Guadalupe Mountains National Park Things to Do

  • Jet Trails Over Guadalupe Mountains NP
    Jet Trails Over Guadalupe Mountains NP
    by TooTallFinn24
  • Frijole Ranch Main House
    Frijole Ranch Main House
    by TooTallFinn24
  • Inside the Home and Visitor Center
    Inside the Home and Visitor Center
    by TooTallFinn24

Most Recent Things to Do in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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    Underneath A Great Fly Over Zone

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Mar 7, 2012

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    While hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park it can be extremely quiet. However the closer you get to the Visitor Center and Frijole Ranch you will notice some loud roars above you. What you are hearing is the sound of commercial jets, mostly six miles or more above, flying through one of the busiest air traffic zones in the Southwest. At one time we counted eight active jet trails in the sky. Even though the airplanes may be ten miles or more away you can still hear the loud and sometimes piercing sounds of their flyover.

    On a clear day the jet trails made for very interesting patterns. So next time you are in Guadalupe Mountains National Park look straight up not just all around you.

    Jet Trails Over Guadalupe Mountains NP

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    Mc Kitrick Canyon Visitor Center

    by TooTallFinn24 Written Feb 13, 2012

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    The Visitor Center is unmanned but has restroom facilities. It is located about four miles off of State Highways 62 and 180. There is a short video program at the center from Wallace Pratt a geologist and his love of Mc Kitrick Canyon. A very well done video interviewing the man who gave 5,632 acres to the National Park Service in 1957 to be included in the eventual Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Unfortunately there is no ranger or guides at the open air Mc Kitrick Visitor Center. There was also no guides to any of the trails at the center.

    View from the McKitrick Canyon Visitor Center

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    El Capitan

    by TooTallFinn24 Written Feb 13, 2012

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    El Capitan rises abruptly out of the Chihuahuan Desert as you drive from El Paso east towards Carlsbad. It is visible long before the other peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains. For travelers it represents a signature peak that begins the entrance into the highest mountain range in Texas. The peak also represents the southern end of the huge ancient limestone reef that makes up a good portion of Guadalupe National Park. The peak itself is the eighth highest peak in Texas with an elevation of 8,058 feet.

    El Capitan-  Guadalupe Mountains NP El Capitan - Guadalupe Mountains NP

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    McKitrick Canyon Trail

    by TooTallFinn24 Written Feb 13, 2012

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    Just a couple miles east of the Piney Springs Visitor Center you will see a turn off for McKittrick Canyon. About three or four miles down a paved road you will find the McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center and trail head for three trails.

    The Visitor Center is unmanned but has restroom facilities. There is a short video program at the center from Wallace Pratt a geologist. A very well done video interviewing the man who gave 5,632 acres to the National Park Service in 1957 to be included in the eventual Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

    We took the hike on a late February afternoon to Pratt Cabin. The trail is termed moderate but it is a relatively easy walk. We crossed a stream bed twice and went up the walls of the canyon about two miles and stopped before reaching Pratt Cabin. We saw very pretty rock formations and some interesting vegetation. However except for some birds we did not see any wildlife. The stream that cut through the canyon had very little water. We would have proceeded farther up the trail but were concerned that we would have the entrance gate locked at 4:30 so we rushed to get back out of the canyon.

    Overall the canyon is worth a hike. I can imagine that the colors would be spectacular during fall when some of the maples are in full color.

    McKittrick Canyon- Pratt Cabin and Grotto Trail Canyon Along Pratt Cabin Trail McKittrick Canyon- Stream along Pratt Cabin Trail Distant Mountains Along Pratt Trail

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    Salt Basin Dunes

    by TooTallFinn24 Written Feb 13, 2012

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    Located in one of the most remote sections of the park is Salt Basin Dunes. The Salt Basin Dunes are the result of the erosion of gypsum much similar to what occurred, but on a smaller scale than White Sands. The experience of seeing these dunes however is worth it. There was however no wildlife just the infrequent sounds of jets flying overhead and leaving magnificent jet trails. The dunes range in height from just a few feet to what appears to be comparable to a three story building. Be sure to bring water and sunscreen even during the winter to avoid
    a burn.

