You have been to all sorts of vacations; have visited beaches, scaled mountains, and even done scuba diving. Are you looking for something else? Something epic and mind-blowing that you will always remember? Imagine falling asleep under a canopy of stars and waking up to a dewy morning listening to birds chirping – come to Guadalupe National Park for such an out-of-the-world experience. Adventure awaits you here at every bend so don’t say no.
A short introduction to Guadalupe National Park
Nature is the greatest creator and this becomes evident if you study the origin of the Guadalupe Mountains. These mountains were a part of the Capitan Reef, a horseshoe-shaped limestone reef that was buried under a tropical ocean more than 250 million years ago.
Later on, due to natural activities, several portions of the reef were uplifted, forming numerous interesting features like the Guadalupe Mountains and the Carlsbad Caverns.
The Guadalupe Mountains National Park is situated in West Texas. It is only 40 miles southwest of Carlsbad Caverns. The highest point of the mountain range, Guadalupe Peak is also located in the park. Striking drop-offs, huge outcrops of rock, and exotic flora and fauna make the Guadalupe National Park one of the best in the country. However, it is not a popular one and many people outside Texas don’t know about it. So, that makes it more exclusive, beautiful, and amazing.
Rising sharp from the desert and reaching a height of 5000 feet, the mountains are also called “Island in the Desert’. The ecosystem comprises of a range of trees like oaks and maples. On the top, you will find a dense coniferous forest of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. Nature lovers flock to this national park to see hundreds of species of birds and animals. Nature photography, hiking, and birding are common outdoor activities. Camping takes a different meaning here with the wilderness engulfing you.
Come for a camping or hiking vacation in Guadalupe National Park and your mindspace will change forever.
Vacationing in the Guadalupe National Park
Adventure lovers choose this national park to spend their time amidst the wilderness. The best thing is you can opt to spend a few hours, a day, or a week. There are activities suited for everyone.
The best time to visit this park is spring and fall. Needless to say, during spring, with fresh foliage and abundant blossoms, the park looks ethereal. Similarly, in fall, you can witness the entire color palette come alive. Red, green, yellow, maroon, and burgundy, the park looks resplendent.
Camping in the Guadalupe National Park
Camping is an excellent outdoor activity. It teaches us to be self-reliant and appreciate our skills, and above all, to embrace the beauty of nature. Camping reveals the nuances of nature that you learn by living within it. Guadalupe National Park provides excellent opportunities for camping.
The Pine Springs Campground is the most convenient place for camping. It is the base point for most of the popular trails and also near the visitor center. More info on website https://www.nps.gov/gumo/planyourvisit/camping.htm
This area is at the base of the mountain and a part of the desert. There are two options for you, choose from the 20 level and graveled sites or the RV camping area with 19 sites. You will get the basic amenities like flushing toilets and water but no hook-ups. So, without electricity and any distraction, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature fully.
The graveled sites are secluded with the help of small clusters of junipers and oaks. A picnic table is provided so that you can enjoy your meals outside, with the mountains providing the backdrop and birds chirping to entertain you.
Two tents can be set up on one site. Number-wise, 6 people can be accommodated in each site.
The RV area is paved and each site is demarcated with painted lines and numbers. There is no hose connection for freshwater but you can fill up the tanks from the water faucet present near the registration area.
Bookings are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. So, to get a good location of your choice, come early.
Are you looking for more seclusion? There is another great option for you. The Dog Canyon Campground is located at the northern end of the park. It is cut off from the rest of the park and is ideal for campers who want to spend a few days in total serenity and isolation.
This location has nine tent sites and four RV spots. Again, no hook-ups so that you can have a wholesome experience.
If your heart desires more freedom and adventure, you can opt for free BLM desert camping. Sounds interesting? Yes, it is. Parks Ranch Campground and Mile 10 Dispersed Camping are two areas located 30 minutes north on US 62 where you can set up your tents.
