I decided to make an overnight stop at Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which, although authorized by Congress back in 1964, is still one of our least known parks. In fact, my motor home was the only one there that night, although a few more hardy souls than I were camped out in their tents nearby, braving a cold winter night (daytime was quite pleasant, as desert areas warm up substantially after the sun rises).
Although this is primarily a hiking park for those interested in exploring this splendid mountain wilderness on foot, there are several features and short walks available to groups that make this a very worthwhile stop for groups traveling from El Paso to Carlsbad Caverns. In addition to very scenic views of the Guadalupe Mountains themselves, both along U.S. Highway 62/180 and at the Pine Springs park headquarters area, there is an excellent movie and small museum at the Visitor Center, plus restrooms and picnic facilities in an area where few visitor amenities can be found.
I would recommend exploring the park beyond the Visitor Center, however, as there are several points of interest that are very convenient to the highway. At “The Pinery,” one can visit the ruins of a mid-1800s Butterfield Stagecoach Station, while just up the road is the Frijole Ranch History Museum, a complex including an original ranch house, springhouse, schoolhouse, bunkhouse and barn which tells the story of the pioneers who settled in the Guadalupe Mountains area.
I’d also suggest taking the short (.4 mile round trip) trail, which is wheelchair accessible, from the Frijole Ranch to scenic Manzanita Spring, unless your group has the time and stamina for the more moderate (2.3 miles round-trip) Manzanita/Smith Spring Loop Trail, which I enjoyed immensely, capping off a beautiful morning.
Frijole Ranch Cultural Museum
Desert landscape from Smith Spring Trail