    DIRECTIONS: The dunes are located on the road to El Paso before you reach the park. The only access to the park is by getting a key from one of the rangers at the Pinery Springs Visitor Center. The road is made of clay and I imagine can be tricky if it starts to rain. There are warning posted all over about rattlesnakes which wasn't an issue during February. There are no facilities of any form at Salt Basin and we were the only hikers there.

    From the Headquarters Visitor Center, turn right on Highway 62/180 and drive west for 23 miles. At Salt Flat, turn right on FM road 1576. Drive north 17 miles then turn right on Wiiliam’s Road. Travel 7.5 miles east to a set of gates. Close the first gate behind you, and lock the second gate behind you. Drive one mile further to the parking area.

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    Pinery Trail

    by TooTallFinn24 Written Feb 12, 2012

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    Pinery Trail is a basic nature trail that takes off from the NP Visitor Center and winds it way down to the ruins of the Pinery Station.

    The trail is just one of two trails in the NP that is wheel chair accessible. In its short 0.7 of a mile length it provides for a good identification of many of the common plants and shrubs found in the desert portion of the park. Manzanitas, madrones, walking stick chollas, cat claw, and yuccas are just a few of the variety of plants you will see on this trail. What is particularly helpful is that there are frequent exhibit posts identifying the plants and indicating how they are used today.

    We found the trail to be very informative. One of the more interesting finds on the trail was frequent droppings which we thought at first were unpicked up dog refuse. However after noting about ten of these droppings we became suspicious. It turns out they are nearly entirely the work of ringtails who like the feel of warm pavement to drop the berries they eat off of nearby juniper and manzanita shrubs.

    Red Manzanita and Madrone on Pinery Trail Yucca on Pinery Trail

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    Manzanita Springs Trail

    by TooTallFinn24 Written Feb 12, 2012

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    This is a short trail that takes off from the Frijole Ranch complex. It is also one of just two trails within the NP that are wheelchair accessible. It is a mere .4 tenths of a mile.

    Manzanita Spring is a natural spring that was used in part to supply fresh water to the orchards and fields of the Frijole Ranch. John Smith used it extensively to provide water to his orchards when he lived on the ranch.

    The trail has very little slope and most of it is void of much desert vegetation. The spring at the end of the trail is relatively small but the water is still clear. It is surrounded by light desert brush. The trail will take approximately 30 minutes round trip.

    Manzanita Spring from the End of the Trail View West from Manzanita Spring

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    Butterfield Overland Mail Station Ruins

    by TooTallFinn24 Written Feb 12, 2012

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    A very short walk from the visitor station down the Pinery Trail lays the ruins of the Pinery Station Ruins, also known as the Buttefield Overland Mail Station Ruins. There is not much to see only a few reconstructed blocks. However the story of how it came to be is worthy of telling.

    Pinery Station was literally one of more than one hundred stations on the 2,800 mile Butterland Overland Mail Route from Fort Smith, Arkansas to San Francisco, California. The route started in 1858 and mail and passengers were taken part or all of the route.

    The Pinery Station was established because of its good location and fresh spring water on the top of the Guadalupe Mountains. The station was built of local limestone in a fort like manner. Rock walls about 11 feet high formed a barrier to the outside world. The stage arrived up to four times a week and carried up to nine passengers.

    The Butterfield Mail Route continued just eleven months until a new route was established. Even after the discontinuance of the mail route the station continued to function as a site for emigrants, freighters, and outlaws who made use of its central location and access to fresh water.

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    Guadalupe NP Visitor Center

    by TooTallFinn24 Written Feb 12, 2012

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    Visitor centers are pretty standard at NP's. The one at Guadalupe NP is very small by NP standards. While it is small in size it had some interesting exhibits and the ranger on duty was willing to spend a lot of time answering questions our questions about wildlife in the area and the trails from different parts of the park.

    The center has a particularly good series of exhibits on the wildlife of the area. Being in the desert not unsuprisingly many of the area's creatures are nocturnal. After I asked about some strange droppings along one of the trails the ranger at the center was quick to point out that is was the notorious ringtail.

