Gila Inner Loop Tour


Gila National Forest - Eric Russell Photo

Gila National Forest

The classic Gila Inner Loop Tour traditionally begins and ends at Silver City WalMart. The Gila Inner Loop is one of the favorite tours in New Mexico. It has light to no traffic and has stupendous views. The best times of the year are spring and fall to avoid the heat. There are moderate but not extreme climbs. The loop itself is doable in a single long hard day. A favorite option is the challenging descent and climb out of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Just east of the route, on the way to Kingston and Hillsboro, the Emory Pass Option climbs through the Black Range, another favorite route.

Getting There: Silver City is about a 5 hour drive southwest from Albuquerque, through Kingston and Hilsboro, or through Deming and north west of Las Cruces and El Paso. NM152 through the Black range is a fairly slow drive but has terrific scenery. It is about the same time as going through Hatch. The Gila Wilderness and the Black Range are north of Silver City. The tour can start pretty much anywhere in Silver City.

Distance: 88 miles, 5,400 ft. elevation gain.

Roadways: NM15 and NM35 are two lane, rural roads without shoulders, light to no traffic, with reasonable surfaces. NM152 is divided 4-lanes with shoulders with light, fast traffic. Watch for lots of debris on the shoulders. US180 is divided 4-lanes with shoulders and moderate, fast traffic. Watch for debris on the shoulders.

Kay Dwer Photo: Riders in Gila National Forest

Happy Gila Riders


  • Day 1: Anderson Overlook from the intersection of NM15 & NM35 - 17 miles roundtrip, an additional 1,500' of elevation gain, almost all uphill in, downhill out. A popular extension to the basic loop. This makes day one pretty hard.
  • Day 1: Gila Cliff Dwellings Out and Back - for the hardcore.
  • Day 2: Get an early start. From Camp Thunderbird, ride the Mimbres valley to the intersection of NM35 and US152 but turn left (east) on US152 and ride over Emory Pass to Hillsboro and have someone driving home pick up your gear, then pick you up in Hilsboro. It's often with the wind and a beautiful ride. 48 miles from Camp Thunderbird to Hillsboro. Eat lunch in Hillsboro.
  • Day 2: From Camp Thunderbird, ride the same route back on NM35 west to NM15, through Pinos Altos and downhill to Silver City. Same distance, about 3,400' elevation climb. In the morning light the valley is very pretty. Avoid the wind on NM152. But it is longer than the standard route.
  • Emory Pass Ride
  • There is a lot of mountain biking in the area of Ft. Bayard east of Silver City and Signal Peak near Pinos Altos. There are books on the area and maps at the National Forest Ranger station.
  • Another road option is riding west from Silver City to Cliff and back.
  • Another possibility is to get dropped off in Glenwood and ride the pleasant 62 miles of rolling hills, mostly downhill, to Silver City.

Notes: The Silver City KOA is one of the best. The winds always seem to be blowing out of the west along NM152 & US180 in the afternoons, so get an early start.

Route Map
Elevation Profile
Map at
Options Map

Emory Pass Ride Option
USFS Gila National Forest
Gila National Forest Mountain Biking
US NPS Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Bathrooms - There are toilets at the Cherry Creek Campground, the Lake Roberts Store, the first Gila Cliff Dwellings Overlook, and a Lake Roberts pullout.


Gila Inner Loop Various Legs CueSheet
Leg Mileage Elevation Gain (Feet) Leg Description



Silver City Walmart to SAG2 Lunch Stop at NM35 & NM15



Silver City Walmart to Camp Thunderbird via Pinos Altos



SAG2 (Jct NM35 & NM15) to Gila Overlook Option



Gila Cliff Dwellings out to Gila Overlook



Camp Thunderbird to San Lorenzo to Silver City Walmart via NM152



Silver City Walmart to Gila Overlook to Camp Thunderbird
Camp Thunderbird to Silver City Walmart via Piinos Altos

Day 1 - 43 Miles, 3500 ft. Elevation Gain

Gila Inner Loop Day 1 CueSheet
Leg Mileage Waypoint Leg Description


Silver City Wal-Mart Begin at the Silver City Walmart, just west of the corner of US180 and 32nd Street. Follow US180 west from the parking lot downhill to Ranch Club Road at the first traffic light.


Ranch Club Rd Turn right (north) on Ranch Club Rd which curves left (west) to the stop sign at the Pinos Alto Rd., NM15.


Pinos Altos Rd (NM15) Turn right (north) on NM15. Continue straight at the stop sign with 32nd St. Climb to Pinos Altos. Tour the old mining town (the marked left hand turn in Pinos Altos). This reconnects with NM15 on the north side of town.
  Pinos Altos Continue north on NM15 from Pinos Altos, past the Aldo Leopold memorial (SAG1), down the switchbacks to the Gila junction at NM35. (SAG2 - Lunch) The Aldo Leopold memorial Memorial is on the left side of the highway, up a small trail to the plaque.


Junction of NM15 & NM35 Turn right (east) on NM35. Climb the overlook at Lake Roberts, there is a convenience store there, and climb over the Continental Divide to Camp Thunderbird at about 40 miles.
    Option 1 - Climb N on 15 to the Gila Overlook (7 miles, each way. 1600 ft. up)
Return to the Gila Junction by the same route.
  Option 2 - Climb N on 15 to the Gila Overlook the monument) AND descend into the Gila Cliff Dwellings.
Return to the Gila Junction by the same route. (18 miles each way, 1000 ft. to the overlook, 1900 ft down into Gila National Monument and back up).


  Camp Thunderbird: South side of the highway. Visible from the highway and signs on both sides of the highway.

Day 2 - 38 Miles, 1,900 ft. Elevation Gain

Gila Inner Loop Day 2 CueSheet
Leg Mileage Waypoint Leg Description


Camp Thunderbird Ride downhill East on NM35 past the waterfall on the right, past Mimbres to NM152.
Just before the intersection with NM152 at the San Lorenzo Elementary School take the right fork past the taxidermist's shop up the right side on NM152 rather than the marked turn to NM152. This saves a foot or two of climbing. If you continue on NM35 you hit NM152 a little further away. (
See the map)


Jct NM35 & NM152 Turn right (west) on NM152 up the rollers to the Hurley Mine's overlook.


Hurley Mine Overlook Continue straight (west) on NM152 downhill through the intersection to Fierro, over the railroad tracks.


Jct NM152 & US180 Turn right (west) on US180 at the intersection past the Silver City KOA to the starting point.


Wal-Mart Parking Lot Finish

Gila Cliff Dwellings Option - 36 Miles (roundtrip), 3550 ft. Elevation Gain

Gila Cliff Dwellings Option - 36 Miles (roundtrip), 3550 ft. Elevation Gain
Mileage Elevation
Gain (Feet)
Waypoint Description



NM15 & NM35 Jct. Ride north from the intersection through Ponderosa forest. It is fairly steep.



Gila Overlook There are 2 overlooks. The first one has a bathroom and some cover. The second overlook is exposed to the sun. The descent is pretty fast and there are bad cracks in the pavement down to the Gila cliff dwellings.



Gila Cliff Dwellings There is a nice walk that takes maybe an hour through the Cliff Dwellings and there is water, load up for the return trip. Return by the same route. There is not much cover on the ascent and it can be really hot. It can also rain.



NM15 & NM35 Jct. Turn left, southeast.