The Gila National Forest is probably best known for its wilderness areas, in particular the Gila Wilderness. The Gila Wilderness is 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.
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information
Recreation Conditions Report
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.
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 (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.