Starting from Silver City and heading west and then north along U.S. 180 one can reach the Catwalk Recreation Area in about an hour and fifteen minutes. It’s a 66-mile drive through some very beautiful ranch land with spectacular formations along the way.
In some areas it’s also a lot greener than you would think.
Of course I also mentioned that this is ranch land. Here you’ll find cattle ranching operations as well as horse farms.
From U.S. 180 you turn right and head eastbound on New Mexico State Road 174 (NM 174 on maps) north of Buckhorn, Pleasanton, and Glenwood. Before we take that turn I’m going to bring you on a slight detour to the north. The New Mexico ghost mining town of Mogollon along Bursum Road/NM 159. Mogollon is now privately owned and up for tourism, but the road there is not exactly sedan friendly. We turned back before we reached there because of a combination of narrow, pitted roads more suitable for four-wheel drive and an approaching thunderstorm that would later that day threaten our safe return to Silver City. Indeed, had we persevered we would have later been caught in some very serious flooding. At any rate, coming back down the hill on NM 159 afforded us some very special views of the valley below.
This attempt to make Mogollon came after our excursion into the Catwalk Recreation Area, so I’ll get back to that portion of the road trip. One mile after turning onto NM 174 you’ll make another right turn, this time onto Catwalk Road. Just four miles later you reach the parking area for the Whitewater Creek Picnic Area and the Catwalk. Be careful, as this road does wash out in places under the slightest of provocations.
It’s a short walk from the parking lot to the picnic area and hiking trail, but you do have to put some money into the parking fee bin and place a hanger on your rear view mirror showing you paid . . . or just display on your mirror your National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass. It’s a great way to spend $10, and it’s a lifetime pass for those who are 62 and over.
Whitewater Canyon and Catwalk National Recreation Trail are located within the Gila National Forest. Now for a little bit of Federal Government trivia: The National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over national parks and monuments such as Carlsbad Caverns National Park and White Sands National Monument falls under the Department of the Interior. National forests, however, are managed by the Department of Agriculture.
Now for object of this expedition. That would be the Catwalk Trail running along Whitewater Creek, so called because the creek churns to a raging flood at the slightest downpour. But on this trip it was relatively calm.
On Wednesday we reach the world famous Catwalk suspended some 25 feet/7.6 meters above the creek.