I first found out about Catwalk Recreation Area years back during family trips to New Mexico.
It’s near Glenwood, a small, unincorporated town that according to the 2010 census has fewer than 200 people, and the drive to the catwalk offers beautiful sights, including fields, houses, forest and the stream you’ll need to cross twice to get to the recreation area.
The stream’s level depends on the weather. The first crossing is safe and simple enough, but the second one, right before the recreation area, can be deeper. If you’re in an SUV or a truck, you should be all right. But on my latest visit in a car, it was high enough that I didn’t want to risk damaging my vehicle, so I parked before the entrance and took a back trail in. It was a bit rough, but offered some interesting sights, including a silk bag full of worms that were living in it. That trail eventually met up with a bridge that takes people from the parking area to an easy path that connects to the catwalk.
There’s a steeper, less smooth path across the canyon that offers different viewing angles, so if you’re able, you might want to take a circuit on the hike. I’d recommend taking the path to the right, facing in, for entry, then looping over to the opposite side on the way out if you feel like a little more exercise.
The entire hike in the now-shortened path should take an hour or less, depending on how many photos you feel like taking or how much nature you want to take in as you relax.
The catwalk itself rises above the stream that once powered a mill. It hugs the canyon wall, with trees and other plant life growing around and above it.
Years back, the catwalk went much further than the current incarnation. Large boulders offered shelter to fish that could be seen resting beneath their protection. Now, the metal path ends at stairs from which you can see the older version as it grows rusty, cut off from the curious.
It’s a perfect example of man trying to control nature with off-and-on results.
The latest version of the catwalk was rebuilt after the previous one was washed out. Years back, flooding every few years would wipe it out, forcing its closure until it was rebuilt. I still remember park rangers warning us to clear out as soon as we saw rain because the stream would rise quickly, flooding the area and wiping out the concrete picnic tables and anything else in its path. We used to put sodas in the creek to make them cold, and it always was fascinating to think of this cool, gentle stream growing in power so quickly.
However, today’s version of the catwalk looks high enough and study enough to survive most flooding events, but if it starts to rain, your best bet is to leave quickly because the stream will rise, cutting off escape.
The path is short enough so that if it does start to rain, you should be able to hurry out in time. But check the weather forecast to be safe before starting out, especially if you have mobility issues. The path itself and the walkway should be accessible to most people, though. The forest service has done an excellent job making it easy and safe to use.
There are rooms available in Glenwood, or you can easily make a round trip from Silver City in around two hours under normal driving conditions. It would come out to a little over 130 miles round trip.
There is a $3 fee per vehicle, and you might want to call the Glenwood Ranger District at 575-539-2481 to be sure the area is open before visiting.
The catwalk might be a lot tamer than in the past, but it still offers a beautiful look at a mixture of nature and mankind’s work. I highly recommend a visit.
For more information, visit its home page.