12 Amazing Experiences At Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The Guadalupe Mountains are a geological phenomenon that spans the New Mexico-Texas border. They were declared National Parks on September 30, 1972. The mountains are high and imposing in a remote area located in West Texas off Highway 62/180. The park is home to El Capitan, the most central point in Texas at an elevation of 8,085 feet. You can enjoy 360-degree views of the towering signal peak. It is a striking iconic rock that rises over the highway, inviting travelers, hikers, and campers into the unexplored wilderness, peace, and tranquility.
The most awe-inspiring peak in Texas is located north of El Capitan: Guadalupe Peak, which is 8,751 feet. Four other mountains in the park are at more than 8000 feet. These include Hunter Peak at 8,368 feet, Bartlett at 8,497 feet, Shumard Peak at 8,615 feet, and Bush Mountain at 8,631 feet.
If you are visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park, ensure you have a fully stocked tank of gas, water, and food because there aren’t any eateries, accommodation, or gas stations within or around the park. There is no cell phone service; for you, it means more peace and fewer crowds.
Pro Tip: Check the park’s website for any warnings, particularly for dangerous weather. You can add Salt Flat, Texas, and Carlsbad, New Mexico, to your app for weather.
Be on the lookout for flash floods. Small creek beds could transform into rivers raging even if it’s not raining in the area you’re at.
Tips: Pine Springs is the primary Pine Springs park’s main office located in Pine Springs. It is 56 miles away from Carlsbad.
1. Get Started At Pine Springs’ Visitor Center And Headquarters
Explore the park over the space of two to three days. One day will be dedicated to the main visitor center located at Pine Springs, Devil’s Hall Trail, Guadalupe Peak Trail, and the past attractions. There aren’t many roads within the park. However, there are plenty of backcountry camping and hiking opportunities. Visitors can pay admission and camping fees here and obtain overnight permits for wilderness use. Visit the museum in the park. Shop for camping gear and books, brochures, and maps from the store at the park.
Pro Tip: Discuss with the park rangers about backcountry conditions and trail recommendations.
2. Discover The Pinery Butterfield Stage Station
The Butterfield Overland mail route from St. Louis to San Francisco built a station at Pine Spring, constructed in 1853. The map depicts how the Old Butterfield Stage route through the Guadalupe Mountains. An inscription marks the way which leads to the rock ruins. The station was closed in 1859 when the road moved towards the Davis Mountains south.
Visit the Overland mail station from the visitor center along the Pinery Nature Trail, a paved, wheelchair-accessible 0.6-mile trail that offers views of wildflowers and cactuses.
3. The Camp At Pine Springs
Pine Springs Campground, elevation 5,822 feet, is home to 19 RV sites marked off in the parking area. There’s nothing extravagant here. The small oak and Junipers cover the picnic tables of 20 tent sites. They are all first-come-first-served. Camping amenities include pay phones and drinking water, potable flush toilets, and the utility sink used to wash dishes. Showers and hookups are not available.
Pro Tip: RV campsite #21 is wheelchair-accessible.
4. Trek Devil’s Hall Trail From Pine Springs
We hiked the Devil’s Hall Trail, a 3.8-mile circular hike that takes you into a rugged wash of steep canyon walls, geomorphological formations, high trees, and magnificent mountains. Plan for between two and four hours.
Pro Tips: A trekking pole or hiking pole can help in climbing. Wear hiking boots, and remember that pets are permitted on the trails.
5. Hike Guadalupe Peak From Pine Springs Trailhead
This Guadalupe Peak hike traverses 8.5 miles up to the summit and back with an elevation of 3,000 feet and will take the average hiker between six and eight hours to complete the long journey. The reward is a fantastic panoramic view from the top of Texas. Make sure you sign the mountaintop register inside the small metal box.
Set up an overnight campout with your family at Guadalupe Peak Backcountry Campground. A permit for backcountry camping is required to stay at these five campsites with tent pads situated 3.1 miles away from Pine Springs and one mile below the summit.
6. Discover Frijole Ranch History Museum And Trails
Frijole Ranch, located just off U.S. Highway 62, close to Pine Springs, opened in 1992 as a museum for ranchers included in the National Register of Historic Sites. It was founded by the J.C. Hunter family and accumulated more than 76,312 acres in 1942 before selling the property to the national park in 1966 to fulfill the dream of a national park.
Birding and wildlife viewing are excellent at Manzanita Spring, which is accessible by wheelchair via a 0.2-mile paved trail.
