The Middle Fork Trail is one of the defining trails of the Gila Wilderness. It runs for more than 30 miles from the Gila Visitors Centers to the Gilita Trailhead.
Trail Condition: Moderate
Big Bear Canyon to Little Bear Canyon:
Similar to the West Fork Trail – Trail #151, the Middle Fork Trail crosses the river frequently, but spends long stretches on each side cutting through dense, riparian forest. Be prepared to get your feet wet!
There are frequent campsites along this stretch of river downstream from the Meadows. Although it is mostly flat, the walking can be slow-going given the frequent crossings.
Jordan Hot Springs is about 6 miles downstream from the Meadows, and there are numerous campsites with 1/4 mile of either side of the springs.
Downstream from the hot springs, the canyon starts to open up and the walls begin to recede. The banks become wider and the trail crosses through old growth sycamore forest. This section of trail is uniquely beautiful.
If you are traveling downstream, you can continue all the way down the Middle Fork to the visitor’s center, but depending on where you have parked, the cutoff on the Little Bear Canyon Trail – Trail – Trail #729 will give you a break from the many stream crossings.
To read more about the Middle Fork Trail, see my trip report from the West Fork-Middle Fork Gila River.