Guadalupe Mountains N.P. TX (GUMO)

Our original plan was to spend three days boondocking on BLM land in New Mexico with the intent of visiting Carlsbad Caverns N.P. before this one, but, as the name implies, it is a park of caverns and little else. If caves are your thing, you’d undoubtedly be in spelunking heaven. Caves are not our thing, however, and after revisiting our plans, we determined that it was silly for us to short ourselves on time at a park we were pretty sure would be much more our thing just to put a checkmark on the list of national parks. It was a darn fine decision.
RV parking at GUMO is just a large, paved lot, that’s all first-come first-served dry camping. We were under the impression — probably because it’s written somewhere on the NPS website –that spaces here don’t normally fill up, but when we arrived around 2 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, there was exactly one space large enough for us. We learned later that it was highly unusual for the park to be that busy, but the combination of it being Easter week and the recent park’s feature in a few publications had upped the visitorship. It turned out to be the busiest day of our whole stay, the lot never filling up again while we were there.

Our view from the “campground.”

There wasn’t time for much getting out that day, so we took a short walk down to the Visitor Center and met another campground resident enjoying the sun.

“Jussssssst passsssssssing through.”

So that you aren’t nervous for the rest of this (very long) post, I will spoil things and let you know now that this was the only snake we saw during our stay despite the warnings that several types of rattlers are prevalent in the park. Now you can relax and enjoy the hiking. Let’s git to gittin’!

Tejas > Frijole > Foothills Trails 5.5 miles

Sunny smile for an overcast and gusty day.

Almost all of the signature hikes at GUMO begin or can be connected to the paved camping lot, but because our first hiking opportunity was on a less-than-ideal weather day, we stayed relatively low and linked together sections of three “lesser” trails.

Chasing sunbreaks.

Warming up.

Despite the elusive sun and the slightly chilly conditions, the scenery was outstanding just about anywhere you looked. If you looked down (which you should be doing as part of a solid snakebite prevention plan) you were treated to a fiery delight.

The Claret Cup cacti were bursting to life!

We have been eagerly awaiting our first wild cacti blooms, and the Claret Cup did not disappoint.

Such allure from such hostile plants.

Devil’s Hall Trail 4.2 miles

What proved to be my favorite hike of the whole trip, the Devil’s Hall Trail packed a wallop in both scenery and fun in a short amount of miles.

TBG is ready for a devilishly good time.

The first mile is established trail.

Then it drops into and follows the wash.

This part of the trail was like a puzzle, where we had to search for the obvious portions of the path and climb over and through the boulders to get to them. After another mile+ we arrived at what is called the Hiker’s Staircase.

Where I left my poles on one of the stairs and crawled.

TBG looking like a little devil between the limestone cliffs.

Some people were show-offs.

Returning through the wash, we nearly took a hummingbird to the head a few times as they zipped between the madrone trees. Then we made the mistake of choosing to make a loop instead of just going out the way we went in.

We picked up part of the Guadalupe Peak Trail, which first climbed up a seemingly endless number of erosion steps before descending an equal number of them. I was still babying a sore back, making me more timid and stiff than normal which resulted in a skidding fall square on my back. The “nice” part is that my hip pack served as a pillowy cushion perfectly placed in the small of my back when I landed. Tackling this section of trail, however, was the determining factor in our decision not to include the peak summit in our hiking plans during this trip. We’ll come back to that.

Chance Encounters and the Pinery Trail .75 miles 

As we lounged about the morning of our fourth day, TBG was spying enjoying people-watching, when he asked me, “What kind of car do Steve and Mona Liza drive? I think I just saw them go by.” (Steve and Mona Liza being the Lowes of Lowes Travels, an excellent full-time RV travel blog which we have followed since well before our launch, and folks with whom I had communicated virtually.) TBG walked outside pretending to not be stalking, while I watched from the window, and sure enough, it was them! We descended on them like jackals. Fortunately, they recognized us as well, and a flurry of excited conversation commenced. I had known our paths might intersect around this time, but we hadn’t connected to be sure — such a coincidental pleasure!) They were in the park just for the day and a Devil’s Hall hike, after which they stopped by for an après-hike beverage and chat. We didn’t get any good photos (at least I didn’t) of that initial meeting, but delight-of-delights we discovered we were going to be at the next place at the same time and would be able to spend a bit more time together! That is your cliffhanger for the next blog post. Once you’re done reading this post, though, I can’t say enough about their blog. Come back and click on the above link when you have time. You will not be sorry.