On the Smith Spring Trail, hike on a 2.3-mile loop where you can spot javelinas, lizards, and Mule deer. Stop for a rest at this stunning desert oasis and keep an eye out for birds.
7. Hike The McKittrick Canyon Trails
Hike McKittrick Canyon Nature Loop Trail in the fall to enjoy the vibrant autumn colors. This Chihuahuan desert contrasts against steep canyon walls, century-old plants, and prickly pear cacti.
Take the McKittrick Trail from Pratt Cabin, a distance of 4.8 miles. You will cross two times along the river. Have a picnic lunch at the picnic tables in the cabin or the rocking chairs on the porch in front. Look at the stone structure created and built in the hands of John F. Staub.
For a three to six hours trip, take a hike through The Grotto and Hunter Line Shack through McKittrick Canyon, which is a 6.8-mile round route. The Grotto is a cave that has been exposed that has stone tables for picnics close to The Hunter Line Shack. It’s a great picnic spot for lunch.
Overnight at McKittrick Ridge is among the most challenging trek in Texas, with Backcountry adventures lasting two or three days. You can camp overnight, enjoying the stunning stars at night. You can get an overnight wilderness use permit to take the strenuous 14.8-mile round trip with 2700 feet of elevation change.
8. Take A drive To The Williams Ranch
Take a key to the Pine Springs Visitor Center gate to access Williams Ranch, a 7.3-mile excursion that follows the four-wheel drive road, with a high clearance ground and a dirt road with one lane. Bring a jack along and a spare tire for the hour-long journey.
The gate to the entrance is 8.3 miles to the west of Pine Springs Headquarters, on the north side. A National Park Service arrowhead logo identifies it. You can lock two gates behind. The isolated Williams Ranch house stands at the base of a 3000-foot rock cliff and Bone Canyon beyond. This region has one of the most ancient rock formations located in Guadalupes.
9. Hike To Shumard Canyon Wilderness Campground
Camping in the Shumard campsite requires a permit to use the wilderness for five tent spots. Bring food, water, a map, and a compass. Be ready for wind, sun, and exposure to weather without trees on the route.
Tips: the sole fire allowed is a stove with a backpack used to cook.
10. Go To Salt Basin Dunes
Contact the Park Headquarters for a gate key and verify road conditions. If you are coming from Dell City, take Williams Road east for 7.5 miles until you reach the gate to Salt Basin Dunes. In the parking area, there are restrooms as well as tables for picnics that are shaded. Bring your food, water, and sun protection because the weather is hotter at an elevation of 3,640 feet.
At the end of the trailhead, walk a mile along the old road, passing by the parking lot, and finally to the dunes. Gypsum grains create brilliant white dunes that cover an area of more than 220 acres. They vary from 3 feet to over sixty feet. After leaving, be sure to return to your car.
Tips for a Successful Trip: As seen above, Salt Flats are a popular place to visit. Salt Flats sometimes form a shallow lake in the rainy summer months.
11. Stay The Night At Dog Canyon
Go to the quiet, forested Dog Canyon on the park’s north side. The road to Dog Canyon on Highway 137 from Carlsbad. There isn’t a road that runs through the park and is accessible from Pine Springs. Make sure you are aware of the weather conditions before your trip.
The park’s 6,300 feet elevation is more excellent than Pine Springs. The campground is sheltered by the cliff walls and shielded from powerful gusty winds. Dog Canyon campground offers four RV sites as well as nine tent campsites. Some restrooms have flush toilets and sinks; however, there are no showers. There are no hookups, and RV lengths are restricted to 23 feet.
12. Enjoy Hiking The Trails Through Dog Canyon
Indian Meadow Nature Trail is an easy 0.6-mile trail that will take 30-45 minutes. It’s level, except for the crossing of an arroyo.
It is possible to hike Marcus Overlook, an easy trail of 4.5 miles. Follow the Bush Mountain Trail to Manzanita Ridge. Turn around when the path becomes steeper, and take in the view of West Dog Canyon.
This moderate to strenuous hike can take five to six hours at 6.4 miles from Lost Peak and back. The trail follows the Tejas Trail through the open meadow before entering the canyon’s bottom forest. After that, climb up to Lost Peak and gain 1,540 feet of elevation.
Due to extreme drought and fire risk conditions, it is only permitted to smoke in enclosed vehicles. Burning open fires is forbidden. Lightning ignited this Dog Canyon wildfire on May 21. Recent rains have declared the fire as being under control.