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Many people who come to Silver City visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (see http://www.nps.gov/gicl/ for info), which is located in the Gila National Forest, 3.3 million acres of relatively unspoiled wilderness. The Cliff Dwellings consist of a series of natural caves used as homes by the people of the Mogollon (pronounced muggy-OWN) culture who lived there for a period of only a few years in the 13th Century before mysteriously departing the area. While the Cliff Dwellings are only 44 miles from Silver City, it will take nearly two hours to drive there, as the road (which is wide, well-paved and equipped with guard rails where appropriate) goes up and down several mountains and around hairpin turns.
An excellent day trip that includes a visit to the Cliff Dwellings follows the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway (see http://www.tmsbyway.com for details). Start in Silver City and drive north on NM15 (which begins at the McDonalds) toward Pinos Altos. Visit the Cliff Dwellings as mentioned above, then backtrack on NM15 until you see NM35; turn southeast on NM35, drive past Lake Roberts (there are several lodges there with food and accomodations) and through the Mimbres River Valley. At San Lorenzo, pick up NM 61 and follow it to City of Rocks State Park (see http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/PRD/city... for details). After visiting City of Rocks, continue on NM61 until it intersects with US180; turn right (west) on US180, which willl return you to Silver City. On your way back to town, you might want to stop at Fort Bayard; built in 1866 for the "Buffalo Soldiers" of the all-black Ninth Cavalry, a National Cemetery and wildlife refuge is located there as well.
Another interesting day trip will take you to the town of Glenwood and (optionally) Mogollon (note that Mogollon is sparsely populated and the steep and narrow mountain road to get there is not recommended for long RVs or trailers). Take US180 west to Glenwood, about an hour's drive; once in Glenwood, watch for the sign for Whitewater Canyon Rd. and drive east for about 5 miles to the Catwalk. The Catwalk is a metal causeway that goes up the side of Whitewater Canyon; the first quarter-mile is wheelchair accessible. After visiting the Catwalk, return to US180 and either continue west for another 3-1/2 miles to NM159 (Bursum Rd.), the road to Mogollon, or turn east on US180 and return to Silver City.