Little Bear Canyon Middle Fork Gila Loop Trail

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Gila National Forest

Little Bear Canyon Middle Fork Gila Loop Trail is a 10.8 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 November. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 10.8 miles Elevation Gain: 1,010 feet Route Type: Loop

dog friendly



nature trips

bird watching



wild flowers

Hike from the west fork thru a slot canyon to the middle fork of Gila River. From the trailhead take the West Fork stock bypass trail west for 0.25 miles. Turn right on the Little Bear Canyon trail (Trail 729). At 2 miles pass the Lilly Park Trail junction. At 4 miles, intersect the Gila River Middle Fork Trail (Trail 157). Take trail 157 to the right for 6 miles and 30 river crossings. After the 30th river crossing watch for a smaller trail raising gently up to the left. This trail is right behind the visitors center and about 1.5 miles from the TJ Corral. WARNING - Little Bear Canyon can flash-flood. Stay alert if there are storms in the area. River crossings can become dangerous if flash flooding occurs. Keep alert - even if storms are not visible from your location, flooding may occur from heavy rains upstream of your location.

4 months ago

7 months ago

If you start at TJ Coral, the first 2.5 miles of this is hike is uphill and very exposed to the sun. Make sure you bring plenty of water because you won't find a source until about 3.5 miles in. 4 miles in there's a huge campground that could probably fit 50 people, though no one was there when I went. Walking east along the river, the trail sometimes disappears. We had to walk in the river in some places to find a way across. You'll need to either be comfortable with getting your boots wet or hike in Keens and neoprene socks like I did, or Crocs like my friend did. We found wild turkeys and deer in the canyon. About a mile before you get to the Gila Cliff Dwellings visitor center, you'll come across the three pools in the Middle Fork Hot Springs. The first pool is pretty hot, the second is comfortable, and the third is warm. I only rated this four stars because the trail has annoying features like cockle burrs, sandy trails, rocky trails, and overgrown trails. But the scenery, wildlife, campgrounds spread around everywhere, and hot springs make this a good hike.

7 months ago

Best hike of my life. Absolutely stunning.

10 months ago

started in TJ corral, went all the way to springs, camped, then hiked to the visitor center. many many camp sites. so many river crossings. the hike from the visitor center to the big campground on the river (you will know what I mean when you see it) is very long. if you are a inexperienced hiker who is not okay with getting off trail I wouldn't recommend the section from visitor center to the fork camp ground. Highly recommend starting at TJ corral because of the rocks damage to your feet while wearing water shoes. Feet hurt for a full week after! Still worth it!

10 months ago

Loved the secluded camp ground about 4 miles in on Little Bear. Underestimated the heat on the first 2 miles, started at 2pm, should have went out earlier. LOVED the backend of the hike all downhill in and out of the river.

11 months ago

We started out on Little Bear Trail at TJ Corral..our route was to do the loop clockwise, with a detour to Jordan Hot Springs. The scenery on this hike was amazing! Something new and awe inspiring at each turn of the river. Daytime highs about 80 degrees, nighttime lows in the 60s (6/5/2019 - 6/8/2019) except for the evening of 6/5/2019...a cold front came through and nighttime temp was about 40. The ascent up the mountain got a bit hot because we started late, but once we crested and started the descent there was shade and cool in the canyon. Jordan Hot Springs was refreshing. The river was cold, but felt good. We crossed the the river 50+ times (not exagerating) so your shoes will get wet. The trail going up and down the mountain is mostly hard packed soil with some rocky sections. The trail along the river ranges from hard packed soil, to rocks, to mud, to deep sand. We saw a handful of other hikers, most who we saw were around the hot spring. Lots of places to camp - even for our group of 10. There are caves WAY up in the cliff faces, and a few have trails leading to them. Not many wildflowers this time of year, but everything was really green. No rain, but each day, late afternoon, a great breeze blew down the canyon. What an amazing hike!

Tue Feb 26 2019

We took horses all the way down to the river and back out up the river. A clock wise circle. Great trip and lots of good views.

Tue Nov 20 2018

You will have to cross the river several times, approximately 20, in winter the water is very cold.

Sun Jun 17 2018

We came in from deep upriver on another trail. On day 3 we slept where Little bear and West fork meet. The site was perfect, zero other humans for us at least. On last day we picked up and went in to little bear creek to head back to the parked car. One guy I was with said it was like some Jurassic Park shtuff... it was beautiful in there. I would totally do this again. So glad we didn’t stay on the river, the creek was so darned worth it. We did see our first people the morning out though. After 3 days of nobody but bears and Tarantula Hawks, we saw 8 people on this shirt section alone. So we must have gotten lucky having nobody at the springs or any other part of the adventure. Definitely worth it. Would not rate this any higher than moderate.

horseback riding
Fri Jun 01 2018

This is one of my favorite trails in the gila, box canyon and absolutely beautiful when you hit the forks. My favorite place on earth!

Mon Nov 06 2017

A wonderful long day hike with at least three different feels. The first three miles feel like desert hiking in Texas (and represent almost all the climbing of the entire hike), the next section down the slot canyon has its own feel and the final six miles involves wet traversing of the Gila River. We wore our hiking boots straight through the river section. The water was chilly but not unpleasant. Hiking poles were a huge plus for the crossings. Picking up the river crossings and identifying the trail is difficult at times. A good rule of thumb when crossing: once across the river go to the far canyon wall to pick up the trail. The road section at the end of the hike felt longer than a mile on weary legs. A fun and interesting hike.

Sun Aug 13 2017

My favorite hike in the area. The canyon of the Middle Fork is beautiful and impressive, the wading/river crossings are fun. Little Bear Canyon is fun too, the hike out of the canyon is okay. From TJ Corral to the TH of the Middle Fork you can try to follow the river instead of using the road.

Mon Apr 04 2016

One of the most amazing trails ever! Very awesome!!

Thu Nov 26 2015

Nice hike! Wound up going to Jordan Springs for 2 nights. Plenty of water and scenery. Went in October mid week. Hardly anyone there.

Thu Nov 05 2015

Did this hike Oct 13,15.....very scenic, not a lot of people on the trail, the hike was worth it's weight in platinum. ....camped by Jordan hot springs, paradise on earth, water from river was so good, tasted better than Evian, I wanna do this trip in winter, who's down?

Sat May 25 2013

Great hike traversing multiple types of terrain, high desert to river valley, as many as 10 river crossings we brought extra shoes to change into but after about the 3rd one we just stayed in the boots. It is honestly one of the best hikes I have ever done can't wait until my kid is old enough to enjoy it with me. As a note we parked the car at the end of the trail so we could be done with walking after the hike.... Just a thought.

9 days ago

8 months ago

11 months ago

Fri Oct 26 2018

Fri Jun 29 2018

recorded Gila Hike #1

Sun Jul 24 2016

Sat Nov 28 2015