12 best things to do in Guadalupe National Mountains National Park
Rising in a remote part of West Texas off Highway 62/180, the Guadalupe Mountains are a geological phenomenon straddling the Texas-New Mexico border. They became a national park on September 30, 1972. Home to El Capitan, Texas’ most visible point at 8,085 feet, there is a 360-degree view of this towering Signal Peak, a towering rugged limestone icon towering over the mountain. road, beckoning hikers, backpackers and campers into the untouched wilderness, solitude and solitude.
The tallest mountain in Texas is north of El Capitan: Guadalupe peak, at 8,751 feet. Four additional peaks in the park rise to over 8,000 feet: Hunter Peak at 8,368 feet, Bartlett at 8,497 feet, Shumard Peak at 8,615 feet, and Bush Mountain at 8,631 feet.
When visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park, bring a full tank of gas, food, and water, as there are no restaurants, accommodation, or gas stations in or near of the park. Cell phone service is spotty so for you that means more loneliness and less crowds.
John Muir reminds us, “Stay close to the heart of nature and get out of the way every now and then and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your mind pure.
Bring paper maps of state and park. I ordered National GeographicMap of Guadalupe Mountains National Park with illustrated trails and topography. It is also waterproof and tear resistant.
The towns around the park are rare; the closest is Dell City to the west, where my husband’s grandfather lived. Whites City, the gateway to Carlsbad Caverns, is across the New Mexico state border, 35 miles east of the park entrance. There are campsites for motorhomes with connections here.
Pro tip: Be sure to check the park’s website for any alerts, especially dangerous weather conditions. Add Salt Flat, Texas, and Carlsbad, New Mexico to your weather app.
Keep an eye out for flash floods. Small stream beds can quickly turn into raging rivers, even if it isn’t raining where you are.
Pro tip: The main headquarters of Pine Springs Park is 90 km from Carlsbad.
1. Start at the Pine Springs Headquarters and Visitor Center.
To explore the park in two or three days. Day one is dedicated to the headquarters visitor center in Pine Springs, Devil’s Hall Trail, and Guadalupe Peak Trail, as well as historic attractions. There are few roads inside the park; however, you will find plenty of backcountry hiking and camping opportunities. Visitors can pay entrance and camping fees here and get permits to use nature overnight. Take the time to visit the park museum. Buy and collect camping supplies, brochures, books and maps at park store.
Pro tip: Talk to park rangers about backcountry conditions and trail recommendations.
2. Explore the Pinery Butterfield stage station
the Butterfield Overland Mail Route from St. Louis to San Francisco established a station at Pine Spring, built in 1853. The map shows the Old Butterfield Stage route through the Guadalupe Mountains. A monument marks the path leading to the rocky ruins. The station was abandoned in 1859 when the road moved south to the Davis Mountains.
Pro tip: Hiked the Pine forest nature trail, a 0.6 mile paved wheelchair accessible trail leading to the historic Overland Mail Station from the Visitor Center while viewing wildflowers and cacti.
3. Camp in Pine Springs
Pine Springs Campground, elevation 5,822 feet, hosts 19 marked out RV sites in the parking lot – nothing fancy here. Junipers and small oaks shade the picnic tables on 20 tent pitches, all first come, first served. Campground amenities include pay phones, potable water, flush toilets, and a sink for washing dishes. No shower or hook-up is available.
Pro tip: RV # 21 campsite is wheelchair accessible.
4. Hike the Devil’s Hall Trail from Pine Springs
we hiked Devil’s room trail, a 3.8 mile round trip to rock wash, craggy canyon walls, geological formations, tall trees, and majestic peaks. Allow two to four hours.
Pro tip: Hiking or trekking poles make it easier to climb. Wear hiking shoes and remember that no pets are allowed on the hiking trails.
5. Hike to Guadalupe Peak from the Pine Springs Trailhead
the Hike to Guadalupe Peak traverses 8.5 miles to the summit and back, with a 3000 feet elevation gain, and takes the average hiker six to eight hours for the strenuous round trip. The payoff is a fantastic view from the top of Texas. Sign the mountain top register located in the small metal box.
Plan an overnight camp at Guadalupe Peak Backcountry Campground. A backcountry permit is required to camp at these five designated campsites with tent mats, located 3.1 miles from Pine Springs and one mile below the summit.
6. Explore the history museum and trails of Frijole Ranch
Ranch Frijole, located off US Highway 62 near Pine Springs, opened in 1992 as a National Register of Historic Sites Livestock Museum. The JC Hunter family accumulated over 76,312 acres starting in 1942 and sold the land to the national park in 1966, making a national park dream come true.
