"Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Two Itineraries" Top 5 Page for this destination Guadalupe Mountains National Park by TooTallFinn24

Ask any experienced travelers to name all the national parks they can think of in the United States and Guadalupe Mountains is not likely to make the list.
Be that as it may this park has a lot to offer someone who is willing to take the time to explore its beauty.


If you have a short time to spend at the park, which it appears most people do I would suggest the following;

From US Highways 62 and 180 look for the turnoff to the Guadalupe National Park Visitor Center. The Visitor Center has a few good exhibits about the evolution of the park, history of the park, wildlife and plants. Walk outside and just to the right is the Pinery Trail. It's a short 0.7 trail that is wheelchair accessible. The walk will introduce you to many of the most common plants in the park. It seems like there is a sign post every fifty yards. It will also pass by the ruins of the Butterfield Stagecoach Station. While only a reconstructed wall remains with a little imagination you can see what it might have been like back 150 years ago.

After finishing the Pinery Trail drive east towards Carlsbad maybe a mile. You will see a sign for the Frijole Ranch History Museum on your left. The museum is actually a home built in the late 1800;s and early 1900's. It's rich with exhibits depicting like at the ranch and the docent and park ranger there are very helpful. Then take the very short 0.4 of a mile Manzanita Springs Trail up to see the spring. It's hard to believe that there is actually a spring out there in the desert but there truly is one.

Our trip to Guadalupe Mountains was in early February a time that it is normally not fit to visit. However the skies were clear and the weather was just right to visit this park and hike its trails. A great thing about the park is that it is located adjacent to State Highway 62 and 180 and the visitor center is within shouting distance of the highway.

As the NP brochure states the park is a geologic and fossil treasure chest. Some 270 million years ago the area was part of a tropical ocean that covered a large portion of New Mexico and Texas. From that time forward algae, sponges, and other lime secreting organisms along with seawater helped form a vast horseshoe shaped reef. After not being visible for millions of years, gradual mountain building resulted in the exposure of the mountains of this reef system.


Aside from visiting the two above locations the Park is blessed with over 80 miles of trails. Most of them we found are adequately marked except for the ones in McKitrick Canyon.

A few hikes we would recommend taking are;

Pratt Cabin In Mc Kittrick Canyon- A 4.8 mile hike that takes you from the desert scape into the canyon lands of the park. The hike crosses a stream twice as you wind yourself up and down paths of the canyon. Very pretty.

Salt Basin Trail- This trail which seemed like about 2.5 miles will take you around the interesting gypsum sand dunes of the park. The trail crosses the El Capitan trail which takes you close to the signature mountain of the park. Be sure and get a key for the gate from the Visitor Center before you take off.

Guadalupe Peak Trail- We didn't take this trail on this trip due to time. The 8.4 mile trail is a rugged and strenuous hike to nearly the top of the peak. You gain about 3,000 feet in altitude but the views of the surrounding area are fantastic.

Three Distinct Climatic Zones

Guadalupe National Park is comprised of three different climatic zones. Below the Guadalupe Mountains are the sparse plains of the Chihuahuan Desert. This area while it appears barren at first is actually full of a wide assortment of desert life. The Salt Basin is even a more striking representation of desert life. White gypsum dunes similar in appearance to White Sands but smaller and more remote. Hiking up McKittrick Canyon, in the eastern part of the park, you become aware of how distinctly different this area is from the canyon. Not only do you find water but also a wider variety of wildlife including porcupines, mule deer, and mountain lions. The highlands, while the most difficult to get to, offer some unique scenery that is not often associated with Texas. There we could see Douglas fir, white pines, aspens and ponderosa pines. It is said that bears, falcons, and golden eagles live in the area.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Unique, Secluded with Many Great Trails
  • Cons:No giant wow factors
  • In a nutshell:Definitely Worth A Full Day of Exploration on Foot
  • Last visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Feb 2012
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (12)

Comments (5)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Jun 8, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    I have been looking to a [possible trip down there one day-but next is Yosemite and Sacramento area in September

    • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
      Jun 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      My trip is Sacramento 9-9/9-13 and after I go east and NE and then down to Yosemite area until 9-27 departure. So guess we miss each other.

    • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
      Jun 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      My trip is Sacramento 9-9/9-13 and after I go east and NE and then down to Yosemite area until 9-27 departure. So guess we miss each other.

  • TooTallFinn24's Profile Photo
    Aug 26, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    The next time you come this way, you might want to consider flying into El Paso rather than one of the airports in New Mexico. That way Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns are a straight shot east, and White Sands is due north.

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Aug 25, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    I love visiting the US National Parks, but this is a new one on me, though we had great distant views of the Guadalupe Mountains when in NM last year. I love your photos of the McKittrick Canyon area in particular :-)

    • TooTallFinn24's Profile Photo
      Aug 25, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      Thanks for the comments on my Guadalupe National Parks page. It is worth the detour from Carlsbad to walk and hike some of the features that this park affords. Thanks also to your comment I see that one of the entries there should be under Carlsbad National Park.

    • toonsarah's Profile Photo
      Aug 26, 2012 at 2:13 AM

      We didn't make it to Carlsbad either! So much to see and do in NM that despite around 2.5 weeks there, some things had to be edited out of the plans ;-)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    May 15, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    I must admit I had never heard of this National Park before, but it looks like a fine place to visit.

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    May 13, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Hi, Steve! This National Park is amazing indeed...Thanks for your presentation....


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