[Cdt-l] Alternatives to the Gila River

jim et marcia huse huseworld at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 17 23:44:22 CDT 2010

There is too much energy being wasted worrying about getting through the Gila. There is an easy alternative. If you are coming through Silver City, go up Little Walnut Road as usual. However, turn right onto the actual CDT at the trailhead (well marked) before the normal turn that takes you up to Tadpole Ridge. This trail will take you across Hwy 15 and below Signal Peak lookout. You meet the Signal Peak road(dirt) for a couple of miles and then there is a marker off to the right, through a gate and down an old road to the trail. This drops down for about 1-2 miles and meets another dirt road and two gates. Turn left(west) on the road without going through a gate. Follow this for about 100 yards and turn right(north) on another road. This should have a CDT marker on it. You  are on the official CDT route to Sapillo campground. When you get to the campground follow the road out to Hwy 35. Turn left(west) on the hwy for about 2 miles. This is the only
 road walk until the normal part to Doc Campbells. Look for a turnout and parking area on the right and trail 96. This is called the Military Road trail. It is rocky but a good trail. Follow this for about 5 miles until an intersection with a trail from the left(west). There is a fence/gate here(I think) and a sign pointing ahead to Apache Canyon. Do not go towards Apache Canyon. Turn to the left. About another 5 miles of easy walking, you approach Hwy 15. Just before the highway, turn right(north) and follow the power lines for about .2 miles. Leave the power poles and go through the fence (to the right)on the next section of the Military trail. This will take you to the East Fork of the Gila after about 6 miles. When you get to a tee junction above the river, turn left(west) and drop down to the river. There are a couple of crossings of this fork but they shouldn't be difficult. You will soon find yourself in the Grapevine Campground and the highway to
 Doc Campbells. If the water is not on at the Sapillo campground, there is a holding pond across the highway along the CDT about a mile or so. Probably no other water until getting to the East Fork. The store at Lake Roberts is several miles on down the road from where you turn off on trail 96.
If you are using the Deming route, get down into the Mimbres valley and Hwy 35. A couple of miles before the Ranger station, turn left(west) into Allie Canyon. Follow the canyon on a good trail up to the junction I described above with the two gates. This is about 9 miles and a steep climb at the end. There will be lots of water available in this canyon. This was the official route at one time before the trail was built to Sapillo campground.
When you get to the Cliff dwelling area, if it looks like too much water in the Middle Fork, there are routes available through the wilderness without the river crossings. These are shown on the Gila Forest map.
I have hikes every mile of this alternate route and there shouldn't be any problems with it. Parts of it are quite scenic. There shouldn't be a snow problem after a couple of more weeks. It was 70 degrees here in Silver City today. The highest point is under 9000 feet and most of it is much lower than that. We have no snow on the ground at 6500 feet. The only disadvantage is not being along the beautiful Gila canyon. 
Hiking the Black range trail doesn't look very good for awhile. The trail is right along the crest at 10,000 feet and the snow is quite deep right now. 
Get out there and enjoy this beautiful wilderness. Don't do the Hwy 15 road walk.

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