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When driving through Texas, you might stop at popular destinations like Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas.
Maybe you’ll see a rodeo, eat authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, or catch a sporting event. But you probably don’t have Guadalupe Mountains National Park on your list of destinations.
You might have never even heard of this remote national park in western Texas. But it’s worth a visit!
Let’s learn more about this rugged wilderness so you can start planning your trip.
Where Is Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of the more remote national parks in the lower 48 states.
It lies just north of Highway 180 in western Texas, bordering the New Mexico-Texas line. El Paso is less than two hours west, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park is less than an hour northeast.
It has three visitor centers through which you can access the park. The Dell City Contact Station is on the western side, and the McKittrick Canyon Contact Station is on the northeastern side.
And the Pine Springs Headquarters and Visitor Center sits right off Highway 180 in the south-central part of the park.
About Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park covers 86,416 acres. It protects the four highest peaks in Texas and the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef. Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in the Lonestar State, rises 8,751 feet above sea level.
But you won’t only see mountains here. You can also explore canyons, dunes, and deserts in this part of Texas. Many enjoy hiking and backpacking here due to the rugged wilderness.
How Much Does It Cost to Go to Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
Like other national park sites, you can use an annual pass to get into Guadalupe Mountains National Park for free.
These passes include the America the Beautiful Pass, the Fourth Grade Pass, the Senior Pass, the Military Pass, and other interagency passes.
If you don’t have an annual pass, you’ll pay the entrance fee of $10 per person (16 years of age and older). This entrance fee gives you up to seven consecutive days of use in this particular park.
So if you come in to explore two or three days within the same week, you only have to pay the entrance fee once.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
The windy season goes from November to March. This means you may experience wind speeds above 45 miles per hour and dangerous gusts from 50 to 80 miles per hour.
Although you’ll escape the summer heat during these months, you’ll have to deal with windy conditions that can impact hiking, camping, and driving. It’s important to remember that wind speeds will increase the higher the elevation.
During the year, the temperatures range from 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in January to 60 to 90 degrees in July. The rainy season runs from May through September, with some flash flooding.
The busiest seasons are spring and fall, so campsites and trails can be crowded. But these seasons also offer the mildest temperatures.
Best Things to Do at Guadalupe Mountains National Park
When you decide to visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park, you’re venturing into remote western Texas.
This is more like a wilderness area without many accommodations and conveniences. But within the national park, you’ll enjoy hours of exploration.
Tour the Museum at Pine Springs Visitor Center
The Pine Springs Visitor Center also serves as the park headquarters. Here visitors can pay the entrance fee, shop at the park store, pick up brochures and maps, and obtain wilderness permits.
It’s open year-round from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Kids can also pick up their Junior Ranger packets to complete to earn a badge.
The museum provides historical exhibits that detail what we know about the early hunter-gatherers of the area.
Humans have inhabited this region for 10,000 years, and by walking around the museum at the Pine Springs Visitor Center, you’ll learn more about the people and places of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
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Hike Up Guadalupe Peak
If you want a strenuous hike to the top of Texas, the hike to Guadalupe Peak answers the call. This 8.4-mile round-trip hike climbs 3,000 feet and takes 6 to 8 hours to complete.
At 8,751 feet, Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and desert. It’s a good idea to bring along trekking poles as much of this trail is steep, rocky terrain.
Drive to the Salt Basin Dunes
If you bypass the hike to the top of Guadalupe Peak, drive to the Salt Basin Dunes. These white gypsum sands rise 100 feet from the desert floor and contrast the dark mountains.
Once you arrive, you’re welcome to hike anywhere on the dunes. Just avoid stepping on plant life. It’s important to note that temperatures soar in the summer in this part of the desert.
Stay Overnight at Pine Springs Campground
The starry night sky is one of the best features of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Book an overnight stay at Pine Springs Campground, which has 20 tent and 13 RV sites, and enjoy some stargazing.
It has no hookups, very little cell phone reception, and no dump station. But it does provide access to potable water. Tent sites and RV sites cost $20 a night.
Explore the Frijole Ranch
You can also visit another museum at Frijole Ranch, where you can learn more about the people and life of this region.
You’ll read the stories and histories of the early Native Americans and the early ranching community and how the park became part of the National Park System.
The ranch is no longer a working ranch, but you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to experience the rugged American West. Located 1.5 miles northeast of the Pine Springs Visitor Center, the museum is open seasonally, but the grounds are always open to visitors.
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Are There Other National Parks Near the Guadalupe Mountains?
From the Pine Springs Visitor Center in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, you can get to the Visitor Center at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in about 45 minutes.
You’ll take Highway 62/180 northeast and cross into New Mexico. Many people visit both of these National Parks during the same trip due to their remote locations.
Is Guadalupe Mountains National Park Worth Visiting?
There aren’t many activities or ranger-led tours at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. It’s a park for nature enthusiasts who enjoy birding, hiking, and backcountry exploring.
But it’s a beautiful part of the country with towering peaks and desert sand dunes. Here you can explore massive rock faces and barren desert lands and observe more than 1,000 species of plants.
So if you want to visit a rugged wilderness home to thousands of fossils, put Guadalupe Mountains National Park on your list.
Have you ever been to this part of Texas and New Mexico?