Our day of chance encounters was not over, though. As we usually do, we made a point of meeting and talking with the campground volunteers, and we learned that they were going to be our fellow volunteers this summer at Gila Cliff Dwellings! I guess we should have played the lottery while we were there, eh?

With all the happy visiting, we didn’t do any big hiking, opting instead for another walk down to the Visitor Center and then around its interpretive loop, The Pinery Trail.

Afterwards, we talked with Ranger Amanda, who recommended her favorite area to hike. We’ll come back to that, as well.

McKittrick Canyon 6.8 miles

This is one of the few trails that is not readily accessible from the campgrounds and required a short drive around to the northern section of the park.

This is not a very technically challenging hike for the first 2.4 miles.

It is a wide, graveled, mostly flat path.

Much of it is exposed to full sun, but there are many sections that make their way beneath beautiful Spring greenery and shade.

Pratt Cabin

The first destination was the old Pratt cabin, where knowledgeable volunteers awaited hikers to regale them with tales of its history. This was a fine resting place, complete with picnic tables near the cabin or rocking chairs on the porch.  The volunteers encouraged folks who were able to continue on the single-track trail to the next destination, The Grotto. After cooling off a bit, we did just that.

in the Grottooooohhhhhh

This was not the sort of grotto we’ve encountered previously, those being filled with water and ferns. While the sound of dripping water was audible, this grotto was more cave-like than others, although it wasn’t possible to actually get very far inside, not that we wanted to.

The Jonah View

The best part of this area, besides The Grotto, was the smattering of slate-rock picnic tables and benches where several folks were enjoying a respite.

Hunter Line Cabin

Not far past the picnic area was another old cabin, after which the trail continued on for back-country campers, but we were content to call it good for our day.

Manzanita and Smith Springs Trail, 2.3 miles

On Easter Sunday, we took an even shorter drive down the road to the Frijole Ranch entrance in order to take a relatively easy trek out to two still-active springs.

The beginning of the trail is paved out to the first watering hole.

Manzanita Spring

Doesn’t that look refreshing? It would be, but even dipping so much as a toe is prohibited. In the background is Nipple Hill. For real.

The trail turned into the classic rocky steps on the way up to Smith Spring.

Here, I am demonstrating for TBG what I would do if I saw a snake. It is always good emergency management planning to rehearse what to do in dangerous scenarios, but I don’t think screaming and running was ever entirely off the table.

Smith Spring

After a modest climb, we reached the lush oasis. We could hear the voices of swimmers down below enjoying a refreshing dip on this hot day. Against the rules, of course, but what can you do except be annoyed and move along? Which is what we did, enjoying the increasing numbers of blooming cacti on the way.

The Bowl, 8.5 miles

The same philosophy we employed when we forwent a visit to Carlsbad Caverns was used again when we decided not to hike the park’s signature trail to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. After getting a taste of that trail on the way back from Devil’s Hall and consulting with Ranger Amanda who advised us that the whole trail was just more of the same and directed us towards The Bowl instead, we took her recommendation. Always listen to the rangers. They know their ish.

TBG says, “This will be even better!”

We purposely planned the big hike for a slightly cooler and overcast day.

The reason for that was because, while not the route to the highest peak, it was a more strenuous climb, with a total elevation gain of 2700′.

1700′ of that in 1.7 miles through Bear Canyon as reflected upon here

The reward for all that perseverance was cresting into a cool piney wood.

