Sitting Bull Falls sits in the middle of Lincoln National Forest which ironically sits in the middle of the desert boarding New Mexico and Texas near Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
During our week long camping trip in the desert (in the middle of summer) we sought out things to do that would get us out of the heat during the worst part of the day (typically between noon & 5pm). While I don’t really remember how I found this (I assume through some type of desperate internet search) I am sure happy I did.
It was July 12th, my birthday! My husband asked me what I wanted to do and at first I told him I wanted to hike Guadalupe Peak for my birthday (it’s the highest point in Texas). However, after the trouble I had hiking to Pratt Cabin I decided maybe hiking up to the highest point in Texas wasn’t such a great idea.
Instead, I decided on my 2nd most favorite thing to do which is swimming, especially in this Texas heat! But where would we go? All the creeks and rivers had long since dried up or gone underground. That’s when I remembered seeing something, somewhere about a waterfall.
I decided for my 37th (oh wait that sounds wrong, I think I mean 27th) birthday that I wanted to spend it under a waterfall and exploring the area.
If you have been around me long enough, you know I love exploring and finding things to do.
So we packed up the cooler and headed towards New Mexico. While the falls are only about 25 miles away as the crow flies, it actually takes about 1.5 hours to get there and is about 75 miles driving distance away since there is no direct road between the two due to the national park.
Once we arrive, it was just a very short walk to the falls and man was the view AMAZING! To my surprise, it wasn’t all that crowded either! We quickly claimed a spot, stripped down to our bathing suits and hopped in and then quickly screamed and hopped out!
While the temperature outside was in the mid 90’s and you felt you like you could die of heat stroke, the water was a 60 something, I am going to die from hypothermia cold!
The only way to do it is to jump full body in and get your head wet all at once. After the initial shock, the water feels pretty amazing. Just understand that if you get out, it’s hard to talk yourself into getting back in!
The falls offer an amazing opportunity for pictures and swimming. It was a great way to escape the heat. My only regret is not hiking some of the 16 miles of trails (one of which leads to the top of the falls) and exploring that area more.
About Sitting Bull Falls & Amenities
Over 16 miles of day-use trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding
Bathrooms & Drinking Water
Covered Pavillions with Picnic Tables & Charcol BBQ Grills
Entry fee is $5 per vehicle or $10 per vehicle for vehicles that carry 10+ people
It is open year round. Incoming gate opens at 8:30am and closes to incoming traffic at 4:00 pm daily. Out-going gate closes at 5:00 pm daily.
From US285 north of Carlsbad, turn west onto NM137. Continue on NM137 for about 20 miles until you find County Road 409. Turn right on this road and continue. The Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Site is at the end of this road.
From Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Head northeast on US-180 E/US-62 E toward Ligon Ranch Rd. Turn left onto Dark Canyon Rd. After 22.6 miles Turn left onto NM-137 S. After 2.7 miles Turn right onto Sitting Bull Falls Rd. Sitting Bull Falls will be at the end of the road (about 7 miles down).
It is a self-pay station, so make sure you bring cash for your entry fee.
Pack a lunch and snacks so you can spend the day out there. Trust me! You will want to devote an entire day here!
While there is drinking water out there, make sure to bring plenty of your own water.
Sunscreen – you will need it!
Bring plenty of towels and dry clothes so you can dry off and hike. There are several paths that will allow you to hike to the top of the falls where I am told there are additional pools you can wade through.
Watch for leeches! Especially in the more shallow/thick vegetation part of the pools.
Bring a waterproof camera (here is one that is pretty inexpensive). If you bring a cell phone, make sure to have it in a waterproof case!
The water is a lot deeper than it appears. Swimmers should use caution (especially children).
Wear water socks or flip flops. The rocks are sharp and will cut you wide open if you are not careful.
The area in and around the falls is slippery. Use caution when walking and wading into the pools.