Gila National Forest

The Gila National Forest is a protected national forest in New Mexico in the southwestern part of the United States established in 1905. It covers approximately 2,710,659 acres (10,969.65 km2) of public land, making it the sixth largest National Forest in the continental United States. The Forest also manages that part of the Apache National Forest that is in New Mexico which totals an additional 614,202 acres for a total of 3.3 million acres managed by the Gila National Forest. Part of the forest, the Gila Wilderness, was established in 1924 as the first designated wilderness reservation by the U.S. federal government. Aldo Leopold Wilderness and the Blue Range Wilderness are also found within its borders. (The Blue Range Primitive Area lies within Arizona in the neighboring Apache National Forest.)

Gila National Forest
Gila National Forest along New Mexico Route 180
LocationNew Mexico, United States
Nearest citySilver City, NM
Coordinates33.47°N 108.53°W / 33.47; -108.53
Area2,710,659 acres (10,969.65 km2)[1]
EstablishedJuly 21, 1905[2]
Governing bodyU.S. Forest Service
WebsiteGila National Forest

The forest lies in southern Catron, northern Grant, western Sierra, and extreme northeastern Hidalgo counties in southwestern New Mexico. Forest headquarters are located in Silver City, New Mexico. There are local ranger district offices in Glenwood, Mimbres, Quemado, Reserve, Silver City, and Truth or Consequences.[3] The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is located with the Catron County section of the forest.

The forest's terrain ranges from rugged mountains and deep canyons to mesas and semi-desert. Due to the extremely rugged terrain, the area is largely unspoiled. There are several hot springs in Gila National Forest, including Middle Fork Hot Springs, Jordan Hot Springs, and Turkey Creek Hot Springs.


Gila is home to namesake wildlife that includes the Gila monster, Gila trout, Gila topminnow, several members of the Gila (western chub) genus, and the Gila woodpecker.[4][5] Other notable species include black bear, bald eagle, cougar, spotted owl, elk, white-tailed deer, osprey, peregrine falcon, bobcat, collared peccary, timber wolf,[6] gray fox, white-nosed coati, pronghorn, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and wild turkey.[4][5]


The Gila River Forest Reserve was established on March 2, 1899 by the General Land Office, and was renamed the Gila Forest Reserve on July 21, 1905. The following year the forest was transferred to the U.S. Forest Service, and on March 4, 1907 it became a National Forest. Additions included Big Burros National Forest on June 18, 1908, Datil National Forest on December 24, 1931, and part of Crook National Forest on July 1, 1953.[7]


Cosmic Campground is a 3.5 acres (1.4 ha) area that is ideal for star-gazing. In 2016, the campground was given the status of being the first and only International Dark Sky Sanctuary in North America, and has remained so as of 7 September 2017.[8]


  1. "Land Areas of the National Forest System" (PDF). U.S. Forest Service. January 2012. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  2. "The National Forests of the United States" (PDF). Forest History Society. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  3. USFS Ranger Districts by State
  4. "Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles and Mammals ... A Species Checklist for the Gila National forest" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. September 1995. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  5. Zimmerman, Dale A. (July 2002). "Birds of the Gila National Forest: A Checklist" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  7. Davis, Richard C. (September 29, 2005), National Forests of the United States (pdf), Forest History Society
  8. Cosmic Campground (U.S.), International Dark-Sky Association, retrieved 2017-09-07
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