After spending an amazing day exploring underground caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, we headed into Texas to spend Thanksgiving Day in Guadalupe Mountains National Park — and we even brought all the fixings for a picnic of turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie. As always, our first stop in the national park was the headquarters visitor center.
At 5,730 feet elevation, the Pine Springs Visitor Center is the headquarters for Guadalupe Mountains National Park and the best place to start your visit.
This national park is a rugged wilderness park, which means that while it covers nearly 90,000 acres, the park has no scenic drives and only about 80 miles of marked trails, many of which are moderate to strenuous. The Pine Springs Visitor Center, along with the Frijole Ranch Museum, the Dog Canyon Ranger Station, and the McKittrick Contact Station anchor the three developed areas of the park.
At the Visitor Center, you can:
- Pick up park maps, trail, and brochures
- View an informative, orientation slide show
- Enjoy interpretive museum exhibits on park wildlife and the area’s natural history
- Browse the bookstore
- Get a current weather forecast
- Talk with rangers at the information desk
- Refill your water bottles at the filling station
Because both Carter and Brian were sick, we got a slower start to our day than normal and didn’t arrive at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park Visitor Center until around 9:30 am and the small parking lot was almost full. Inside the Visitor Center, we chatted with a friendly ranger who confirmed that the best, most family-friendly hike in the park is the Devil’s Hall Trail, which I really wanted to do.
Before heading to the Devil’s Hall Trailhead, we walked one of the park’s short day hikes — the Pinery Trail that begins just outside the Visitor Center. It’s a short, paved, accessible walk to the ruins of the Butterfield Overland Mail stage station.
Know Before You Go
About Pine Springs Visitor Center:
- The Headquarters Visitor Center at Pine Springs is located off Highway 62/180 at 400 Pine Canyon Drive, Salt Flat, Texas 79847 just 55 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico, 110 miles east of El Paso, Texas, and 65 miles north of Van Horn.
- The Visitor Center is open daily except Christmas Day. Hours are 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Mountain Standard Time and 8:00 am to 6:00 pm Mountain Daylight Time.
- The Headquarters Visitor Center at Pine Springs Trailhead provides access to the Pinery Trail, a short, 0.75 mile round-trip, paved path that has scenic vistas, offers an introduction to the native plants, and leads to the historic ruins of the Butterfield Overland Mail stage station ruins.
About Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park is in the vast Chihuahuan Desert of western Texas in both Culberson County and Hudspeth County on US Highway 62/180. It is 110 miles east of El Paso, Texas and 56 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
- The entrance fee is $5.00 per person for adults 16 years of age and older. This fee is good for seven days. The park also offers free admission days on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
- There are no scenic drives through Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Park roads only provide access to the Headquarters Visitor Center and Pine Springs Campground, the McKittrick Canyon Contact Station, Frijole Ranch, Williams Ranch (4X4 only), Dog Canyon, and trailheads.
- Download the Guadalupe Mountains Park map.
- There are 80 miles of hiking trails in the park and many day hikes to choose from.
- Facilities and services within and near Guadalupe Mountains National Park are extremely limited. The nearest gas stations are 43 miles west in Dell City, 35 miles east in White’s City, or 65 miles south in Van Horn. There is no campstore and no food available in the park. There is also no public transportation or shuttle service or cell service. Bring everything you need with you, including plenty of water.
- Pets are permitted in the park, but not on most trails or in the backcountry. They are allowed only in areas accessed by vehicles, including roadsides, parking areas, picnic areas and campgrounds and must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet. You must always clean up after your pet.
- All park features are protected. Do not deface or remove any natural or historical objects. Do not pick wildflowers or other plants or feed or molest wildlife.