Well, that and the views.

Hunter Peak 8368′

Well, that, the views, and a brand-new critter-spotting.

Prickle Frog!

This little horned lizard (horny toad) was so well camouflaged that I almost squished it with my boot causing TBG to yell out which made me think I was about to get fanged by a rattler. That made me step back, nearly skewering the little fella with my pole. Rest assured, I have since spoken to TBG about his critter-alerting technique. Once I could breathe again, I had to restrain myself from petting this little cutie, who was made sluggish by the chilly temps in the piney wood.

What goes up — ah, you know how the old saw goes.

View of what must come.

We had fun picking out the other trails we’d done (and hadn’t) from on high.

Inkedhigh view of staircase_LI

the route to Devil’s Hall

Inkedgumo trail_LI

almost parallel to Guadalupe Peak 8751′

We were nearly down when we encountered the only other human we’d seen the whole time. Pam, a wilderness volunteer who was doing some plant-trimming along the trail,  had hair-raising stories of close encounters with cougars in the area. I’m glad we met her at the end of the hike.

By the time we were back home, the sun was out and we had a crystal-clear view of our achievement.

Inkedwide view hunter peak_LI

For the rest of the evening, we enjoyed sitting in our front seats and watching stragglers’ headlamps as they made their tardy way down from the peak. Later that night, the skies to the south of us lit up with a seemingly endless lightning show.

El Capitan Trail, 4.5 miles

If we had wanted to do the whole El Cap trail, it would’ve been 11+ miles, but we only wanted a moderate leg-stretcher for our last hike in the park, especially with the threat of more rain in the forecast.

Another overcast, mild day.

El Capitan playing hide-and-seek in the clouds.

It was not a super exciting trail, but we did spot a few pretties along the way.

Tiny, shimmering Hairstreak butterfly.

another variety of cactus bloom (Warnock’s Barrel Cactus?)

We missed the downpour by only minutes, and were happy to be dry inside before the skies unleashed.

That brought to a close our sixteenth national park as a couple, the fourth since beginning our full-time journey. As mentioned earlier, we have no intention or interest in visiting them all, but when we can get to the ones that offer such a great variety of dirt-chasing like GUMO did, you can bet it will make the itinerary at some point if possible. It’s going to be later in the year, possibly not until 2020, when we roll into the next one.

I’m sure we’ll find something to do until then. 😀

 

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “Guadalupe Mountains N.P. TX (GUMO)

  1. Pingback: Lake Pleasant Regional Park AZ | Chasing Dirt

  2. Pingback: Westward Ho, Here We Go! – West Texas | Lowes Travels

  3. We plan to visit GUMO in November and will shamelessly copy all your hiking ideas. I also appreciate knowing in advance that the “campground” is actually a parking lot. Usually the NPS does so much better!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Copy away, no shame at all — so glad to be a help and inspiration! November will be a beautiful time there. The fall colors will give a whole new look from what we saw and should be magnificent — looking forward to your pictures & adventures! It’s true that a parking lot isn’t fabulous as far as campsites go, we were just glad to be able to fit in a NP and have access to so much hiking right out our door. You’ll be out on the trails so much, you won’t even notice!

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    • You might be able to catch their fall colors, and Davis Mountains State Park if you head down there, around that time. The rangers indicated late October to early November are the likely periods depending

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  4. TBG, if you continue with your spying business, you are bound to meet a lot of people 🙂 But I’m glad you were doing it or we would have not met in person! After reading all the hikes you did, I wished we had not changed our plans. We could have gone with you on the Hunter Peak and all the other trails, it would have been more fun!
    Thank you so much for your kind words, you guys are just too nice, no wonder we got an uptick in our views, thanks for the mention!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Finally, TBG’s spying pays off! Hahaha I will never get over how fortuitous that was. It would have been so great to have done a hike (or three!) with you two, but I have no doubt we are going to get many more chances to get out there and chase some dirt together.

