation

A view of the Gila Wilderness from Signal Peak

The forest is probably best known for its wilderness areas, in particular the Gila Wilderness - the first Congressionally designated wilderness in the United States. The magnificent mountain scenery, cool summer temperatures and relatively warm winters permit a wide range of recreational opportunities during all seasons. Read the full article.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Recreation Conditions Report

 Area Name Status Area Conditions
Aeroplane Mesa Campground Open to Visitor
Aldo Leopold Vista Picnic Area Open to Visitor
Aldo Leopold Wilderness Open to Visitor Hikers and equestrians should be aware of potential hazards in burned areas.
Apache Creek Campground Open to Visitor
Armijo Springs Campground Open to Visitor
Ben Lilly Campground Open to Visitor
Bighorn Campground Open to Visitor
Black Canyon Campground - Lower Open to Visitor There are portions that can wash out during monsoon season. Please check with the ranger district to verify road conditions.
Black Canyon Campground - Upper Open to Visitor
Catwalk #207 Trailhead Open to Visitor
Catwalk National Recreation #207 Trail Open to Visitor
Catwalk Recreation Area Open to Visitor
Cherry Creek Campground Open to Visitor
Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary Open to Visitor
Cottonwood Campground Open to Visitor
Dipping Vat Campground Open to Visitor
Dragonfly Loop Trail - #720 Open to Visitor
El Caso I-IV Campground Open to Visitor
El Caso V Campground Open to Visitor
Forks Campground Open to Visitor
Gallinas Campground - Upper Open to Visitor
Gallinas Canyon Trail #129 Open to Visitor Beautiful creek walk from Hwy 152 at Railroad Canyon Campground to Holden Prong Saddle.
Gold Dust Trail Open to Visitor
Gomez Peak Large Group Area Open to Visitor
Grapevine Campground Open to Visitor
Gwynn Tank Campground Open to Visitor
Head of the Ditch Campground Open to Visitor
Iron Creek Campground Open to Visitor
Juniper Campground Open to Visitor
Kingston Campground Open to Visitor
Lake Roberts Open to Visitor
Lake Roberts Picnic Area Open to Visitor
Little Walnut East Group Area Open to Visitor
Little Walnut Individual Picnic Area Open to Visitor First-come/first serve only.
Little Walnut-Gomez Peak Day Use Area Open to Visitor Reservations are available on Recreation.gov.
McMillan Campground Open to Visitor
Mesa Campground Open to Visitor
Mogollon Box Day Use Area Open to Visitor
Piñon Campground Open to Visitor
Pueblo Park Campground Open to Visitor
Quemado Lake Recreation Area Open to Visitor
Railroad Canyon Campground Open to Visitor
Rocky Canyon Campground Open to Visitor
Sapillo Campground Open to Visitor
Upper End Campground Open to Visitor
Valle Tio Vinces Campground Open to Visitor
Whitewater Picnic Area Open to Visitor
Willow Creek Campground Open to Visitor
Wolf Hollow Campground Open to Visitor

Spotlights

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 during a huge flooding event after the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire. The bridge system 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. After the bridge system, the trail system has been cleared for another .5 - .75 miles. It goes across a low-water crossing, across the fiberglass bridge and through the arch. Once you go up the stairs to a small viewing area the trail can become steep. Past the "swimming hole" the trail becomes unnavigable.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

View of one of Cliff Dwellings

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.

Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary

photo-Cosmic CG sign

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. It is also one of only 14 certified IDA Sanctuaries in the world. International Dark Sky Sanctuaries are lands possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights.  For more information on dark skies, light pollution, or the International Dark Sky Association.

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 nearest significant source of artificial light is more than 40 miles away, and across the state line in Arizona. .

Night vision is necessary to enjoy the night sky. If you look at white light from either your flashlight or your cell phone you will not be able to enjoy the wonders of the natural night sky for 20-30 minutes.  In order to respect your fellow star gazers the Forest Service recommends:

  • No parking on the observation/telescope pads
  • No camp fires on observation pads
  • Use a red filter over your flashlight lens
  • Try to arrive before dark so that your headlights won’t distort your night vision
  • Quiet times (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.

Areas & Activities


https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gila/recreation