on February 10, 2005
The Gila Wilderness was the first official wilderness area of the United States and at about 900 square miles is one of the largest. It's also one of the most diverse with terrain from semi-desert at 4,800 feet up to sub-alpine spruce, fir, and aspen forest at a top of 10,892 feet. The Gila River is floatable during the spring melt and old Indian cliff dwellings are found in the canyons. Trout fishing in the Gila and its tributaries is pretty good, and wildlife is abundant. Hiking and solitude are the major attractions. You can walk for a week or more and never cross your path twice. The scenery may not be quite as rugged and spectacular as the Rockies or the canyonlands to the north, but there's plenty of beauty to be enjoyed.
This is an excellent guide to hiking in the Gila Wilderness Area. The author describes 25 hiking trails and routes, some of them more than 30 miles long. Each of the trails has a topo map that goes along with it plus a description. A lengthy introduction acquaints you with the history and natural history of the Gila, including the Apaches and other Indians who lived here. Appendices provide lists of birds, plants, mammals, and reptiles found in the Gila. An interesting study concerning the reintroduction of the Grizzly Bear to the Gila is reprinted in the appendices.
Possibly the most spectacular of the trails in the Gila is the Whitewater Trail which follows a narrow "catwalk" through a steep sided canyon. The catwalk was built more than a century ago to facilitate mining operations -- now long abandoned. The Three Forks area (Wilderness Ranger District) offers hot springs, cliff dwellings, and long, easy trails that lead into the heart of the wilderness. At lower elevations, the Gila can be visited and hiked year round, barring the rare snowstorm.
on August 3, 2005
I was disappointed with this guide book. The book was published in 1988, which means there is nothing about GPS in the book. I found the organization of the book to be confusing. The guide has maps of some of the trails, but they are hard to read and there is no map that provides a big picture view of the trails. Information about many trails in the Gila Wilderness is available, but would be more useful with an easy to find section providing information about each trail such as length, elevation changes, connecting trails, water availablity, etc. Several trails are cited as connecting to included trails, but no other information is provided.