Monday, May 21, 2012

The Catwalk, Glenwood, NM



To get here we had to retrace our route and come back through Silver City, so we stopped at Wal-Mart for gas and a few groceries. We also thought we’d take the opportunity to check our email, publish the blog posts I’d written at Mesa, and look up a couple things on the internet. Well I guess everyone else was using Verizon at that time because we had such a slow connection we could barely look at mail, let alone post the blog or surf the net. We finally just gave up and left.

Before we left Mesa the camp host told us there was a fire near Glenwood, and we could see smoke across the mountains. We stopped at a ranger station to be sure the area we were going was not affected, and although there were road closures east of Mogollon, we weren’t heading that direction so it wasn’t a problem.


Our next destination was Bighorn Campground at Glenwood, about 60 miles north of Silver City. This is a 6 site Forest Service campground, and since there is only an outhouse and no water, it is free. Had it not been so close to the road and also so hot during the day, it would have been a very nice spot. The elevation at Glenwood is only 4700’, so it got up to 90 by late afternoon.


There were signs like this all around the campground, but we don’t know how long ago they were put up and we didn’t see any.


There was a trailer in the site next to Debbie, and after we got set up and were standing outside talking, a van pulled in and we realized it was Glen, aka Boonie, whom we had met a couple weeks ago along with the boondockers at Ft. Bayard. They’ve had some misfortunes since we met them, including emergency dental work and vehicle breakdowns, so they are temporarily split up and he is scouting out some dispersed camping areas for when they meet up again. He told us the Glenwood library has free Wi-Fi but we never did go check it out.

It was cooling off by 6:30 so we took the 5 mile drive to the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. The trail has an interesting history.  After gold and silver were discovered in the Mogollon Mountains above Whitewater Canyon in 1893, a small town grew up around a mill used in the mining process. Ore was dropped from Whitewater Mesa through a chute to the mill where it was crushed to separate out the gold and silver. Because the mill needed water to power the electric generators, a 4 inch pipeline was constructed 3 miles upstream down to the mill. When a bigger generator was purchased in 1897, it required more water so a new 18 inch pipeline was put in parallel to the original. Workers called it the Catwalk.

The mill was in business about 10 years, then the pipeline was dismantled and the materials were sold. In the mid 1930’s the CCC built the trail as a recreational attraction in the Gila National Forest but flooding along the river caused the trail to have to be rebuilt several times over the years. A mile long section of the pipeline route was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1978.

We were amazed by the scenery along the trail. There are giant Arizona sycamore trees with their white bark.


Colorful high canyon walls.


We are looking at the rock bolts used to stabilize the cliff face. Nice to know it won’t come crashing down on us.



Elaborate walkways and bridges.





Lots of huge rocks and boulders.




It’s a bit hard to see but there are a couple bolt heads sticking out of the rock below. We saw lots of evidence of the old pipeline, from bolts and eyelets still in the rocks, to small sections of the old pipeline that wasn’t all removed.



Swimming holes and waterfalls.




And even a suspension bridge just before the end of the trail.



The trail is 1.1 miles long, with the first half mile being accessible, although there are some 8% grades. Or you can also hike the old trail which parallels it on the other side of the river. The trails meet up at the halfway point and from there it is a moderate hike with lots of stairs and climbs. It was a good workout.

A regular hiking trail continues on near the suspension bridge, which we followed for a short distance. It looked like a good trail, and it intersects with other Gila NF trails, giving access to over 300 miles of trails.

The Catwalk is something not to be missed if you happen to be near Glenwood, NM. We were surprised and impressed, and saw only 2 other people on the entire trail.


  1. Thanks for the info on Catwalk. That trail the CCC built is wonderful. To say...Elaborate walkways and an undnerstatment. I can never figure out how they do that.

    I hate suspension bridges. Even looking at them gives me the willies!

    On our list the next time we get to NM. Thanks.

  2. Great pics -- I'm not a fan of suspension bridges or heights...I'm a wimp and a klutz, but I do enjoy your posts and pics. Be safe out there!

  3. We really enjoyed the Catwalk last year. Glad you got to experience it.

  4. Great pics and history of the catwalk. I will have to check it out one of these days.