It is always more fun when you camp in groups. The Guadalupe National Park has scope for that also. At both the Pine Springs and Dog Canyon there are two group campsites available.
|Campground||Daily fee||Max RV Length|
|Pine Springs||$15.00||40 ft on pavement|
|Dog Canyon||$15.00||23 ft|
|Parks Ranch||0||No limit, BLM|
How to enjoy camping at the Guadalupe National Park
We have been telling you, camping itself is a liberating experience. You are on your own in the wild without the luxuries that you take for granted and you have to make arrangements for the basic things like cooking, getting water, and making your fire.
Camping comes with its rules also. In the Guadalupe Mountains, wood and charcoal fires are strictly prohibited as the weather is dry. Camp stoves with containerized fuel are allowed.
What makes camping tough here is the gusty wind. You will need sturdy stakes and other materials to secure your tent.
You should also keep in mind the privacy and convenience of fellow campers. Don’t litter the park and throw waste in the dustbin. It is also important to keep the park clean as food scraps may lure wild animals.
Hiking is the most exciting outdoor activity that brings campers to this national park. If you are here for multiple days, try all the hikes. We have mentioned them individually below.
Don’t forget to bring your hiking gear with the 10 essentials as you will be needing this for the tough trails.
If you are hiking solo, always have a safety plan because you may have to remain in the forest alone for several hours.
Bird watching in the Guadalupe National Park
Bird watchers flock to this national park in large numbers. The park is a paradise for them as over 300 species of birds have been recorded here. Come armed with your binoculars and camera to catch sights of your favorite feathery friends.
The birds commonly found in this park are nuthatches, sparrows, Golden Eagle, Great Horned Owl, warbles, and Peregrine Falcon.
If birding is a new hobby, you may start anywhere in the park and keep on tracking and recording the birds as you locate them.
For pros, there are locations where you may sight birds that are exclusively found in this park. Let us share these secrets with you.
The Frijole Ranch is one such place where a lot of birds are seen year-round due to the presence of water and large shady trees. You can watch birds like phoebes, white-winged doves, chipping sparrows, canyon towhees, and western scrub jays here.
The Manzanita Spring is nearby which is the favorite spot for violet-green swallows and white-throated swifts for catching insects in summer.
Walk a little higher and you will come to Smith Spring, a beautiful place with a cascade of water and riparian forest. Naturally, there will be birds here also. You can delight at the views of Lewis’ woodpeckers, Northern flickers, and red-naped sapsuckers. If you are alert, you may also find Cooper’s hawks.
McKittrick Canyon is not only popular for hiking but bird watching also. As a bird lover, you will enjoy exploring the bird habitats. Rock wrens, bushtits, and Bewick’s are visible near the desert area but as you go up, exotic species like plumbeous vireos, Grace’s warbles, and broad-tailed hummingbirds will appear before you.
Are you ready to take up more risk to see birds? The Bowl is the place you need to go to watch red crossbills and hairy woodpeckers.
Do desert birds excite you? Birds like verdins and cactus wrens inhabit the lowland desert that you can access with the William’s Ranch four-wheel drive road.
Photography at the Guadalupe National Park
From the views of the deserts to the mountain tops, the sweeping vistas of the topography, the birds, streams, blossoms, and wild animals, photographers are always busy at the park. There is so much to focus on and click that you may feel tired but still yearn for more.
Carry spare batteries with you so that you are always ready to shoot whatever catches your fancy. You should carry your entire photography gear with different lenses to get the best shots.
Unique outdoor activities at the Guadalupe National Park
Apart from photographers, hikers, and nature photographers, the park also attracts people with different hobbies like fishing, star gazing, and archery.
If angling is your hobby, head to McKittrick Canyon. The place has water all year round and some lovely fishes like rainbow trout. Enjoy the views as you wait with your fishing rods.
Archery is not a common hobby but you can encourage your kids to practice it when you are camping in this park. With so much time in hand, they can develop their skills. You can also hone your talents.
We haven’t mentioned star gazing yet. This is perhaps the most neglected hobby or outdoor activity that you can take up to know our universe.
Camping at the Guadalupe Mountains has its rewards and stargazing is one of these. Extending from one end of the sky to the other, the whole milky is visible here. You can watch over 11,000 stars. You can see Andromeda, Mars, and Orion using telescope.
