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Gila National Forest, NM

Apr 19 - Apr 26, 2018 -- $1275 ★★★

There is a vast wilderness in the middle of an imaginary triangle formed by Phoenix, Albuquerque and El Paso known as the Gila Wilderness within the Gila National Forest. It is a remote, immense desert of stunning beauty, so much so that part of it was named for Aldo Leopold who designated it for protection.

Besides hiking in the wilderenss, our journey will include the ancient Pueblo Gila Cliff Dwellings that date back over 700 years. Plus we'll soak in the remote and natural Gila River Hot Springs, tucked in a cubby hole above the Gila River. Note: This is a different hot springs than Jordan Hot Springs -- the springs that the 2017 trip visted.

Our trek will run out of El Paso, TX. We'll leave early and shuttle up to Gila Wilderness (4+ hours). When we arrive, we will warm up with a visit to the Ancient Cliff Dwellings before we begin backpacking.

We'll set out towards the West Fork of the Gila and spend the next few days hiking up EE Canyon and the Little Creek Trail before summitting 8731' Granite Peak. We then head up to Miller Spring to Little Turkey Park towards Brushy Mountain. Then we head down to the Gila River where the hot springs are for our relaxing soak. We then cross the river several times before finishing our trek with wet feet.

We will be visiting this geologic wonderland just as spring warms the Southwest high desert. It's prime time to visit, so why not join us to see this wonderful, remote destination?


Weather is always an important concern when hiking. Spring is an ideal time to hike in Gila Wilderness. Expect daytime hiking temperatures into the 70s & 80s and nighttime temperatures in the 30s & 40s, though it may reach the 90s during the day and freezing at night. Here are the historical weather averages. Expect sunny, fair weather, but be prepared for frigid nights because of the arid climate and radiational cooling.

Trip Leaders

Steve Silberberg
Kellie Garrity


$1275 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a room with another participant during the 2 hotel nights. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from El Paso International Airport (ELP), personal equipment, restaurant meals eaten off the trail and any gratuities for guides.

Covered expenses include 2 hotel nights, 6 days of trail meals, ground transportation to/from El Paso, National Forest permits, insurance, satellite phone and awesome guides.

Important Note

On Saturday, we will be crossing the Gila river several times. The water temperature may be very cold and the water may be almost waist deep in places. You will need sturdy water shoes for this trip.

Although the elevation and incline of the trails are often moderate, there will be a few steep uphill climbs and downhill descents. And there will be no water after we leave camp on Thursday morning until we get to camp on Friday night, so we will have to carry at least 2 gallons (8 liters) of water at the outset that day. We will need sturdy water shoes for the crossings, but they offer little ankle support so make sure to bring trekking poles. Plus the water may be quite cold.

Civil Rights Compliance

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

To file a complaint of discrimination: write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

This institution is operated under special use permit with the Gila National Forest.

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Guides for this trip
Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fly into El Paso International Airport (ELP) or drive/bus into El Paso, TX. The best time to arrive is between Noon-3PM, but if you can save a significant amount by arriving a few hours earlier or later, then do so.

Take a free airport shuttle to the La Quinta Inn El Paso Airport, 6140 Gateway Blvd East, El Paso, TX 79905, 915-778-9321

Equipment shakedown

Trail mix distribution

"Before" body composition measurements taken

Trip to Academy Sports + Outdoors, 201 S Americas Ave, El Paso, TX 79907, (915) 860-5800, for forgotten or last minute equipment

Please note: Academy is not great for outfitting. It may be possible to shop at Dick's Sporting Goods for more "backpacking friendly" equipment, but be aware that they close at 6PM the day you arrive.

Go out for dinner at a local restaurant (Dinner cost not included in package)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Second set of "before" measurements taken

All the items that you won't bring on the trail will be set aside and put in storage.

Free breakfast at Hotel

Shuttle 4+ hours to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Park at West Fork Trailhead

Tour of the Gila Cliff Dwellings. If you have a National Park Pass please consider bringing it to help defray our costs.

Start hiking in the Gila National Forest at the West Fork Trailhead, elevation 5800'

Hike 1.3 miles along the West Fork of the Gila on Trail 151 to the EE Canyon Trail, elevation 5900'

Hike 2.2 miles on the EE Canyon Trail to the Ring Canyon Trail #162, elevation 6700'

Turn right and hike 0.1 miles on the Ring Canyon Trail #162, elevation 6700'

Turn left and hike 1.0 miles to the Little Creek Trail #161, elevation 6400'

Camp on Little Creek, elevation 6400'

Miles today: 4.6. Total miles: 4.6

Bailout: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hike 3.5 miles along the Little Creek Trail #161 to the Ring Canyon Trail cutoff, elevation 6700'

Hike 4.5 miles along the Little Creek Trail #161 to Little Spring, elevation 7100'

Wilderness camp near Little Spring (reliable water here), elevation 7100'

Miles today: 8.0. Total miles: 12.6

Possible bailout: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, but it's far

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hike 1.5 miles on the Turkey Creek Trail #155 to the Granite Peak Trail #150, elevation 7700'

Drop packs and day-hike 1.5 miles each way on the Granite Peak Trail #150 to the summit of Granite Peak, elevation 8731'

Hike 7.5 downhill miles on the Turkey Creek Trail #155 to the Miller Spring Trail #160, elevation 6000'

There may not be water here. Options are to continue down Turkey Creek about a mile or press on up a steep hill to Miller Spring, probably not advisable after a long day. Alternatively, we could carry 2 gallons (8 liters) from Little Spring and dry camp.

Camp at the Miller Spring Trail #160, elevation 6000'

Miles today: 12.0. Total miles: 24.6

Possible bailout: At least 1 day away

Monday, April 23, 2018

Hike 2.5 uphill miles (650') on the Miller Spring Trail #160 to Miller Spring, elevation 7000'

There is no reliable water until tomorrow night, so fill all empty vessels with water, at least 2 gallons (8 liters) worth.

Cook dinner here because it is uses a lot of water. Tonights dinner will be a no-cook lunch.

Hike 5.8 miles on the Miller Spring Trail #160 to Little Turkey Park, elevation 7400'

There is probably water here but it's usually muddy.

Hike 0.7 miles on the Miller Spring Trail #160 to the Brushy Mountain Trail #403, elevation 7900'

Wilderness Camp near or on the Brushy Mountain Trail, elevation 7900'

Miles today: 9.0. Total miles: 33.6

Possible bailout: At least 1 day away

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hike 7.5 downhill miles on the Brushy Mountain Trail #403 to the Gila River, elevation 5500'

Camp at the Gila River, elevation 5500'

Miles today: 7.5. Total miles: 41.1

Possible bailout: Route 15

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Break Camp Early

Hike 1.2 miles along the Gila River Trail #724, to the Gila River Hot Springs elevation 5500'

Take a soak in The Gila River Natural Hot Springs

Hike 1.7 miles along the Gila River Trail #724, to the Route 15 trailhead elevation 5500'

End of hiking

Miles today: 2.9. Total miles: 44.0

Possible bailout: Route 15

It will take us about an hour or more shuttle back to the Gila Cliff Dwellings for our vehicle as well as stop in to the Ranger Station for souvenirs etc.

Shuttle back to El Paso and check into La Quinta Inn El Paso Airport, 6140 Gateway Blvd East, El Paso, TX 79905, 915-778-9321

"After" body composition measurements taken

Dinner and awards Ceremony (Dinner cost not included in trip cost)

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Free Hotel Breakfast

Free airport shuttle

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