Explore Guadalupe Mountains National Park on one of these top 4 family-friendly hikes.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of only two official National Parks in Texas, though several other areas and landmarks that are maintained by the National Park Service. Similar to Big Bend National Park, the Guadalupe Mountains are a desert oasis full of surprises. Comprising over 86,000 acres and 85 miles of trail, the park protects historic ranches and cabins, showcases a variety of desert wildlife and ecology, and hosts Texas’s highest point – Guadalupe Peak, towering over the landscape at 8,750 feet! While the hike can be popular during peak season and on holiday weekends, the 9-mile roundtrip trek to the summit is no easy endeavor – a challenging 3,000’ climb must be conquered to reach the “Top of Texas” at 8,750’.
For a short and fully-accessible hike, the Pinery Trail offers visitors a glimpse into life at a historic mail stop on the original Butterfield Overland Mail Route. According to the NPS, "The Pinery Station has the distinction of being the only remaining station ruin standing close to a major thoroughfare—only 200 yards off U.S. 62/180, which generally follows the original Butterfield route through Guadalupe Pass." The Pinery is also the only dog-friendly hike in the park.
Resting at 6,280 feet, the Dog Canyon Campground is located along the northernmost reaches of the park. It tends to remain cooler than Pine Springs and offers shelter “from strong, gusty winds in winter and spring.” The quaint campground hosts 9 tent sites plus 4 RV sites and offers both water and restrooms. For a short and easy stroll from the campground, the aforementioned Indian Meadow Nature Trail offers visitors the opportunity to “discover the plants and animals of a meadow in the secluded north section of the park.” Despite its name, dogs are not allowed on the trail but are permitted in areas “accessed by vehicles, including established roadsides, parking areas, frontcountry picnic areas, and frontcountry picnic areas.”
Ready to visit a desert oasis with two stunning springs, a riparian woodland, and plenty of wildlife? Well, the Smith Springs Trail has it all, plus plenty of views and a historic ranch at the trailhead. According to this source, "[Frijole] 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.
Starting from the McKittrick Canyon Trailhead, the Nature Trail is a short one-mile trek with trailside exhibits describing common plants and referencing the impact of wildland fire in the Chihuahan Desert. The highest point of this hike offers a spectacular view down into the canyon while a nearby kiosk highlights the geology of the Permian Reef—also seen here.