We inaugurated our camping gear on a trip to Guadalupe Mountains. Home to the highest peak in Texas, two national parks and cool summer nights, the region promised a great Labor Day Weekend escape.
The Guadalupe Mountains are shared by Texas and New Mexico. The southern part of the park is just 100 miles east of the Mexican border.
In order to get to the land of enchantment, chances are you’ll first have to cross oil and gas land. West Texas has nothing but pump jacks on the horizon. That’s how we ended up picnicking on a parking lot. We set the GPS on Carlsbad Caverns National Park Visitor Center, a good seven-hour drive from Dallas.
Carlsbad Caverns national park has no camping options and Guadalupe Mountains national park only has a small first come, first serve campground. Since we were planning to arrive late afternoon, we opted for a guaranteed stay at Carlsbad KOA.
This KOA has great reviews for a reason. It’s quietly located off the highway and has a fitting New Mexico desert-feel to it.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Given that our camping spot was reserved, we headed straight to Carlsbad Caverns national park. You can explore the caves on a self-guided or ranger-led tour. Both require an entrance ticket, to be purchased at the visitor center. We choose to combine the two self-guided Big Room and Natural Entrance trails.
Under the motto “no pain, no gain” we took the elevator down to the Big Room trail and hiked our way back out through the Natural Entrance trail. With 800 feet of elevation gain over just 1.25 miles, it’s a short but sweet climb. The last elevator into the Big Room departs at 5 PM in summer season.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
On our second day, we prepared for a hike in Guadalupe Mountains national park. There are a lot of trails to pick from, but only one that leads up to the Top of Texas. With its 8749 feet (2667 meters), Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in the state.
The Guadalupe Peak Trail totals nine miles out and back from the Pine Springs Visitor Center. The first part of the hike was also the most strenuous. Even in September, the Texas sun showed little mercy. It didn’t help that the end goal wasn’t visible for most of the trail. We saw many Guadalupe Peaks until the real one finally emerged on the last part of the hike.
Extraordinary views and 2867 feet (873 meters) of elevation gain deserve a little toast.
With an extra day to spare, you could explore the third national park in the region. White Sands national park is the newest addition to the national parks list and just a 2.5 hour drive from Carlsbad. We headed back to Dallas on Labor Day morning after a successful camping initiation.