Our main destination for our Summer 2016 road trip was Guadalupe Mountains National Park near Salt Flat, Texas up near the Texas and New Mexico border.
Originally I wanted to go to Big Bend National Park, but looking at the current weather there (120 degrees and a limited supply of water) I decided the mountains sounded better since they would be cooler. I was wrong! Did you know that Guadalupe Mountains National Park is in the desert!?
As soon as we arrived, though, the heat didn’t matter anymore because it was beautiful! And to be honest, even though it was in the upper 90’s when we arrived it didn’t feel that hot due to it being a dry heat and plenty of wind.
We quickly picked out a campsite, set up our tent, and unloaded the truck. The view from the window of our tent was just breathtaking!
As we unpacked, my husband realized that he grabbed the twin size air mattress instead of the full. Guess who was going to be sleeping really close to each other!?
I should also mention the campground has no electricity, no showers, and no running water. Thankfully there was a toilet and sink not too incredibly far from the tent site. You also cannot have any campfires.
I say all this to remind everyone that we decided to go camping in the desert in the middle of July with no electricity and no water to take a shower. You must also remember that during the day we planned to hike and explore which equals massive amounts of sweat!
If you ever want to know if you truly love someone, spend 7 days with them camping in the desert in the middle of July in Texas with no shower!
Anywho, I wish we had spent more than a week there because there is so much to do, especially if you like to hike! In fact, there is so much that this blog post would be a mile long, so instead I will make several other blog posts and place the links on this one.
You cannot reserve the campgrounds unless you are reserving a group site. It is first come first served, so I suggest getting there early and not on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday as you won’t have the best selection.
There are two campgrounds at the park. Pine Springs and Dog Canyon. We visited both and do prefer Pine Springs as it is somewhat closer to “town”. By the way, the nearest town is 43 miles away. Dog Canyon is much more secluded and is 110 miles from park headquarters.
There are RV sites at both, however, they are not your typical RV site. It’s basically a big parking lot and there are no hookups or dump stations.
There are bathrooms (however there are no showers) located near the RV lot which is a short walk from the campground. There is no running water or electrical hookups at any of the sites and the only place to wash dishes is at the sink station outside of the bathrooms.
Additionally, there is no camp store and the closest town is 43 miles away. There is one very small store in town that is only open during the day, so if you need supplies you will need to make sure to do it when they are open. Same goes for the gas station in town!
It is highly suggested you do not bring perishable items as getting ice for them can be a chore! Or you may want to invest in an ice machine that plugs into your vehicle.
THINGS TO DO
Miles and Miles of Trails
Obviously, hiking is the main attraction at Guadalupe Mountain National Park! If there is not a clickable link below it is because we did not get the chance to hike those trails! In fact, there are way too many to list, so for now here are the most popular ones:
Devil’s Hall – 4.2 miles round trip from the Pine Springs Trailhead. Considered Moderate to Strenuous.
The Bowl – 8.5 miles round trip. This hike is considered strenuous as part of the trail is very rocky and extremely steep.
El Capitan – 11.3 mile round trip. This trail is considered moderate to strenuous. If hiking during the summer (warmer) months. You should have at least 1 gallon of water per person / per day.
Guadalupe Peak – 8.4 miles. Hike to the end of this trail and you will be at the highest point in the State of Texas!! There is an overnight campground near the end for hikers to camp at before hiking back down! It is considered strenuous with an elevation gain of 3,000 feet.
Frijole Ranch – There are two trails located here. One is easy and the other is considered moderate. Included is the Frijole Ranch history museum that you will definitely want to check out!
McKittrick Canyon – There are three trails, McKittrick Nature Loop which is only 0.9 miles, Permian Reef Trail which is 8.4 miles with a climb of 2,000 ft and the McKittrick Canyon Trail which is 21 miles round trip. You may choose instead to hike to Pratt Cabin which is only 4.8 mile round trip and is part of the McKittrick Canyon Trail.
The Pinery Trail – extremely easy and wheelchair accessible. 3/4 mile round trip. Starts at the visitors center and ends at the Pinery parking lot (a Butterfield Trail stagecoach station).
Salt Basin Dunes
Pets – They are allowed in the campground as long as they are leashed, but not on the trails
Campfires – Campfires are not allowed, however, containerized fuel camp stoves are.
Average Temperature – The average temperature in July up in the mountains is around 88 degrees (however we experienced mostly lower 90 days), however, at the base near the Salt Flats averages around 98 (and sometimes into the 100’s).
Wind Speeds – It gets windy especially around 4am! Make sure you bring plenty of stakes to stake down your tent! The wind speeds have been known to reach 70+ miles an hour! I am not kidding! Every morning around 4am on the dot the wind would blow the tent so hard, I thought we would blow away!
Horseback Riding – 60% of the trails are open to stock use. A backcountry permit is required.
If you run out of things to do (not likely) or go during the summer months and are looking for a way to escape the heat during the day (typically from noon-5pm), here are some great day trips I recommend (click on each one for pictures and more info):
Sitting Bull Falls (amazing waterfall & swimming hole)
Cottonwood Day Use Area, NM (hiking & swimming hole)
Suggested Packing List
Camping Stove – We use the Coleman Classic Propane Stove and LOVE it!!!!
Propane Bottles for stove
Backpack with water bladder
Trekking Poles (you definitely need these)
Plenty of non-perishable snacks & food
2 gallons of water per day/per person
Camping MRE’s – We like Mountain House Brands. Their biscuits and gravy is to die for!
Plastic Silverware & Napkins
Matches or Lighter
Yeti Cooler or similar (since the closest place to get ice is almost an hour drive, you will want a cooler that can keep ice especially if you visit in the warmer months).
Portable Charger (to charge phone if needed)
Portable Radio w/ Weather Alerts (yes they do have radio station signal up there).
Clothing – Of course the type of clothing will depend on what season you visit in.
Address: 400 Pine Canyon, Salt Flat, TX 79847
Phone Number: (915) 828-3251