Look at the dazzling display of stars and you can realize how insignificant we are. If possible, carry a binocular to observe the stars. If you are here for a few days, you can even notice the movement of the stars. Learn about the stars, research on them, watch them closely and your vacation will get a new meaning.
Encourage your kids and families to enjoy stargazing. Once they learn it, you can spend hours doing it and understanding our universe. This is a priceless hobby that will make you feel positive and optimistic.
Wild animals at the Guadalupe National Park
This area is unique in many aspects. The variety in the ecosystem has made it possible for different species to thrive here. the main life zones of the mountains are Chihuahua desert community, oak, and maple woodlands, canyons, and mountain top forests.
Initially, the area may seem lifeless to you. however, if you look closely and patiently, you will see many animals. Desert animals like bobcat, coyote, mountain, lion, and kit foxes are nocturnal creatures that come out after sunset.
You will find 16 species of bats in this park. During early morning or late evening, mule deer and javelinas come out for preying.
Rattlesnakes are very common here. You should be careful when camping. Visit the park during fall to see tarantulas.
A variety of desert reptiles like bullsnake, prairie lizard, coachwhip snake, and collared lizard form a part of the ecosystem, they look like this.
Those who hike to the top get their rewards. Animals like elk, black bear, porcupine, skunks, and gray foxes welcome them.
Hunting is not allowed. Please don’t harm any wild animals here.
You can swim in the water holes that are found in the park but it is not much recommended due to a lack of facilities.
One day trip to the national park
Do you have only one day at hand? Let’s make out the most of it. There are over 80 miles of trails in the park. Yes, you read it right. So, choose the one that suits your physical ability and interest. There are a few famous trails like the Devil’s Hall Trail, Guadalupe Peak Trail, Pinery Trail, Permian Reef geology Trail, and McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail.
McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail – this is one of the easiest and shortest of the trails. The trail takes you to the Pratt lodge through a stony path and streams. You will love the experience and the views.
The McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center will provide you with all the information. There is a nature trail here which is a mile-long loop. The views are fantastic and the track is steep at places, giving you more thrill and a sense of satisfaction.
Devil’s Hall Trail – this is the most popular trail of this park. Hikers with time constraint make sure to take this trail as it reveals different aspects of the park. It is a short trail that passes through the Pine Spring Canyon, takes you up the Hiker’s Staircase which is a natural rock stairway and then to a narrow canyon, popularly known as Devil’s Hall.
During fall, the trail becomes more scenic with the maple trees donning different colors.
Pinery Trail – this trail is different in many ways. It gives you a feel of the park. If you are really short of time, take this trail. It is good for kids, old people, and pets too. You can ride a wheelchair on this trail and take pets on leashes along with you. It is good for nature lovers as you can see a great variety of plants. The views of the mountains are enticing and the historical markers good for studying the history of the place.
The Bowl – this is the best-kept secret of the Guadalupe National Park. The trail begins at the Pine Springs campground and as you hike up, you will come across a coniferous forest of pine and Douglas fir. Peaceful, gorgeous, and thrilling, this trail packs a lot for the hikers. It is a long trail but one that creates lifetime memories.
Guadalupe Peak hike – maybe this is the most thrilling and popular of all the hikes. It takes around 6-8 hours to complete this 8.5 mile – long hike. It is hard and starts at the Pine Springs Campground parking lot. You will be exposed to the fantastic topography and ecosystem of the park. You will come across stretches of desert, pine forests, and finally the rocky summit. The peak offers sweeping views of the neighboring mountain peaks and the whole park. Being at the top of the park gives a strange feeling that cannot be compared to anything else.
Guadalupe National Park is known for its ecosystem, amazing natural formations, and outdoor activities. watch sunrise and sunset from different locations and you will love all of them. As you hike in the park, you may discover fossils. The museum is a good place to start learning about the park. Engage in stargazing for some philosophical revelations and above all, go for adventure trails to challenge yourself.
With so much to do, your time will fly and you will want to come back for more. Camping, enjoying nature and appreciating it go hand in hand and this is the best place to witness it.