The 355th NPS unit I visited during the centennial is one of the most challenging to reach among the units in the contiguous United States. Gila Cliff Dwellings is tucked away in the Gila National Forest between the Mogollan Mountains to the west and the Continental Divide at the crest of the Black Range to the east. It would be appropriate to play REM’s “You Can’t Get There from Here” on the two-hour drive between Silver City, New Mexico and Gila Cliff Dwellings.

These cliff dwellings remained, hidden to white eyes until found late in the 19th century, contain one of the major mysteries within our National Park System. Built in the late 1200s, they stood abandoned after little more than a generation. Why did the natives who built these dwellings leave? We can only speculate.