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April 15, 2011

National Parks: Guadalupe Mountains

The house at Frijole Ranch (Color IR)

Texas’ second National Park, Guadalupe Mountains, was ordained in 1966.  The park sits in a remote part of the country on the border with New Mexico.  Just across the state line is Guadalupe’s more famous cousin, Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

It’s easy enough to miss Guadalupe as you drive past on US 62.  Many people do.  Last year, Guadalupe Mountains entertained 192,210 visitors, 46th in attendance out of the 58 National Parks.  But just like its Texan cousin Big Bend, much of the appeal of Guadalupe Mountains stems from its obscurity.

Guadalupe Mountains are geologically notable.  The mountains consist of a large fossilized marine reef formed 265 million years ago during the Permian period and exposed after tectonic uplift.  It is considered to be one of the finest examples of an ancient marine fossil reef on Earth.  This detail is easily missed cruising by at 75 mph on US 62.

The eastern edge of the park has three main entry portals.  Over the short two days of our visit, we explored the park through all three of these entrances.  Brief treks from each took us to the margins of the mountains.  To visit more of this national park requires significant planned effort.   Guadalupe has ample backcountry but visits to the interior mandate long hikes or four-wheel drive vehicle expeditions.  No paved parkway takes tourists through the mountains.

Guadalupe is not a park with iconic signature views.  There’s nothing like Half Dome or Old Faithful Geyser anywhere to be seen.  The park is more of a reflection of the old west.  Glimpses of preserved ranch houses and untouched wilderness display the harsh realities of early homestead life in the remote regions of the west.  There’s no grand lodge and glasses of wine at the park restaurant to soften the edge at the end of a day.

Hiker's steps on the way to Devil's Hall

Short hikes from the eastern entrances take visitors up into the drainages to places like Devil’s Hall, a distinctive slot canyon.  In the hot dry terrain, the empty shelter of the cool gullies has a particular appeal.  Water is precious in the desert.  It can also be a violent force of change.  The sense of the hard thundering flow of the water is carved into the canyons walls. Each arroyo has its own architect.  No two washes are the same.

A formation inside the Grotto

We enjoyed our stay in Guadalupe Mountains National park.  There was one thing, though.  In early April the park was buffeted by strong winds.  One night it blew so hard that the trailer was nearly lifted off its leveling blocks.  Only a serious gale could do that.  The next morning was spent collecting our “secured” possessions that had been relocated to the remote reaches of the campground in all compass point directions.  And we thought we had everything anchored down against the gusts.  It was the Dyson vacuum cleaner of windstorms.  No doubt the windsocks on the side of US 62 were a clue that the area is prone to high winds.

The gusts followed us north into New Mexico.  At least in New Mexico the sights we were visiting are underground.  Next up we’d visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

More from the Grotto

Marathon Texas seen in the IR


  1. […] National Parks: Guadalupe Mountains « Another Header […]

    Pingback by Guadelupe mountains | ByjuDith — April 27, 2011 @ 7:21 am

  2. Hi,
    I really like your pictures here.
    Best regards,

    Comment by Pit — April 29, 2011 @ 1:39 am

  3. […] Guadalupe Mountains (2011) […]

    Pingback by The List « Another Header — July 22, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

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