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Backpacking Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Aaron Zagrodnick

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Aaron Zagrodnick

The badlands of West Texas are among the most thinly settled lands in the country. Sparse and desolate, this region west of the Pecos is nearly uninhabited. Only 5000 people occupy the 8000 square miles that stretch between the Guadalupe Mountains on the Texas-New Mexico border and the Rio Grande. It is a land unsuited for agriculture or even grazing, with little grass or fertile land. What water there is can be salty and unpalatable, as likely to cause digestive distress as to quench thirst. It is a land that Cormac McCarthy wrote of: lean and ravenous, silent and remorseless, no country for old men. Few will feel completely at home here...

@HappyHour reports back after a backpacking trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park - take a look in Issue 30:

The Deserted Sky Island of Texas

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas Backpacking.jpg

Issue 30 Page 1

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Good article. 

A loop circuit of G NP gets one to experience more in this pint size NP. A combined trail and off trail experience - largely a traverse - can be done that includes Class 3 or up to Class 4 non technical climbing that involves  largely a Class 3 ridge line hike from the Guadalupe Peak summit over/contouring around Shumard and Bartlett Peaks to Bush Mt avoiding retracing/descending the Guadalupe Peak Tr.  On the ascent  to Guadalupe Peak after the bridge crossing there's a scramble/faint trail to summit El Capitan which was worthy. Yes, there's more than one El Capitan in a U.S. NP.  From Bush Mt take the Bush Mt Tr to Dog Canyon or the umantained Manzanita Ridge Tr( a cut  off ridge route) over  the shoulder of Lost Peak. From there head to the McKittrick Canyon Trail along McKittrick Ridge to restock  on H2O at McKittrick. Instead of heading back out to Hwy 62  and possibly getting back to  a vehicle left at Pine Springs or having to retrace McKittrick Canyon Tr -  here's where it gets dicey -  follow and pick high  contouring lines along Frijole Ridge back to The Bowl with Class 4 difficulty and further to Frijole Ranch or Pine Springs. Much of this route is above 7000 ft.  Knowing ones's water logistics and off trail route finding involving some hazardous scrambles is a necessity.  I did it in three long days without caching H2O in late Oct.   

Nearby is Carlsbad Caverns NP for some hikes of the underground nature to add diversity to experiencing this underutilized uncrowded southern New Mexico/northern Texas border area. There is also a hike which is mostly a route that is not advertised by either NP, AND RIGHTLY SO, that connects at Guadalupe NP  at  the Permian Reef Tr and at Carlsbad Caverns NP accessed via   Walnut Canyon Desert Rd through Rattlesnake Canyon along Lonesome Ridge and taking in some of Lincoln Nat Forest. This is dessert, canyon, and cave area where finding and likely water hauls are necessary.   topo-nm-carlsbad_caverns.jpg     


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