Leaving Tucson, we headed back to Texas for our third weekend of backpacking in a row. We originally planned on hitting up Guadalupe Mountains National Park on our way to Tucson but we hurried over to Arizona to meet up with our parents. Although this added a bit of driving, we both like car rides and had a lot of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to listen to.
An accidental selfie on the way to Texas
We spent Thursday night in El Paso and woke up early on Friday to drive the remaining ninety minutes to Guadalupe Mountains. After stopping by the visitor’s center to pick up our backpacking permits, we started hiking up McKittrick Canyon. The first four miles were relatively flat and the trail was more of a path. We stopped by Pratt Cabin, built in the 1920’s, and the Grotto, an interesting rock formation.
Hiking up McKittrick Canyon
After the Grotto the trail drastically increased in difficulty and we quickly gained a lot of elevation. The coolest part of the hike was a spot called the Notch. We had been climbing switchbacks, only able to see the mountain ahead and then all of sudden it opened up into a beautiful canyon.
From the Notch to the campsite the trail continued to be narrow and steep. At one point my feet got tangled up in a plant and I tripped hard. Luckily, I fell straight forward, otherwise I could have rolled right off the cliff side.
Happy I didn’t fall off the trail
We spent the night at a campsite near the top of the mountain. We played some cribbage and saw a skunk which inspired us to move campsites. The next morning we woke early and hiked the eight miles back down to our car. After a quick lunch and refilling of water, we headed up Guadalupe Peak. Although only four miles to the top, it climbed nearly 3,000 feet and we had tired legs from climbing the equivalent amount the day before.
Sunrise on the mountainside
We set up camp a mile from the top and tried to take a nap but it was so windy we spent the whole time worrying our tent was going to blow away with us in it! After turning it 90 degrees and tying it down better, we left and headed to the peak. Although it was no Big Bend, the top had some pretty good views – after all, it’s the highest point in Texas.
Very windy on the top
I was proud of our tent for making it through a windy night. At some points I wasn’t sure it would but we brought it down the mountain in one piece. From Guadalupe, across the New Mexico border to Carlsbad Caverns, our second National Park of the weekend.
Aliens all over the place in New Mexico
There are two options at Carlsbad Caverns, either take the elevator to the Big Room, one of the largest cave chambers in the country, or enter through the natural entrance and walk about a mile to the Big Room. We opted for taking the long way through the natural entrance. It was nice to see more of the cave but I was very hungry by the time we made it out, as snacks are not allowed in the cave.
I call this the Cauliflower Tree Formation
After eating a much anticipated meal, we drove a scenic drive that wasn’t too scenic and then headed back towards El Paso. We had a great weekend but were ready for a week of relaxing. If you’re into caves or have never been to one, Carlsbad Caverns is a cool place. And although Guadalupe Mountains was more beautiful than I was expecting, if you’re in the area and looking for an outdoor experience, it’s worth the 4 hr drive to get to Big Bend.