Exciting things have been happening in the Gila in 2021. There was a healthy burn through much of the Gila Wilderness, the Johnson Fire, which will hopefully help prevent future catastrophic fires. Improvements to our expansive trail system is another major improvement. Some trails, in disrepair for years and decades, have been reopened by Gila Back Country Horsemen (Gila BCH) and partners. Over 85 miles of significantly damage trail in the Gila have been upgraded by these groups so far in 2021! And many more miles of trail work are planned for the rest of the year.
2021 also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Gila Chapter of Back Country Horsemen. The Gila Chapter is part of the larger Back Country Horsemen of America organization which has chapters in 32 states. The mission of BCH is to perpetuate the commonsense use and enjoyment of horses in back country and wilderness areas and ensure public lands remain open to recreational use. One way we do that is to assist public land agencies in the maintenance of trails. Our goal is to not only keep trails open for horse users, but “To keep trails open for all.”
Gila BCH has been doing trail work in the Gila National Forest for over 18 years and has maintained over 1,200 miles of trail. Part of the way we are celebrating our anniversary is to greatly expand our trail maintenance activities by partnering with other users and recruiting horse and other trail user volunteers to help in our trail maintenance efforts. We feel that expanding trail maintenance efforts is a good way to kick off our next 20 years of service to public lands and public land users.
Below is a sample list of some newly mended trails to explore. Note that trail conditions can change at any moment so travel at your own risk.
For more complete list of trail work improvements – including photos and maps of each trail project or for more information about volunteering - check out www.gilabch.org
Middle Fork Trail No. 157 near Snow Lake between Clayton Mesa Trail No. 175 and Flying V Trail No. 706. This section of the Middle Fork Trail alternates between impressive cliffs with caves and open grassland/ponderosa river bottom. It is easily accessed from the north side of the Gila Wilderness via the Aeroplane Mesa Trail No. 705 and Loco Mountain Trail No. 143 near Snow Lake. Note that the Loco Mountain trail is incorrectly mapped on some maps. Check out the Gila Trails Cleared map - www.gilatrailsinfo.org/trails-cleared-map - to ensure you have the right trail location.
Holt Apache Trail No. 181 from the Sheridan Corral Trailhead to Camp Saddle. This trail offers great expansive view to the south, east and west. Many of the trees from the 2012 fire have fallen, creating even more of a view. The climb up towards Holt Mountain is very steep in places but it takes you to the great views quickly. The section in the creek is likely quite brushy, like all creek bottoms this time of year.
First 5 miles of the Mimbres River Trail No. 77. This creek hike offers beautiful view of cliffs and ponderosa/mix conifer creek bottom. It is minimally affected by the fire, so it is lush and forested. You will know where we stopped since there is a log pile from the Silver Fire in 2013 in the trail. As mentioned with the Middle Fork Trail, be aware of potential floods during certain seasons.
Two Trails that lead to the Gila River - Spring Canyon Trail No. 247 and the Sheep Coral Trail No. 231. These two trails are the quickest way to get to the middle section of the Gila River Trail and the Granny Mountain trail No. 160 from the south.
Stay tuned for more Gila Trail bi-monthly tips and updates in future Desert Exposures. We have some trail projects/improvements coming up that we are excited to share with you in future articles.
Thanks to the Gila National Forest, National Forest Foundation, Great American Outdoors Act, National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance, Upper Gila Watershed Alliance (UGWA) and all our trail partners for helping fund and open more trails.
Join us on a trail project – all trail users welcome! There are many more miles that need attention. No trail experience necessary. https://www.gilabch.org/get-involved