Driving a motorhome up into the Gila National Forest and Gila Hot Springs is indeed treacherous. However, when your more adventurous self convinces your more practical self that the beauty awaiting you is worth drive… this is where you might end up.
Distance: 70 Mile drive from Silver City taking the 152 East to 35 North to the 15 North.
Time: Expect 2 + hours from Silver City to the National Monument.
Elevations: Start at Silver City which sits at 5,895 feet, then climb up to 7,400 feet where you’ll pass Copperas Vista and there you’ll begin your approximate 10 mile descent to 5,875 feet into Gila Hot Springs and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
Hwy 35: It’s a typical mountain road with narrow lanes and rocks ledges that peer or crumble into the road. You got this.
Hwy 15: Once you hit Copperas Vista, the views are beautiful but this is where the drive gets a bit hairy. Brace yourself and your beloved rig for seven to ten miles of 10%-12% relentless grades. We drove 20 to 25 mph and used first gear to avoid burning our brakes.
Although highway 15 north will take you directly from Silver City to the monument, it’s important to note that using highway 35 north is necessary if you’re in a Motorhome, as it cuts out a portion of the 15 that is not recommended for large vehicles. Still, the remaining section of highway 15, north of Lake Roberts will still be a bit of a white knuckle drive. But we did it, and lived to tell!
Call 575-536-9461 for current road conditions. If traveling in the winter, note that the road north of the 35/15 junction is not plowed on nights or weekends.
Ok, we tried to take a few photos of the road south, leaving the National Park and Hot Springs. It hardly shows the gnarliness of the drive. Watch the white line, the lack of a shoulder, the rocks falling signs, the snow, ice and most importantly, the VIEWS!
The Cheddar Yeti is a 27′ gas powered, Class C. It’s a 1988 with all sorts of “issues” – and we made it up and back… because there is no other way!
Our Compadre’s Rig:
Bill & Debby’s unit is a 35′ gas powered, Class A. They made it, too. Note that when they hit the 15, their tow car did need to be removed and driven separately.
Caution on Connection
There is none. Once on the 35 we lost cell phone connection and never regained connection until we got down to the City of Rocks. No internet, or phones… and only one radio station on the mountain. Pardner, where yer headed, you don’t need no stinkin’ internet, it’s outernet livin’.
Waiting for us as the end of the road were cozy hot springs – a much needed soak after the heart pounding, balls out drive. The 104 degree baths are dug out along the river bank and outfitted with twig walls, stacked rocks, cow skulls, and found art. Makes you just want to scream; “In the hot tub!” You bet we soaked like celebrities at a jacuzzi party.
The Gila Cliff Dwellings are a pretty darn sweet experience, too. We were able to hike up and explore inside of these homes. Seven hundred year old cave paintings and mesmerizing living room views made this little enchantment encampment, spectacular.
Would we do it again? Yes… but only with amazing friends like Bill and Debbie, as great company will indeed make any wild drive worth it.
Hot Cliffin’ It
We don’t want to scare you off of this experience, however if you choose to camp on Lake Roberts and then drive a small car up to the Hot Springs and Cliff Dwellings, let us suggest that you read this: