Hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park can be a fun and rewarding experience as in other national parks. It is a great way to both see and experience the park.
There are eighty-plus miles of trails, ranging in difficulty from easy to strenuous. Trails are rocky and often steep and rugged. Trails lead to Guadalupe Peak, around the base of El Capitan, up into the high country and across the top of the escarpment, and into McKittrick Canyon. Self-guided nature trails are located at McKittrick Canyon, Pinery trail at Pine Springs and Indian Meadow Trail at Dog Canyon.
The park's color brochure includes a trail map of the backcountry. In addition to this guide, it is recommended that you carry a topographical map and a compass, and know how to use them. Some trails, especially those in the northwest corner of the park, are poorly-defined and can be difficult to follow. Give yourself enough time to reach your destination well before dark, and always have a flashlight and other light source in case of emergency.
|Visitor Center||Pinery||0.75 miles||Easy; wheel chair- accessible||Discover the desert as you walk from the Visitor Center to the ruins of the Pinery, a Butterfield Trail stagecoach station. The trail ends at the Pinery parking area on Highway 62/180.|
|Pine Springs Trailhead||Devils Hall||4.2 miles||Moderate, level but very rocky||Climb the Hikers Staircase of natural rock to the Devil's Hall in Pine Springs Canyon. Follow the Guadalupe Peak trail to the Devil's Hall turnoff. The trail route is marked by rock cairns along the canyon floor.|
|Guadalupe Peak||8.4 miles||Strenuous, 3,000 ft of elevation gain||On clear days, the views from "Top of Texas." 8,749 ft / 2,667 m are outstanding. Use caution if high winds and thunderstorms are present. The trail is well established and does not require rock-climbing abilities.|
|The Bowl||9.1 miles||Strenuous, 2,500 ft of elevation gain||Take a high country hike through a conifer forest, and see how the area is recovering from a wildland fire that occurred in June of 1990. Recommended route: Tejas Trail, Bowl Trail, Hunter Peak side trip, Bear Canyon Trail, Frijole Trail.|
|El Capitan||11.3 miles||Moderate||This trail leads through Chihuahuan Desert to the base of El Capitan at the southern end of the Guadalupe Mountain range. Recommended route: El Capitan Trail, Salt Basin Overlook Trail, El Capitan Trail. Beyond Salt Basin Overlook, the trail continues to Williams Ranch, an additional 4.7 miles one-way.|
|Frijole Ranch||Smith Springs Loop||2.3 miles||Moderate||Look for birds, deer, and elk as you pass Manzanita Springs on the way to the shady oasis of Smith Springs. Scars from wildland fires in 1990 and 1993 are evident along the trail. Do not drink the water or wade in the springs.|
|Frijole Foothills||25.5 miles||Moderate||The Frijole and Foothills Trails make a loop connecting the Pine Springs Campground and the Frijole Ranch. Start at either end.|
|McKittrick Canyon||Nature Loop||0.9 miles||Easy||Stroll through the foothills and learn about the natural history of the Chihuahuan Desert.|
|McKittrick Canyon||6.8 miles||Easy||Follow an intermittent stream through the desert, transition, and canyon woodlands to the historic Pratt Lodge (4.8 miles), Grotto Picnic Area and Hunter Line Cabin. A guide book is available at the trailhead visitor center. To protect this fragile environment you are required to remain on the established trail. Do not drink the water or wade in the creek.|
|Permian Reef||8.0 miles||Strenuous||For serious geology buffs, this trail has stop markers that can be used with a geologic guide book which is available at park visitor centers. There are excellent views into McKittrick Canyon from the top of this ancient Permian structure.|
|Dog Canyon||Indian Meadows Nature Loop||0.5 miles||Easy||A trail's guide booklet describes the flora and fauna of a meadow community.|
|Lost Peak||6.4 mile||Strenuous, 1,500 ft elevation gain||Climb out of Dog Canyon on the Tejas Trail, to visit the conifer forest above. There are outstanding views from Lost Peak.|
|Marcus Overlook||4.5 miles||Moderate, 800 ft elevation gain||Follow the Bush Mountain Trail for 2.3 miles to the ridge top for a view into West Dog Canyon.|
Note: McKittrick Canyon is - Day Use Only - Be aware of gate closing time.
All trip lengths are round trip.
Protect Park Resources
Protection of park resources is everyone's responsibility. Please contribute to the conservation efforts.
A rare inhabitant of the grasslands at Dog Canyon is the Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis). Rattlesnakes are highly venomous, but they reserve their poison for prey unless threatened into a defensive action. Make sure to allow plenty of space for the snake to escape if you encounter one of these beautiful reptiles.
Rattlesnakes are fascinating and beautiful animals. Their venomous bite, although rarely fatal & used only for feeding and defense, commands respect & common sense in their presence.
To avoid being bitten:
If you see a rattlesnake in your campsite contact a ranger. The chances of being bitten are EXTREMELY low. If however you are bitten by a rattlesnake:
Take some time to learn about rattlesnakes and other reptiles. Perhaps if you are lucky you will see or hear one during your travels. Rattlesnakes are protected in national parks but often are not on other public lands. With some knowledge & understanding of the biology of rattlesnakes, you will know how to react when you encounter one of these remarkable animals.
Summer Hiking Safety
The location of the park insures hot or dry weather hiking throughout much of the year. Take frequent breaks, and drink plenty of water. The danger from sun exposure can't be overemphasized! Protect yourself by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing and by using sunscreen. Long sleeves and pants protect against sun and sharp desert spines.
Watch for rattlesnakes and other poisonous desert dwellers commonly seen in most areas of the park.
During the summer months, afternoon and evening thunderstorms are quite frequent. Remember high ridges are especially susceptible to lightning.
Winter Hiking Safety
Many hikers are surprised at the severity of winter weather conditions in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Fronts bring extreme changes that include strong winds, freezing rain, sleet, heavy snow and thunderstorms.
Prepare for the weather by carrying or wearing protective clothing for wet weather, having several layers of clothing, and wearing a hat and mittens or gloves. Make sure your hiking boots are waterproof.
The high elevations frequently receive greater accumulations of snow that can make trails difficult to follow and campsites hard to locate. Please make it your responsibility to turn back if necessary, rather than camp in unauthorized areas and don't put your safety in jeopardy by continuing in extreme weather conditions.
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