Our next adventure was Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We had managed to snag a couple of nights in the Pine Springs Campground right inside the park, so off we went! As I mentioned before, we always prefer to stay inside the parks when we can. This campground was unlike any other we have ever stayed in, though. National Park campgrounds aren’t generally known for their space, but this one was basically just a parking lot at one of the trailheads. It seems like it was an afterthought; like they decided they needed to allow some RV camping, so they just chopped off part of the existing trailhead parking to use for this purpose. It was ok. We would stay again just for the convenience of the location, but it wasn’t our favorite. To add to that, the parking lot atmosphere meant there were no wind breaks and we had wind gusts up to 65mph while we were there! The wind even managed to unlatch and blow open our propane compartment door!
Guadalupe Mountains is definitely a hiker’s park. If you aren’t willing to get out and hit the trails, you aren’t going to see much. Unlike most parks, there is no scenic drive, nor are there many places to pull over and see the sights from overlooks or pull-outs. There are a few views of the mountains along the highway, but to get in amongst the mountains you are going to have to lace up the hiking boots.
While there, we chose to do the McKittrick Canyon trail to Pratt Cabin, the Grotto, and Hunter Line Shack, and also to visit the Frijole Ranch area and do the Smith Spring Hike there. We were also hoping to do the Devil’s Hall hike, but Jeff was having some pain in his knee, and the Devil’s Hall hike requires some rock scrambling, so we didn’t think that would be the best idea this time.
The McKittrick Canyon Trail is LONG, so we opted to turn around after visiting the Hunter Line Shack. Before that, though, we visited the Pratt Cabin, which is amazing! It was constructed in the early 1930s of limestone. With a living area, kitchen, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms, it is way more modern looking that we expected and felt very inviting! We both said we could live there! From Pratt Cabin, we continued up the trail to The Grotto. The Grotto is a cave-like area in the rock face that has interesting and unexpected stalagmite and stalagtite-like formations. There are some really nice stone picnic tables here as well, and then the trail continues to the Hunter Line Shack which is another, much less modern cabin that was used in the 1920s as part of a ranching operation.
Frijole Ranch is another historic ranch location with several surviving buildings and it has several natural springs nearby. The hike up to Smith Spring took us past Manzanita Spring, allowed nice views of the mountains on the way up, culminated in the shade at the beautiful Smith Spring (complete with a small waterfall), then allowed for great views of the desert on the way back down.
Up next is Carlsbad Caverns and our first experience camping on BLM land, so stay tuned!
To see a video from our hike on the McKittrick Canyon Trail, watch our Guadalupe Mountains video on YouTube!
Until next time!