    The visitor center is open every day of the year, except Christmas, and hours are generally 8:00 a.m to 4:30 p.m during the winter months and 8 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during the summer

    Exhibits at the Visitor Center Exhibits at the Visitor Center

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    Frijole Ranch Cultural Center

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Feb 12, 2012

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    Sitting just a little over a mile east of the NP Visitor Center is the historic Frijole Ranch.

    To understand the significance of the Frijole Ranch it is important to understand how difficult a fresh supply of water was in the area. The area was chosen as a home site because of the existence of a natural spring. In the 1870's the Rader Brothers constructed the first home on the site and operated a small cattle ranch in the area for over twenty years.

    The majority of development on the site is attributable to one man, John Thomas Smith. He filed a claim on the property in 1906 and began building a home and ranch on the property. With his harnessing of the natural spring he proceeded to plant a large orchard and garden on the site. The ranch was the site of many community gatherings and a school house was built on the site to educate his eight children and other children from the surrounding area. The Frijole Cultural Center depicts John Smith's family's life on the ranch and many of the inventions that he created to make the ranch function more efficiently.

    The ranch along with 72,000 additional acres was sold to the National Park Service in 1966. In 1972 when Guadalupe was made into a national park the first ranger to head up the NP lived at the Frijole Ranch. In 1992, the house was reopened as a cultural center and museum. The museum today is usually staffed by a volunteer who shows you the house as well as answers questions about the ranch's history.

    Frijole Ranch Main House Inside the Home and Visitor Center Frijole Ranch Home Taken From the Barn One of Many Mules at the Frijole Ranch

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    GUADALUPE PEAK TRAIL

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    From the Pine Springs Visitor Center, one of the Park's busiest trails takes off to the top of Texas - 8749 ft/2667 m Guadalupe Peak. There is no water en route so fill up before moving out. The roundtrip is 9.3 miles and you gain 3000 feet. For the first part of the trail, there is no shade and not even that much up higher even when passing through an fairly open forest up near the top. As you go up from the Visitor Center, the views across the plains to the east become evermore expansive until you edge around a corner, high above Pine Spring Canyon. The trail twists and turns higher and higher reaching a backcountry campsite about 2/3rds of the way up. To the north, you look across Pine Spring Canyon and make out the mountainous country lyin northwards; the Tejas trail winds its way up the opposite side of the canyon; the Bowl is off on the right skyline. Keep an eye out for wildlife. Besides the odd lizard or two, we watched a six-foot western diamondback rattlesnake lazily cross the trail in the woods high up near the peak on the day we hiked.

    Hiking up towards the Roof of the Lone Star State
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    TOP OF TEXAS

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    This is the highest spot in the largest state in the lower 48 States - 8749 feet/2667 meters. A small monument is placed atop the peak, sitting somewhat incongruously. You can read or sign the summit register or simply gaze off into the far distance as the Texas landscape flattens out quickly into dessicated plains.

    Reading the summit register atop Texas
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    THE BOWL

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Reached from Pine Springs Visitor Center by way of the Tejas or Bear Canyon trails, the Bowl is a high forested ... bowl. The Bowl is 2500 feet above the desert floor. Douglas Fir is not a tree commonly found in Texas but you can find it up here along with pine.

    The picture shows the edge of the Bowl at the right, high above the Pine Springs Canyon.

    The edge of the Bowl is to the right
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    • Camping

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    McKittrick Canyon Creek

    by Basaic Written May 18, 2010

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    There is a creek flowing through McKittrick Canyon. This is a good place to spot some of the local wildlife if you are patient. Please help conserve the beauty of the area by staying on the trail and out of the water.

    Creek Creek Creek
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    McKittrick Canyon Visitors Center

    by Basaic Written May 18, 2010

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    There was no visitors center shown in the brochure for McKittrick’s Canyon but there is one. The part for visitors is kind of small but it is there. I had a nice conversation with the ranger there who made some useful suggestion about the hiking trail.

    McKittrick Canyon Visitors Center
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