It’s vacation season! Visit regional destinations with ABC-7’s Katie Frazier


GILA NATIONAL FOREST, New Mexico – It’s the Fourth of July weekend and many across the United States use this weekend to travel to visit family, friends, or a new location altogether. As flight prices are high to get out of the Borderland, some may want to take a family road trip to a place they’ve never seen before. Here is your sign to do just that.

If you are looking for a trip to the past, search no further, as the two locations mentioned in this article are perfect examples of just that. First, we’ll start with the City of Rocks State Park in southwestern New Mexico. City of Rocks is approximately 2 hours from El Paso and 1.5 hours from Las Cruces.

City of Rocks is exactly what the name says, a city of massive rocks that soar up to 40 feet tall. The rocks were formed nearly 35 million years ago from a large volcanic eruption. Since then, mother nature has made her mark by carving out “roads” between the rocks, allowing visitors to walk in, out, around, and on top of the massive rocks.

In order to go, you’ll have to pay a fee for the maintenance of the park. It’s $5 to enter and $10 to stay each night according to the reservation website found here. There are bathrooms on-site, numerous campsites, picnic tables, hiking and biking trails, scenic views, and more. Sounds like an amazing day trip that you and the family can do, visiting an area you may never have been before.

Next, are the Gila Cliff Dwellings. From El Paso, it is about a 4 hour drive, and from Las Cruces it is approximately a 3 hour drive. However, from personal experience, you may want to give yourself extra time to get through the road from Silver City to the Dwellings, as it is a twisty turny road with multiple areas of inclines and declines.

Once you arrive at the Dwellings, you will likely speak to a National Park Service member about what you can or cannot bring on the trail. They said they are having a rodent problem in the Dwellings due to people leaving behind food, so they tell you not to bring any food on the trail. Make sure you pack accordingly with plenty of water, sunscreen and good shoes.

Then, you’ll begin your hike. While the trail is only about one mile long, there is an incline that you’ll have to walk up to get to the Cliff Dwelling Caves. Thus, the trail may be difficult for some, especially those who are not avid hikers, or those who are hiking during the summer heat. Don’t worry though, once you make it up, the caves will offer a cool reprieve from the blazing sun.

The hike takes you up through a canyon, twisting over a river, which served as the water source for the peoples who once lived there. As you walk up the switch-back staircase, you’ll get your first views of the Cliff Dwellings, which were built by the Mongollan people (pronounced mo-gi-yon) in the 1200s.

Finally, you’ll reach the cave and see the walls and rooms built by the Mongollan, which are some of the best preserved dwellings that remain to this day. You’ll walk through the cave, with its black ceiling due to fires burned hundreds of years ago, and see the interesting way people used to live. Interestingly enough, the Mongollan only lived in the shelter for less than 100 years. It is not known why they left. Keep in mind, this is the same land indigenous peoples roamed as well, such as the Mimbreno and Chiricahua Apaches. That includes the well known native Geronimo.

While this is a good description of what you’ll encounter if you want to go on a road trip, you’ll have to experience it on your own to really enjoy the beauty the desert southwest has to offer. If you want to plan a weekend trip, there are several types of cabins, tiny homes, or rentals that you can stay at in Silver City or the surrounding area. Enjoy!


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