Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Located: Texas - Established: October 15, 1966
The Park. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is relatively unknown by people living outside the state of Texas. Even many Texans are unfamiliar with this remote park!
Once underwater, the Guadalupe Mountains were part of a 400-mile horseshoe-shaped marine reef growing beneath the surface of an ancient inland sea. Over time, the sea evaporated and a major mountain-building uplift exposed a section of the ancient Capitan Reef.
This uplifting created the highest point in the state of Texas with the summit of Guadalupe Peak measuring in at 8,749 feet above sea level.
Getting there. Located in west Texas, the main entrance to Guadalupe Mountain National Park and the Pine Springs Visitor Center is situated fifty-six miles southwest of Carlsbad, NM and 110 miles east of El Paso, TX off Hwy 62/180.
When to visit. Guadalupe is open all year. Weather can vary greatly as the elevation within the park ranges from 3000’ at the Visitor Center to almost 9000’ at the summit. The spring and summer seasons offer warm and mild temperatures. Fall and winter can be cold and windy. Snow and freezing fog happen in December and January.
What to do: Guadalupe Mountains National Park offers 80 miles of superb hiking trails, including the Guadalupe Peak Trail. The steepest portion of this “strenuous” 8½-mile round trip hike is in the first mile and a half! After that, the trail loops northward through a pine and fir forest offering a bit of shade. You’ll pass by El Capitan (pictured above) and after a vertical climb of 3000 feet, you will arrive at the summit of Guadalupe Peak – the “Top of Texas” - 8, 749 feet above sea level.
McKittrick Canyon Trail. Visit McKittrick Canyon in the fall and be treated to a burst of sensational fall color. The McKittrick Canyon Trail is a moderate hike with a small amount of elevation change, much of which follows McKittrick Creek. You’ll first come across Pratt Cabin at about mile 2.4 and then the Grotto at mile 3.4. For an all day hike, continue up to the Notch for a fantastic view of South McKittrick Canyon.
Devil’s Hall Trail. This easy 4.2-mile round trip hike takes you up the streambed of Pine Spring Canyon and the Hiker’s Staircase to a narrow canyon called Devil’s Hall.
Where to stay: There are no lodges or hotels in Guadalupe; however, the park does have two campgrounds - Pine Springs is located at the southeastern section of the park and sits at an elevation of 5822’. This campground hosts 20 level tent sites and 19 paved RV sites
The Dog Canyon Campground is found in the remote northern reaches of the park. This small campground will accommodate 9 tent sites and 4 RV sites. At an elevation of 6288’, Dog Canyon is a bit cooler during the hot summer months.
The nearest lodging would be found in Carlsbad, NM about 70 miles northeast of the Park Visitors Center at Pine Springs.
Memorable moments: Terry and me trekking to the top of Texas! The Park Ranger instructing us to refrain from using our camp stove or fire pit due to a severe fire danger warning. Consequently, we ate salad each evening!
Trivia: Guadalupe Mountain provides an excellent habitat for butterflies; more than 90 species have been reported fluttering about within the park.
Banner: Colorful flowers of the Crimson Hedgehog Cactus.
Experience these Check List:
- Stop by the Pine Springs Visitor Center
- Hike the Guadalupe Peak Trail and stand at the Top of Texas
- Wander up the McKittrick Canyon Trail
- Explore Devil’s Hall
- Gaze at the stars at night