The Park Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas, was founded in 1972 to preserve the surprisingly diverse wilderness of the southern Guadalupe Mountains, a range created from an enormous fossilized reef rising up from the Chihuahuan Desert.
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ILNP Park Review
In a Word “Unexpected”
“He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.” -Psalms 104:10
Our Visit We visited Guadalupe Mountains during March as part of an 8-Park tour of the Southwest. We split the day with Carlsbad Caverns, 30 miles to the North.
Our Weather The weather was great–blue skies and 80s
Overall Impression Guadalupe Mountains NP isn’t much to look at from the outside. From the desert, the rocks don’t look all that spectacular and there’s not a shred of green to be seen besides the ever-present yuccas. To appreciate this Park, you have to get inside where the canyons, springs and forests are. Yes, forests! On top of these peaks is a dense coniferous forest reminiscent of Colorado. To get to the real beauty takes miles and miles of hiking, but you can still see a few of Guadalupe’s treasures on a shorter hike.
Favorite Spot the out-of-place Smith Spring.
Minimum Time Required About 3 hours. In 3 hours, you can go to the visitors center and take one of the shorter trails like the 2-mile round trip to Smith Spring, a strange oasis of trees and water tucked into a narrow valley in the mountainside. Smith Spring is the closest of Guadalupe’s hidden green areas. A short drive down the road will give you a good look at El Capitan, the large rock formation which marks the southern tip of the range–this was about all we were up to with a 6-month pregnant wife!
A Longer Visit On a longer trip (one or two days), you could visit Smith Spring and also hike the several-mile round trip to see McKittrick Canyon, a lush forest of bright deciduous trees tucked into a tight canyon. This is especially beautiful in the fall. You could also drive around and enter the Park from the north and hike into the pine forests near Dog Canyon.
Suggestions If you can’t dedicate enough time to at least visit Smith Spring (about 3 hours), don’t even bother visiting as you’ll probably leave disappointed. It’s only by hiking to the neat areas that you understand why this is a National Park at all. It’s only about 45 minutes from Carlsbad Caverns NP, so planning a trip to both Parks makes sense. We’d suggest going in April or May or October when things aren’t too hot. March (when we went) was too early because the trees didn’t have any leaves yet.
This is a hiker’s Park as there is little accessible by road. Hiking in the desert is tough–bring sunscreen and plenty of water! Don’t let the desert fool you. When we got out of our car at the parking lot for the Smith Spring trail, we exclaimed “there is NOTHING green growing within 10 miles of here!” Low and behold, the green places are neatly tucked into the hillsides, but they are there–don’t give up too quick!
Nearby Towns Whites City, Carlsbad (New Mexico), Van Horn (Texas)
Other Nearby Attractions Carlsbad Caverns NP
Official NPS Website Guadalupe Mountains NP
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