We knew we weren’t in Central America any longer the moment we first set foot on the rock-solid hanging walkway of the Catwalk National Scenic Trail in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. As much as the suspension bridges reminded us of those we had traversed in Guatemala’s Reserva Natural Atitlan, the absence of any obvious structural deterioration assured us we were firmly in the safety obsessed U.S. of A.
The “catwalk” itself follows the route of a water pipeline that was built in the 1800s to serve the local mining industry. Considered an engineering feat of its day, the pipeline required constant repair. Workers who walked along the elevated pipe dubbed it the catwalk, a name that has stuck to this day.
The original pipeline is gone, along with the mining industry. In its place the Civilian Conservation Corps built this hiking trail through Whitewater Canyon. With its steel girder walkway clinging to the steep granite canyon walls that once hid Geronimo and later Butch Cassidy, the mile-long trail is one of the most unique we’ve encountered.
Like the Gila Cliff Dwellings, the Catwalk trail is in a remote part of Southwestern New Mexico. We found quaint Silver City to be a good base for exploring both attractions.
Editorial Note: The Catwalk Recreation area closed on May 26,2012, due to the Whitewater-Baldy Fire that is currently menacing the Gila Forest. The Catwalk is expected to remain closed “for some time” but, with any luck, will escape damage and reopen soon.