Ready for some outdoor adventures in Guadalupe Mtns. Nat. Park, TX?
Situated in far West Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a hiker’s paradise. The 85 miles of trails vary greatly in length and difficulty and offer a wide range of opportunities for exploring. Trails leading to the high country are steep and rough; the ascent may be as much as 3,000 feet. Desert and canyon trails are less strenuous.
The most famous trails are McKittrick Canyon and Guadalupe Peak. The McKittrick Canyon Trail follows an intermittent stream through desert, transition and canyon woodlands vegetation to the historic Pratt Lodge, Grotto Picnic Area and Hunter Line Cabin. In autumn, the bright red foliage is a stark contrast to the white limestone streambed. The strenuous Guadalupe Peak Trail is an 8.4 mile round trip to the top of Texas. Topping out at 8,751 feet (2,667 meters) above sea level, it’s the highest point in the state. On clear days the 360-degree views include other tall peaks, salt flats and long horizons.
Surrounding the Guadalupe Mountains are the sparsely populated plains of the Chihuahuan Desert. This vast arid realm extends south for hundreds of miles into Mexico. Although it can look barren at first glance, the desert if full of life. Many of the desert’s most common plants and animals are found in the park. Agaves, prickly pear cacti, walking stick chollas, yuccas and sotol are abundant, and lizards, snakes, coyotes and mule deer are frequently seen.
The deep, sheer-sided canyons of the Guadalupe Mountains shelter an impressive diversity of plants and animals. Lying as it does between the desert below and the highlands above, the canyons have a mix of life that is part desert, part canyon woodland and highland forest. Prickly pear cacti, agaves, willows, terns, Texas madrones, Texas walnuts, alligator junipers and ponderosa pines all grow in the canyons. Wildlife includes jackrabbits, coyotes, porcupines, grey foxes, mule deer, mountain lion and elk. Moderate temperatures and protection from sun and wind provided by the high cliffs nurture this canyon community.
In the mountain high country of the Guadalupes thrives a dense forest of pines, firs and aspen. Throughout this highland wilderness roam elk, mule deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, vultures, mountain lions, black bears, golden eagles and peregrine falcons.
The Guadalupes are part of one of the finest examples of an ancient marine fossil reef on earth. Geologists visit from around the world to marvel at this extraordinary natural phenomenon, which formed 260-270 million years ago. During this time a vast tropical ocean covered portions of Texas and New Mexico. Over millions of years the 400-mile-long horseshoe-shaped Capitan Reef was formed. Eventually the sea evaporated. As the reef subsided, it was buried in a thick blanket of sediments and mineral salts. The reef was entombed for millions of years until a mountain building uplift exposed part of it to tower above the Texas desert.
The park is located on U.S. Highway 62/180 110 miles east of El Paso and 55 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Campgrounds are available at the Pine Springs and Dog Canyon areas and backcountry campsites are scattered throughout the park. The nearest food, lodging and gasoline services are 35 miles northeast on U.S. Highway 62/180 in White’s City, NM.
The headquarters’ visitors center at Pine Springs, open daily except December 25, has restrooms, drinking water, brochures, books, trail guides, maps, exhibits, a slide program, and activities schedules. Information, restrooms and drinking water are also available at McKittrick Canyon and Dog Canyon.