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In southwestern New Mexico sits a unique hiking trail that definitely should be on your must do list. The Catwalk winds its way through a portion of the Gila National Forest, just outside the small town of Glenwood, New Mexico. My family and I recently visited the Catwalk for the first time. We loved it so much that we can’t wait to go back! Here is what you should know about hiking the Catwalk.
Getting to the Catwalk
As mentioned above, the Catwalk is located in southwestern New Mexico on the edge of Glenwood. It is in a portion of the Gila National Forest known as Whitewater Canyon. To reach the Catwalk and Whitewater Canyon, head northwest on Highway 180 from Silver City. A little over an hour after leaving Silver City, you will reach Glenwood. Stay on Highway 180 as you go through town. You will then see the sign for the Catwalk. Turn right at the sign and drive about five miles until you reach the parking lot. You can’t miss it. The road runs right into the parking lot.
The History of New Mexico’s Catwalk
In the late 1800’s the Helen Mining Company began mining the area above Whitewater Creek, which flows through Whitewater Canyon. In 1893, a mill was built about four miles downstream from the mines because the canyon was too narrow to build it any closer. The town sprang up around the mill. A 3-mile-long pipeline was built through the canyon to supply water to the town and run the mill’s generators. Today’s Catwalk follows this original pipeline. Although the pipe is long gone, you can still see remnants of where it existed along the hike. Now, the hike is made up mostly of a series of catwalks that hug the canyon walls above the flowing creek.
This popular hike is a little over 2 miles in length with options on both sides of the canyon. As stated above, most of it is on elevated catwalks with a metal floor with quarter-size holes punched out. Additionally, there are railings on the catwalks. In between the catwalks, the trail is made up of rocks and dirt with stairs in a few places. There are two places where you will have to cross through the creek to continue on the trail, so be prepared to get your feet wet!
The first half of the hike is pretty easy to navigate. We saw many families with toddlers and older couples on the first part of the trail. Once you cross the bridge, however, it becomes more challenging. In addition to the water crossings, you will have to climb over some downed trees and large rocks during this second part.
When hiking the Catwalk, you will mostly be shaded by the towering canyon walls. The hike itself is beautiful and quite peaceful with the babbling creek sounds in the background.
New Mexico’s Catwalk area is designated for day use only. So, there are no campsites here. There is a fairly large parking lot however. Please note, there is a $3 per car parking fee with a box to put your fee in by the entrance to the park. At the beginning of the trail, you will also find a good number of picnic tables. Most of these are well shaded. Some of them are on the edge of the creek. To the left of the picnic area is a small building which houses pit bathrooms.
Tips for Visiting
The Catwalk is a fantastic place to spend a day with the family, and it’s an excellent hike to do with kids. These tips will make your visit as enjoyable as possible:
- There are very few options for food in the Glenwood area, so either eat before you go or pack a picnic.
- Similarly, fill up with gas before you leave Silver City. You don’t want to get stranded out in the middle of nowhere because you run out of gas.
- Please remove your trash from the picnic area and hiking trail. Don’t destroy this beautiful place with litter.
- While you are hiking the Catwalk, you can splash around in the creek in several spots. So, remember to bring some dry clothes for the car ride back.
- Additionally, keep an eye on the weather because this area is prone to flash flooding. (There’s a reason it’s called Whitewater Canyon.) If it starts raining, immediately head back to the entrance for your safety.
- Because you will have to cross the creek in a couple places, wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet.
- While the canyon is mostly shaded, there are some places that are in full sun. I saw several people with sunburns. Wear a hat and/or sunscreen to protect you skin.
- Please watch your children. Even though this is a family friendly hike, it’s still possible for kids to get hurt if they are unsupervised.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife. We spotted a lizard and snake. There are also signs warning visitors of bears and cougars, so pay attention.
- The Catwalk is dog-friendly, but keep your dog on a leash. Additionally, because of the metal flooring of the catwalks, you may want to avoid taking your dog on the actual hike.
The Catwalk is a popular and beautiful hiking trail through Whitewater Canyon. It takes you over, across, and beside the picturesque Whitewater Creek and allows for fun splashing in the cool water during warm weather. This hike is a treat for the whole family. I hope you enjoy hiking the Catwalk as much as we do. Happy travels!
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