Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks Hiking Trip

McKittrick Canyon:  One of a few amazing treks in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

McKittrick Canyon: One of a few amazing treks in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Head to El Paso and go East and you'll run into two magnificent National Parks. Literally taking 62/180 out of El Paso for 100 minutes lands you at the trailhead for the highest point in Texas in the amazing Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
After spending time in this wonderful hiking wonderland you can continue another 45 minutes to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where it's about way more than the caves.  Located so close to each other this gives the "park bagger" a nice 1-2 punch to knock out two parks on a fun filled Texas road trip!

Today I'll share 5 great hikes to consider in the parks when you visit. Dog Canyon in GMNP is supposed to be an amazing way off the beaten path sector of the park but I have never personally been there so won't include.

When To Go: Winter, Spring, and Fall
Where To Stay: Day trip it from El Paso (though it would be tough to see both parks in one day trip), tent or RV camping in GMNP, and lodging in Whites City and Carlsbad New Mexico.
Things To Consider: The famous "bat flight" only happens May thru Octoberish in Carlsbad Caverns.
Word to the Wise: Fill up on gas! There is NOTHING in between El Paso and GMNP. You will have some long stretches so make sure you have water, gas, and a spare tire.

First things first, make sure you have all the proper gear and supplies. I'll do a separate post on this in the near future.

First things first, make sure you have all the proper gear and supplies. I'll do a separate post on this in the near future.

5. Smith Spring/Frijole Ranch Region in GMNP: These are great short day hikes that will loosen the legs and get you ready for one of the big boys. Smith Spring is 2.5 mile loop trail that gains about 200 feet.

5. Smith Spring/Frijole Ranch Region in GMNP: These are great short day hikes that will loosen the legs and get you ready for one of the big boys. Smith Spring is 2.5 mile loop trail that gains about 200 feet.

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4. Natural Entrance and Big Room Hikes in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The Natural Entrance takes you down where the bats leave every night.  It's really fun to take this path, though elevators are a different option. This 45 minute one way hike is a steep descent and then you can explore the Big Room when you arrive down.  It's a great one two combo for your first time at Carlsbad.  If you want to consider a more in depth cave tour consider King's Palace or the Slaughter Canyon Cave.  There are TONS of options but this is a great starting point. Tickets are required for both tours and are available in the attached visitor center.

4. Natural Entrance and Big Room Hikes in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The Natural Entrance takes you down where the bats leave every night.  It's really fun to take this path, though elevators are a different option. This 45 minute one way hike is a steep descent and then you can explore the Big Room when you arrive down.  It's a great one two combo for your first time at Carlsbad.  If you want to consider a more in depth cave tour consider King's Palace or the Slaughter Canyon Cave.  There are TONS of options but this is a great starting point.
Tickets are required for both tours and are available in the attached visitor center.

More on the way down the Natural Entrance to the Caverns.

More on the way down the Natural Entrance to the Caverns.

More cave porn :)!

More cave porn :)!

3. Above ground hikes in Carlsbad Caverns National Park! Most just come to the caves, maybe watch the bats, and then head on out. Carlsbad has an 11 mile one way scenic desert drive that has some great hiking trails. This picture is from the top of the Juniper Ridge Overlook trail and another great one to consider is Rattlesnake Canyon. Enjoy your cave tours but do more when you visit!

3. Above ground hikes in Carlsbad Caverns National Park!
Most just come to the caves, maybe watch the bats, and then head on out. Carlsbad has an 11 mile one way scenic desert drive that has some great hiking trails. This picture is from the top of the Juniper Ridge Overlook trail and another great one to consider is Rattlesnake Canyon. Enjoy your cave tours but do more when you visit!

2. The previously mentioned McKittrick Canyon. This is a photo of Tom's Cabin that is about 2.3 miles into the wonderful trail up to McKittrick Ridge. You can spend all day here hiking or just a bit.  After reaching the Grotto the trail starts to ascend in elevation but it's well worth the beauty you find in this canyon.  It's almost hard to believe it's in the desert!  McKittrick Canyon's access is only open during the day so plan accordingly, currently in the winter its only open from 830am to 430pm. 

2. The previously mentioned McKittrick Canyon.
This is a photo of Tom's Cabin that is about 2.3 miles into the wonderful trail up to McKittrick Ridge. You can spend all day here hiking or just a bit.  After reaching the Grotto the trail starts to ascend in elevation but it's well worth the beauty you find in this canyon.  It's almost hard to believe it's in the desert!  McKittrick Canyon's access is only open during the day so plan accordingly, currently in the winter its only open from 830am to 430pm. 

1. The top of Texas is located in GMNP and is the summit of Guadalupe Peak. A vicious 3,000 foot elevation gain with RT hiking options of 8.4 or 9.5 miles this is one of the best, and hardest, day hikes in America's National Parks system. It's worth it! But be prepared, the wind is brutal and the climb unrelenting.  Be in great shape and and a prepared seasoned hiker.

1. The top of Texas is located in GMNP and is the summit of Guadalupe Peak. A vicious 3,000 foot elevation gain with RT hiking options of 8.4 or 9.5 miles this is one of the best, and hardest, day hikes in America's National Parks system.
It's worth it! But be prepared, the wind is brutal and the climb unrelenting.  Be in great shape and and a prepared seasoned hiker.

Leaving from the Pine Springs Trailhead and Campground are enough trails and mileage to appease even the most adventurous day hiker! Take your pick or stay for a few days. 

Leaving from the Pine Springs Trailhead and Campground are enough trails and mileage to appease even the most adventurous day hiker! Take your pick or stay for a few days. 

The view from the top of Texas! 

The view from the top of Texas! 

In conclusion these are two highly underrated and low visited National Parks. Combine them with a trip to the fun El Paso, down to Big Bend National Park, or just enjoy them all on their own. They are worthy of that!

Have you ever been to either park? Any questions? Comments below!

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Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Mike R and the Hashtag 59 Team.

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