Gila Loop Trail is a 21.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Pinos Altos, New Mexico that features a river and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 21.4 miles Elevation Gain: 2,608 feet Route Type: Loop

dog friendly

backpacking

camping

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

running

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

hiking
8 days ago

Hiked the trail clockwise. Trail was well marked and easy to follow. Plan a minimum of 3 days 2 nights to enjoy the hike. We found the total distance to be closer to 24 miles. Going clockwise there is only water for the first couple miles along the west fork then it is dry until you descend back down into the middle fork at about 10 miles. There is a nice camping area near the top at around 8-9 miles in but it was dry. However we saw some creek beds that we were told had water a couple weeks earlier. If there was water or if we had enough, we might have preferred camping near the lookout at the top just before the switchbacks down. The view is insane. There are sites at the bottom. A couple were really nice but occupied. The area we set up was basically a lot of tall grass and horse poop. Not too bad. Actually the ground is a bit softer here so that was nice. Hike from here to the hot springs was about 7 miles. Good sites nearby. We kinda wished we had time to stay another night here. Last leg another 7 miles. About 60 river crossings total. Water was rarely above the knees but remember it had been very dry in the weeks prior so levels were down. Hiking poles are necessary especially if water is any higher. The rocks are slippery and the poles help you a lot. We wore merrell water hiking sandals first couple miles then dry shoes for the long climb. Water hiking sandals the second and third day and changed to dry shoes at little bear canyon. I recommend wearing socks with your sandals. amazing hike but it is challenging. We were glad we went clockwise and got the really long and hard part out of the way to enjoy the other two days at a slower pace.

backpacking
22 days ago

Went for 3 days, 2 nights backpacking. We started the loop counter clockwise. We got lost a lot, the trick is to keep hiking along the river and look for cairns. I wouldn’t have it done the other way, there is no water available and hey you are going home anyways so you don’t really have to care if your shoes are soaked or not. Either way, it is gorgeous and you get similar vibe as hiking Havasupai. Have fun!

backpacking
flooded
off trail
rocky
1 month ago

Did the loop clockwise over 3 days on 4/23/20. Yes, you will cross the river ~50 times, highly recommend hiking poles and shoes vs sandals so your feet don’t get torn up. I wore trail runners for the entire trip and let my shoes dry each night. Water levels down from a month ago and warmer temps into the 70s made this the perfect time to backpack this area. Some swift crossing but very do-able, only a few crossing with water levels above mid thigh. Some trail route finding, but marked well with Carins for most of the trail. Saw very few people until the last day at the hot springs. More of a warm spring but pleasant if weather is over 60 degrees. PLEASE DON’T CAMP WITHIN 200FT OF THE HOT-SPRINGS. It’s both illegal and selfish, there are plenty of established campsites along the river. Have fun, be safe!

hiking
1 month ago

This was a gorgeous hike, though I wouldn't do it earlier than late April, due to flows and water temperature. Crossed the river probably 50 times, sometimes hip deep. Also, it is MORE THAN 21 MILES. My tracker said 27 miles and that river section really slowed us down (though lovely).

you're going to cross the river at least 50 times if you do the big loop. If you're doing the river when it's under 50 degrees, bring a knife because you might want to kill yourself.

hiking
9 months ago

You are going to cross the river A LOT, so come prepared. I wore sandals made from tires for that entire stretch and it definitely detracted from the experience. Good thing there was a nice hot springs to relax in after all the struggling. The canyons are amazing, though I think my favorite part of the trail was after descending from the rim, before you get to the river (if hiking clockwise), when you pass through a tranquil forested meadow area.

hiking
rocky
10 months ago

hiking
11 months ago

I lost the trail half way though and had to turn around. Spent about 3 hours looking for the trail with other people I met at the river crossing but we were never able to find it.

hiking
muddy
rocky
Mon Mar 11 2019

this Trail was amazing and had a lot of water sources and it had great views the only bad thing is it rained and it made it super muddy very hard to walk through so we had a great time my son and my dog and I.

backpacking
Sun Dec 24 2017

I recommended working this trail clockwise because the significant climb/drop in the northwest corner may not have water at the top. I personally began at the Cliff Dwellings heading west on trail #151. Be sure to top off water before climbing north on trail #28. The view from the top of the northwest corner was breath taking. I camped the first night on the trail at the base of the switchbacks before crossing the river. The second day I walked along the Middle Fork for eight miles within the cliff faces which rose hundreds of feet on both sides. Just like other reviews warned I crossed the river so many times I lost count (twenty? twenty-five? I dunno). Because of this I wore my river crossing sandals all day and trekking poles helped greatly. In the beginning I had trouble in the Meadows (near the intersection of trails #157 and #53) due to an overgrowth of vegetation. I followed one trail I presumed was man-made through tall grass into what I eventually believed was a bear den. It looked like a vegetation-made igloo filled with beautiful yellow flowers, freshly eaten animal bones, and bear scat nearby. No photos unfortunately as I did not want to become the next set of bones. After backing out I walked through the river for a time upon losing the trail to get away from the den. Thankfully I did not actually run into any bears face-to-face though signs of their presence were around. I later learned flooding took out many of the cairns causing frequent loss of the trail among the river rock however it almost always paralleled the river. About half way through the second day I passed the the Jordan Hot Springs which was a neat place to stop and rest. There were numerous camps sites across the river from the springs so please minimize your impact if visiting here. Day three started as I entered the Little Bear (slot) Canyon southbound on trail #729. I hammock camped in an area previously used by others to save time but was extremely disappointed in the amount of trash left behind near Little Bear Canyon's intersection with the Middle-Fork river. The walk back to the starting point was fairly easy but the shade from the cliffs and trees disappeared by this point. Be sure to take a water purifier as I was advised by a Park Ranger that the rivers have Giaradia in them. In all, this was a beautiful hike which I will do again though losing the trail throughout the second day was frustrating.

Thu Sep 28 2017

ppvojk

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13 days ago

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Mon Apr 29 2019

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Fri May 18 2018