Welcome to “The Gateway of the Gila.” Silver City, embraced by the Continental Divide and the foothills of the 3.3 million acre Gila National Forest, rests at 6,000’ elevation, with mild temperatures, low humidity (13-30% average except during the summer monsoon season), 360 days of sunshine and 4 gentle seasons (snow usually melts by 10 am), offering the perfect setting for a variety of year-round outdoor activities.
The multi-cultural frontier community has been a destination location since it was established in 1870. It is the oldest incorporated town in New Mexico and, the only one still operating under a Territorial Charter. The rich mining and ranching heritage and rural country setting maintain its Old West character. A tourism stop in the 1920’s along the “Cavern to Canyon Highway” route (Carlsbad to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and then the Grand Canyon), the region’s genuinely friendly people, slower pace of life, affordable economy and sense of place create a personal experience that visitors continue to appreciate.
Silver City still serves as the supply center for Southwest New Mexico and is a wonderful base camp for ecotourism. Modern conveniences and a sustainable local economy provide a selection of lodging facilities, specialty shops, coffee houses, grocery stores, food co-op, Farmers Markets, fine cuisine, homeopathic healing centers, guide services, tour companies, a vibrant Arts & Cultural District with 30+ galleries, Western New Mexico University, the Gila National Forest Regional Office, Gila Regional Medical Center, and several Conservation Preserve areas.
History buffs will enjoy touring the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway, Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument, Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark and Cemetery, Mimbres Cultural Center, five historic districts, and two museums, while birders will appreciate the 330+ species and the Annual Hummingbird Festival each summer. Astronomers will find that the region’s clear dark skies are out of this world for star gazing.
The naturalists will find that Grant County is an overlay of life zones… creating the greatest diversity of habitats, flora, fauna, mammals, and invertibrates in North America. Beginning with the northern tip of the Sierra Madre Mountains and continuing north to the High Chihuahuan and Sonorian Desert Grasslands, Riparian Forests (cottonwood and willow), Woodlands (pinion and juniper), Lower Montane (ponderosa and gambel oak) and Upper Montane (evergreen/mixed conifer) of the Rocky Mountain Forest.
The Gila Forest and Aldo Leopold Wilderness are just that—wild. The Gila is the first designated wilderness area in the world. Ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs tell stories of the Pueblo peoples. The hills and valleys speak of Apache ambushes and US Cavalry marches. Visitors should check with local experts, file a trip plan and remember that GPS information is sometimes unreliable in remote regions when biking, camping, fishing, goat packing, horseback riding and kayaking (seasonal). Whatever your interest, you’ll want to visit Silver City, again and again.
— Cissy McAndrew, Southwest NM Green Chamber of Commerce
This article ran on page 21 of High Country 2011