Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,448.00 ft (746.15 m)
Trail type
15.00 mi (24.14 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings are a “must see” if traveling through this area. Unfortunately for CDT hikers, the Gila River Alternate misses the cliff dwellings. Thankfully there is another easy alternate route that CDTers can take (described below) to see the dwellings as well as beautiful Little Bear Canyon.

You’ll begin by walking the paved road from Doc Campbell’s Post toward the cliff dwellings. When you get to the entrance sign turn left on the paved road and continue toward the dwellings. Walk this road past two small campgrounds until you arrive at the visitor center. You’ll then hop on the 1 mile Gila Cliff Dwellings Trail.

This trail begins from the visitor center and crosses over the West Fork of the Gila River via large footbridge. The one way loop trail then follows a small stream through some pretty areas. You’ll cross the stream several times as you meander along.

Toward the far end of the loop you’ll begin to gain elevation as the trail turns to the right and heads toward the cliff dwellings. You’ll get your first glimpse of the dwellings from this area.

Continue along until you arrive at the dwellings. You’ll likely run into a ranger stationed here who is happy to answer questions or provide info. You can then hike into the dwellings themselves. Most of the rooms found here were built during the 1280s. Please stay on the trail and be respectful of the dwellings.

When finished, continue on the one way loop as it descends and heads back to the visitor center and parking lot. You’ll then backtrack down the paved road until the TJ Corral Trailhead. From here you’ll follow the Little Bear Canyon Trail.

The Little Bear Canyon Trail gradually ascends for the first stretch. The terrain here is somewhat barren and exposed, with limited shade.

As you continue along through the scrubby desert landscape you’ll have great views. When you reach the junction with Trail #164, continue straight to stay on the Little Bear Canyon Trail. You’ll then soon begin your descent to the canyon.

As you descend the canyon becomes more and more scenic. Toward the end of the trail you’ll be walking through a narrow canyon with towering hoodoo cliffs on both sides. Be aware that flash floods can happen in this area.

The trail then ends at the Gila River where you’ll be back on track to resume hiking on the Gila River Alternate.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



This alternate takes hikers to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and Little Bear Canyon.


Road walking. Misses a small section of the Gila River.

Trailhead Elevation

5,661.00 ft (1,725.47 m)

Highest point

6,367.00 ft (1,940.66 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Historically significant
Vault toilet
Geologically significant
Big vistas
Native artifacts

Typically multi-day


Permit required




Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.