      That lightning show was beautiful. Big thunderstorms were something I always missed when I moved from Ohio to Washington. I just love them (as long as we are safely parked, that is!)

      Glad to have sent blog readers your way. It is a fabulous site. I always get so excited when I get that email notification that says one of my favorite bloggers has posted!

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  5. That claret cup is absolutely gorgeous! What a fantastic picture of a stunning flower. Wow! And speaking of “wow,” the views at this park are just epic! While I agree that the Devil’s Hall trail, in particular, was beautiful, so many of your other photos were jaw-dropping as well. It’s also nice to see some real spring colors and water features all the sudden. It feels like the desert is finally waking up!

    On the one hand, I find it completely insane that you ran into Steve and Mona Liza in a random park, but on the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me in the least. We are in such a small community of RV bloggers and we all do tend to travel the same routes at certain times of the year, but still… Crazy! Anyway, they are some of our favorite people and write one of our go-to blogs for travel planning, so I totally second your recommendation on that!

    Glad to hear you had your pack on your back when you fell… as you know, I am familiar with that issue (weak knees, weak backs, ugh….) Sounds like you got pretty lucky. Glad you are alright.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We were so worried we were going to miss any appreciable cacti bloom this year, but obviously, we haven’t , and it just keeps getting better and better! It is hard not to take a picture of every single bloom we see.

      It really is a small world in some ways out here on the road, and it was such a fun, exciting coincidence to run into the Lowes. It is not hard to see why we like the same people. All of you we’ve been able to connect with are just the greatest in so many ways. I treasure these bonds we’re forming. **cue sappy music** 😀

      Thanks, yeah, stupid falling!!! Totally my fault for not relaxing and trusting myself. So lucky that my pack was in the perfect position. I was thinking while I was falling (amazing how our brains can jam so much thought into split seconds!) “Well, this is really going to hurt and probably ruin things for a long time.” Then, cushie! Whew!

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  6. I cannot believe we have not yet made it to Guadalupe NP, seeing as how we’ve traversed Texas about a million times. After seeing your photos and reading about your hikes, though, it’s at the top of our list for our next trip through Texas—which will likely be sometime next March. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m glad we haven’t yet been there, because now thanks to you two, we have the ultimate hiking guide to the park!

    The Devil’s Hall Trail looks like a blast! Love all of the blooming cacti on the trails, and that little horny toad is so cute. He was your reward for the intense climb up Hunter Peak. That’s a lot of elevation gain in a relatively short distance.

    By the way, we don’t much like caves/caverns/underground stuff either. That’s one reason we decided against Wind Cave NP when we were in Custer, SD. But…we did go to Carlsbad Caverns several years ago, and it was worth it! There’s also a sweet state park not too far away. Just in case you run out of things to do in your travels, LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

    • P.S. How did I miss mentioning how cool it was that you met up with ML and Steve?? (Well you know it’s because I already knew that you met up with them.) But it really was perfect that TBG was in “spy” mode and saw them drive into the campground. They are wonderful people, you are wonderful people, and it makes perfect sense that you would have a great time together. :-))

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m so glad I can be your virtual guide to the Guadalupe hikes! Isn’t it exciting to find new places to add to our itineraries? I am also amazed that you two haven’t been there yet — when I read about your travels I always think, “Is there no place they haven’t seen?” 😀 You will love it!

        I re-read your Carlsbad post prior to passing through, and while that underground cafe piqued my interest, we still had to put it on the back burner. Never say never, though! And it’s funny that we DID visit Wind Cave NP just six months ago. We never went in the caves, but did a TON of hiking. Of course, that’s also where I almost stepped on a prairie rattler and we were nearly stomped by bison, but still…LOL There is a lot of ground to cover there that has nothing to do with caverns!

        So true about the Lowes! Just the best people one could ever hope to meet, and we are still shaking our heads in disbelief at the fortuitous way we found each other. I’m sure we would have worked it out someday, but sooner was definitely better. It was like Christmas all over again, in more ways than one! ❤

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