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In 1924, the Gila became the first area in the world protected as wilderness with a Forest Service Administration Order and the urging of Aldo Leopold. A 40-mile loop offers a great sample of what inspired Leopold. The route begins on The Catwalk, a suspended walkway through sheer cliffs, and continues along the spires and red rock scenery of Whitewater Canyon. You’ll see spectacular aspen groves high on 10,895 foot Whitewater Baldy. From that peak, the Gila’s highest, the hike ridge walks to Grouse Mountain before dropping to join the South Fork of Whitewater Creek.
Gila National Forest: (505) 539-2481, www2.srs.fs.fed.us/r3/gila/about/