How to Make the Most of Your Trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The high point of Texas, at 8,749 feet.
It’s own El Capitan limestone bluff.
A dry sea bed.
An exposed ocean reef.
In the Chihuahuan Desert?
You may not have heard of it.
It’s certainly not the most visited National Park.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is worth a visit, but you will have to put in a little effort to discover its charms.
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5 things to do at Guadalupe Mountains National Park
There are over 80 miles of hiking trails.
See complete trail descriptions here.
A few of the shorter, nature trails include; Pinery Trail (0.8-miles), Manzanita Spring Trail (0.4-mile), Indian Meadow Nature Trail (0.6-miles), Smith Spring Trail (1.2-miles), and McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail (0.9-miles).
Pratt Cabin is a 2.4-mile hike, which continues another mile to the Grotto. This is a good hike for fossil viewing.
There are also many ambitious all-day hikes.
For instance, climb Guadalupe Peak (8.5-mile round trip, 3000 ft gain). The first 1.5 miles is the steepest section.
Trekking poles are advised for steeper hikes.
If you are interested in backpacking (backcountry permits required) check out this page.
The Guadalupe Mountains are known for fall color – especially McKittrick Canyon. The NPS maintains a fall color report online.
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Pine Springs Campground offers 20 tent sites and 20 RV sites (50 ft max).
There is potable water, flush toilets, and a utility sink.
There is also a stock corral at Frijole Ranch, 1 mile away.
Dog Canyon Campground offers 9 tent sites and 4 RV sites (23 ft max).
Restrooms have running water and flush toilets.
All camping is primitive.
No fires are allowed.
One advantage of staying overnight is the opportunity to see the night sky.
With over 300 species of birds, Guadalupe NP is a favorite place for birders.
Frijole Ranch and Smith Springs are recommended.
There are longer hikes and areas accessed by a 4-wheel drive (see the ranger station for information).
Besides birds, the park is home to a diverse population of desert animals.
The park provides lists of birds and wildlife.
Sixty percent (about 50-miles) of the park’s trails are open to stock.
Corrals are available at Dog Canyon and Frijole Ranch, which are near the Pine Springs Visitor Center.
Pine Springs Visitor Center is the main entrance. There’s a nice museum with a diorama on wildlife and flora in the park. A slide show, bookstore, maps, and backcountry permits are also available here.
Dog Canyon Ranger Station is staffed, offers maps, brochures, and backpacking permits.
Stop at one of the visitor centers before heading out to hike. Be sure you understand the unique conditions in this park – terrain, no water, heat, and wind.
Get an education at Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The Park Website
The first stop is always the NPS park’s learning center.
You will find information on the history, culture, and nature of the park.
There are curriculum materials available on geology if you are interested.
Everything you need to know about visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Salt Flat, Texas
50 miles from Carlsbad, NM.
110 miles from El Paso.
On the border of Texas and southern New Mexico.
Pine Springs Visitor Center and Dog Canyon Ranger Station are opened every day except Christmas.
For closures and changes see the alerts page.
Because Guadalupe NP spans 3000-8000 feet in elevation, the weather can vary.
Spring and fall will be the most pleasant times to visit climate-wise.
March and April can be crowded during spring break with backpackers.
October brings people for the turning of the leaves.
We were there in October, and it was warm, in the high 70’s, and we had the place to ourselves.
Summers, from May – September are hot.
The weather in the mountains is fickle, and the wind can be brutal. Check with the rangers at the visitor center before heading out on an ambitious hike.
Entrance fee of $5 per person (16+).
For information on special passes see the basic information page.
The visitor centers are accessible, including; restrooms, parking, water, and a paved nature trail.
The Pinery Trail and Manzanita Spring Trail are paved.
If you want a taste of the park, 1-2 hours to visit Pine Springs Visitor Center and take one of the short nature hikes is enough.
To hike extensively, you will need a long day, or plan to camp overnight.
Backpackers can plan a multi-day trip and not run out of trails.
Beware of your gas tank!
There are few (no) gas stations between Carlsbad and El Paso.
One exception, White’s City, just outside the entrance of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park has a gas station.
Do not believe your GPS if it tells you there are gas stations in the tiny, tiny “towns” that dot the route from Guadalupe to El Paso.
We made the mistake of assuming there would be gas somewhere in the next 150 miles past Carlsbad Caverns. After consulting the rangers, we had to turn back to White’s City – an hour-long detour in an already tightly packed day.
In the desert, it’s wise to keep our bodies and our vehicles well hydrated!
For information on pets in the park, see this page.
Near Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Where to stay
Camping in Guadalupe is first come-first served. Primitive.
You could also stay in Carlsbad, El Paso or make a run for Las Cruces as we did.
There is a motel with a pool in White’s City, just outside the Carlsbad Caverns entrance.
Carlsbad KOA is also a good choice. We loved staying in KOA’s when the kids were young. Most have a pool.
Where to eat
There is no food in the park.
You will need to pack your food in.
Things to do nearby
The most obvious is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. If you are taking the time to make it to the southeast corner of New Mexico and you’re aiming to visit all the National Parks, it only makes sense to drive a little further and experience the Guadalupe Mountains.
Guadalupe NP could also be a long day trip from El Paso.
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