100 miles east of El Paso and 40 miles southwest of Carlsbad Caverns National Park is the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This less heard of park is the world's most extensive Permian fossil reef and home to Texas’ four highest peaks. If you’re an energetic hiker who wants to explore vast wilderness, this park should be on your list of place to visit.
The majority of the park is wilderness and therefore requires lots of hiking to see and experience the views and animals that live in the park. The visitor center and only drivable campground is in Pine Springs, which 100 miles east drive from El Paso our 60 miles drive from Carlsbad. If you have time and want to experience the raw side of the park, you can drive 2.5 hours to the north entrance via Dog Canyon.
Smith Spring Trail – This is bird watcher’s paradise trail that is 2.3 miles round-trip. Although we didn’t see any mule deer or elk on our hike, we were able to sneak up on a several wild boars feeding near the creek. As we were finishing our hike later in the day, we could hear more animal noises in the bushes and trees.
Devil’s Hall Trail – This is a 4.2 miles round-trip hike leads you to the Hiker’s Staircase (a natural rock stairway) and ends at a narrow canyon called Devil’s Hall. The trail is moderate with minimal elevation change. We ran out of time and was not able to finish the trail.
Guadalupe Peak Trail - You can climb to Texas’ highest point (8,751 feet, or 2,667 meters). The trail is very steep and some areas are exposed to cliff edges. The park rates as strenuous, with 3,000 feet of elevation gain. The round trip distance is 8.4 miles, and generally takes 6-8 hours. Avoid the peak hike during high winds and thunderstorms.
If you have more time, we would highly recommend that you drive 1.75 hours from Pine Springs to the Salt Basin Dunes and explore the wilderness of Guadalupe Mountains via the north entrance. Be prepare to bring extra water and fuel the Pine Springs has limited facilities. The closest gas station from Pine Springs is in White’s City, which is roughly 35 miles east of the campground.
We stayed at Pine Springs campground because of its ease of access. The campground is a parking lot and access to majority of the hikes in the park. This is a walk-up campground with minimal facilities so the daily rate is $8/night.
Closest Cities to the Park:
The closest city to Guadalupe Mountains National Park is Carlsbad, but flying into El Paso is the easiest and probably the cheapest option.
Recommended Length Stay: At least 2-3 days to hike and explore the park. If you’re hungry for raw wilderness, 3-5 days should allow you to explore the backcountry and camp in several remote campsites deep inside the park.
Would we be back? Yes if we’re driving east from El Paso.
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