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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

West Fork Trail #151, NM

no permit
73 4 0
Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southwest
4 of 5 by 1
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Distance One Way 32.91 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,828 feet
Elevation Gain 2,657 feet
Accumulated Gain 5,331 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 50.68
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
22  2019-06-09
Middle Fork Trail #157
9  2017-10-22
Middle Fork Trail #157
17  2013-07-07
Meadows - Hells Hole Loop
25  2010-05-27 rodneyaz
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Sep, Aug, Jun, Jul
Sun  6:01am - 6:10pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Flora Nearby
opportunities galore
by HAZ_Hikebot

Likely In-Season!
Trail 151 is one of the hallmark trails of the Gila Wilderness. It follows the West Fork of the Gila River through a beautiful, deep, winding canyon with spectacular volcanic cliff formations. There are many river crossing per mile and boots that can be worn for wading are recommended.

Many trails can be connected to cross the Gila Wilderness but #151 is one of only two trails that completely traverses the wilderness. The southern trailhead is at the Gila Cliff Dwellings and the northern trail head is at Willow Creek. The trails that connect with #151 can be linked to make several very interesting loops through the interior of the wilderness. These loops provide opportunities for extended pack trips in quiet solitude and a wonderful variety of scenic canyon, mesa, and mountain terrain.

Trail 151 follows the spectacular West Fork of the Gila River to near it's source then completes a traverse of the Gila Wilderness.

Flooding may occur during spring run-off and the rainy season.

Silver City is 43 miles from the trailhead and provides auto services, gas, groceries, lodging, medical facilities, restaurants, and shopping.

Water is available in the West Fork of the Gila River, Cub Creek, Turkey Feather Creek, and Iron Creek. Water quality is not tested therefore it cannot be guaranteed to be drinkable, it is advisable to filter or treat all drinking water.

There are many opportunities for camping along the West Fork. Since this popular trail is heavily used, camping away from the river in unused locations and practicing "leave no trace" camping techniques is recommended. Fuel stoves instead of fires are also recommended.

Ancient volcanic activity gives the Gila the distinctive geology and dramatic rock formations that are typical of the West Fork. White Creek Cabin, at the confluence of the West Fork and White Creek in the heart of the wilderness, was the location of a ranger station and fish hatchery in the early 1900's. It was restored to preserve the history of the early foresters but is not open for public use.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. It would be insane to attempt this entire hike without prior experience hiking.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2018-07-14 HAZ_Hikebot
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One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Review
West Fork Trail #151
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Drove through some heavy monsoon rains and started out the next morning on Little Bear #729. We quickly, but easily, get on top of the mesa, pass the trail intersection 2 miles in, and head down Little Bear canyon. LBC had a trickling flow after about halfway and was quite pleasant. We arrived at the junction with Middle Fork at a nice campsite and waited for the rest of our group to catch up.

After regrouping, we headed up the Middle Fork trail, which is fantastic at this time of year with many creek crossings. The terrain is mostly ponderosa pine on wide flat floodplains, punctuated by getting your feet and calves wet crossing every few hundred yards. Yellow coneflower lines the banks of the river.

We reach and enjoyed Jordan Hot Springs, being careful to avoid submerging our heads due to the amoeba that causes meningitis. From there we packed further upriver into the Meadows, where the thunder and rain finally caught up with us as we endured a downpour setting up our tents.

The next morning we packed up the Big Bear Trail, to the Prior Canyon trail, running into some first response firefighters returning from their dispatch of working on a tree set ablaze by lightning. We then saw a mamma black bear with two cubs, which we gave a wide berth. We reach the cabin before noon. Prior Cabin is intact and nice, but locked up tight. We continued up Prior Creek trail to the seldom traveled Lilley Park trail, which we took to Hells Hole Trail and dropped down into West Fork.

Surprisingly, unlike the Middle Fork, which was clear, West Fork of the Gila River was mud soup, the look of chocolate cocoa. It appeared to have flash flooded very recently. It was also icy cold, perhaps 50 degrees or less. Numbing almost instantly. As we made our way down the West Fork, we wondered what we would do for water, since the mud coming down West Fork looked unfilterable.

We spot a trickle of yesterdays storm coming down a crack in the wall and some members decided to filter from it. I didn't like the look of it and continued downstream, crossing the river and finding another trickle I liked better that I could filter.

As I unpacked my water filter and began filtering, I hear the sound of the river suddenly increase, as the river rapids seemed to suddenly intensify. I look at the river and notice it rose 3 inches in seconds. I realize some type of flash flood is about to happen. I look at my pack which is 3 ft above the water line and conclude it is OK for now. 30 seconds later the river has already risen another ft and I no longer like the position of my pack. As I scramble down to grab it the river comes up another foot. I grab my pack and within another 40 seconds, the spot it was sitting on is already underwater. At that point, trees, logs, and a torrent of debris come flying down the river. With my pack I scramble higher, content that I can survive as I can continue higher up my little cleft in the cliff face.

I then worry about the rest of my group, which were at the other trickle in a far more exposed spot along the river. I decide to wait at least 5 minutes, as the river has risen another 2 ft since I grabbed my pack and I don't know how much higher it will get. I don't want to leave my spot as I can climb another 10 ft up easily. After awhile I notice the amount of logs is less and the river isn't getting higher, though it isn't getting lower either. I pack up my filtering gear and decide if I can get to a better spot, as I will be trapped in this bend of the canyon for awhile and my current position isn't that comfortable.

I find that I can break off branches of a tree, bypass the underwater section of trail, and get back onto the portion of the trail which is still higher than the river by a few feet. I make my way back to the last river crossing and hail my group. Some miscommunication occurs, as I think they are all OK, but what I realize a half hour later is one of our group is trapped on the wrong side of the river against the cliff face. I can see he has found an uncomfortable spot to sit and begin to worry.

We track the river. Within 30 minutes it drops a ft. After another hour, another 6 inches. In the next hour it only drops an inch of two. By this time it is getting late. I set up my tent and sleeping bag to warm up in the event that swimming may be necessary to retrieve our trapped member. I ford the river and find the flow is low enough that crossing is possible, though difficult. The water is even colder now, if that is possible. I encourage the rest of our group to help get our member off the cliff face, before it gets dark. I wait at the shallow part in the event he slips into the water and needs to be grabbed before being swept downriver.

Luckily at this point he can traverse on the side of the cliff upriver and cross without incident and everybody retires for the night.

The next morning we set out early as the weather forecast is the same, and the river appears to have flashed 2 days in a row, and may do so a third time. We head down and cross the muddy river, back to normal levels, many times. We observe some nice ruins and redirect some lost backpackers. All too soon our trip is done and we arrive at the National Monument trailhead.

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Map Drive

To hike
Trail 151 has a trailhead at the south and north boundaries of the wilderness. The southern trail head is at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument 1.5 miles from the Visitor Center. Follow NM 15 north from Silver City to the Monument. The travel time is 1 hour, 45 min.

The second trailhead is at Willow Creek on the north wilderness boundary. It may not be accessible in the early spring if forest roads are closed due to snow. From the town of Reserve follow Forest Road 141 then 28 to Willow Creek. Travel time about 1hour, 45 min. From the town of Glenwood follow NM 159 to Willow Creek. This road is not recommended for horse trailers. Travel time about 1 hour, 30 min. Check with the Reserve or Glenwood Ranger Districts for more information.
page created by HAZ_Hikebot on Mar 09 2010 11:54 pm
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