Travel a 0.2 mile paved, wheelchair accessible trail to Spring Manzanita, an excellent location for bird and wildlife viewing.
AT Smith Spring Trail, travel a 2.3 mile loop, where you can observe lizards, javelins and mule deer. Take a break in this awe-inspiring desert paradise and look for birds.
7. Hiking the McKittrick Canyon trails
Hike McKittrick Canyon Natural Loop Trail in the fall to see the enhanced fall colors. The Chihuahuan Desert contrasts with the steep canyon walls, centuries-old plants and prickly pears.
Hiked the McKittrick Trail to Pratt Cabin, a distance of 4.8 miles, crossing the creek twice. Enjoy a picnic on the cabin’s picnic tables or rocking chairs on the porch. Explore the stone structure, designed and built by John F. Staub.
For a three to six hour hike, hike up to Hunter Line Cave and Hut through McKittrick Canyon, a 6.8 mile round trip. The cave includes an exposed cave with stone picnic tables near the Hunter Line Shack. It is a fabulous picnic destination.
Overnight on McKittrick Ridge is Texas’ toughest hike, a two to three day backcountry adventure. Enjoy a night of camping and admire the dazzling starry sky. Obtain an overnight wilderness permit for the arduous 14.8 mile round trip with a drop of 2,700 feet.
8. Drive to Williams Ranch
Check a door key at the Pine Springs Visitor Center for access Williams Ranch, a 7.3-mile excursion along a four-wheel-drive, high-ground clearance, single-lane dirt road. Take a jack and a good spare tire for this hour’s drive.
The entrance gate is 8 miles west of the Pine Springs headquarters on the north side, marked with a National Park Service arrowhead logo. Lock two doors behind you. The solitary home of Williams Ranch sits at the base of a 3,000-foot rocky bluff, with Bone Canyon beyond. The region has the oldest rock formations of the Guadalupes.
9. Hike to Shumard Canyon Wilderness Campground
Camp at Shumard campsite requires a wilderness use permit at five tent sites. Bring water, food, a map, and a compass, and be prepared for sun, wind, and inclement weather with no trees along the way.
Pro tip: The only fire allowed is a hiking stove for cooking.
10. Visit the dunes of the salt basin
Check with park headquarters for a door key and check road conditions. From Dell City, take Williams Road East for 7.5 miles to the entrance to Dunes of the salt basin. In the parking lot you will find restrooms and shaded picnic tables. Bring your water and food, as well as sun protection, as the weather is much warmer here at 3,640 feet above sea level.
From the start of the trail, travel a kilometer and a half following the old road that goes past the parking lot to the dunes. Gypsum grains form crisp white dunes covering over 2,000 acres and ranging from three feet high to over sixty feet. When you leave, be sure to retrace your steps to your vehicle.
Pro tip: As seen above, Salt Flats sometimes form a shallow lake during the rainy summer.
11. Spend a night at Dog Canyon
Visit the isolated, wooded Canyon of dogs north of the park. You will approach Dog Canyon on Route 137 from Carlsbad. There is no road through the park from Pine Springs. Check the weather conditions before your visit.
The park’s elevation at 6,300 feet provides cooler weather than Pine Springs. The campsite is protected under the walls of the cliffs and sheltered from strong gusty winds. Dog Canyon Campground offers four RV sites and nine tent sites. There are toilets with sinks and flush toilets, but no showers. There are no hookups and RV lengths are limited to 23 feet.
12. Hike the Dog Canyon Trails
Indian grassland nature trail is an easy 0.6 mile trail that takes 30-45 minutes. It’s flat except to cross an arroyo.
You can hike Marcus overlook, a moderate 4.5 mile trail. Follow Bush Mountain Trail to Manzanita Ridge, turn around where the trail drops steeply, and enjoy views of West Dog Canyon.
This moderate to strenuous trail takes five to six hours at 6.4 miles to Lost peak and back. Follow the Tejas trail through the open meadow and into the bottom of the wooded canyon. Then start climbing to Lost Peak and gain 1,540 feet in elevation.
Due to the extreme drought conditions and fire danger, you may only smoke inside closed vehicles and open fires are always prohibited. Lightning started the Dog Canyon fire on May 21. Recent rains have classified the fire as under control.
Pro tips: See it live webcams that update every 30 seconds in Pine Springs, El Capitan, and Dell City.
While in the state of Lonestar, consider: