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The small community of Mogollon (mo-go-yone), located north of Glenwood off US Route 180 at the end of NM 59, sits at 6,500 feet in the Mogollon Range of the mountains of the Gila Wilderness. In the late 1800s, with the discovery of rich veins of ore on Silver Creek, Mogollon was one of the West’s wildest and richest mining towns.
In its heyday Mogollon boasted a population of some 3,000 to 6,000 souls and, because of its isolation, was truly one of the wildest, shoot-'em-up mining towns in the West. Mining continued up to the 1950s and resumed for a short time in the 1970s before coming to a halt.
Today, Mogollon is an interesting ghost town comprised of old wooden and adobe buildings and nearby mining sites with only a handful of hardy year-round residents. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between May and October, visitors to Mogollon will find an art gallery, mining museum, antique store, and small cafe open for business, along with seasonal weekend accommodation.
A hike to the local graveyard is short in distance but long in history. Beginning at the old school house at the north end of the main street in Mogollon, a rough gravel road leads north 1-1/4 miles up Graveyard Gulch into the hills to end, as you might guess, at the old Mogollon graveyard. The road is rough, steep, and in places passes over broken bedrock. While the road can be driven in a high-clearance vehicle, it is much better to make the pilgrimage on foot where the essence of this remarkable place will surely seep in your soul.
The hike up Graveyard Gulch is truly a time-warp hike. After passing a few buildings and evidence of modern civilization at the start of the hike, you are quickly transported into another era as you pass by old mine workings, tumbled-down miner's shacks and assorted decaying artifacts of human toil and struggle. After climbing a half a mile or so, a view back to the south down the canyon gives a good perspective of how Mogollon appeared in its former glory days. Towards the end of the hike the road becomes steeper and quite rocky before reaching a flat area covered with sparse trees and vegetation and red soil surrounding the overgrown fenced graveyard.
To wander through this old graveyard with its ornate to primitively-fashioned headstones and grave markers, poignant epitaphs, and cast iron family plot fences is to relive the history of Mogollon: young men struck down in their prime in the underground mines, babies dying in infancy, whole families wiped out by the Spanish flu. While there are many longer and spectacular hikes in the Gila, perhaps none will linger longer than your short trip up Graveyard Gulch and your visit to Mogollon Ghost Town.