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Smith Springs Trail

A short hike through a desert oasis with two stunning springs, a riparian woodland, and plenty of wildlife.

Hiking Moderate

3.7 km
121 m
121 m
0-1 hrs
Low Point
1.7 km
High Point
1.8 km
Smith Springs Trail Map

Of all 85 miles of hiking trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Smith Spring is one of the best short and easy hikes you will find. The National Park Service describes it as a "beautiful oasis in the desert" that includes two lush springs, a riparian woodland, diverse ecology, and plenty of opportunities to view wildlife. Just over two miles total, the loop can be hiked in either direction and is the perfect option for a family-friendly outing.


The trailhead for this short loop is at the end of the gravel road leading to Frijole Ranch. According to this source, "the ranch is a restored homestead originally built in 1876 though most construction took place in the 1920s by the Smith family." The author also notes how "it remained in use until being sold to the NPS in 1966." The remaining structure now serves as a small museum and memorial of early ranching in this challenging desert ecosystem.

In addition to the historical ranch, the hike is best known for its two stunning springs—Manzanita Spring and Smith Springs. When hiked counter-clockwise, you will first visit Manzanita Spring, an area that draws in the region's unique wildlife, including "mule deer, elk, javelina, gray fox, and birds like violet-green swallows and white-throated swifts," according to this detailed trail guide. To extend its lifecycle and usefulness for irrigation, it has also been periodically dredged to retain—or sometimes increase—its volume.

In contrast to Manzanita, Smith Spring is located in a riparian woodland where some species of trees and plants are given the opportunity to flourish, whereas the nearby dry desert conditions sustain other vegetation such as juniper, sotol, and yucca. Interestingly enough, as you follow the path between the springs, you may notice how the "water from Smith Spring goes underground just a short ways below the spring," only to later reemerge at the lower Manzanita Spring.




Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area