There are 59 parks in our National Park System here in the United States. Guadalupe Mountains National Park was the 20th National Park our family has visited. We were there the Saturday following Thanksgiving. On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we toured Carlsbad Caverns National Park and on Saturday we visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Each National Park has been unique and interesting. This one (Guadalupe) would not make the top of my list for most interesting. However, if you are in the Carlsbad area, especially if you are visiting Carlsbad Caverns, it is close by, so don’t miss visiting this National Park! I recommend a half to full day to visit this park. They have lots of hiking, but you need to go in the winter to hike because it is in a desert. We did some hiking and it was beautiful in November! Other than hiking they have several old homesteads from the late 1800’s you can visit. It is impressive that people lived here and were able to survive this desert land in the 1800’s. They survived because of several fresh water springs in this area. We got to see some of the springs and the homesteads. We also got to see the tallest peak in Texas, which is located within this National Park.

Here is some information from Wikipedia about Guadalupe National Park:

“Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a national park in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas and contains Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet (2,667 m) in elevation. Located east of El Paso, it also contains El Capitan, long used as a landmark by people traveling along the old route later followed by the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line. Visitors can see the ruins of an old stagecoach station near the Pine Springs Visitor Center. Camping is available at the Pine Springs Campground and Dog Canyon. The restored Frijole Ranch House is now a small museum of local ranching history and is the trailhead for Smith Spring. The park covers 86,367 acres (134.95 sq mi; 349.51 km2)[1] and is in the same mountain range as Carlsbad Caverns National Park which is located about 25 miles (40 km) to the north in New Mexico. A number of trails exist in the park for hiking and horse-riding. Climbing over 3,000 feet (910 m) to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the Guadalupe Peak Trail winds through pinyon pine and Douglas-fir forests and has views of El Capitan and the Chihuahuan Desert. The park also contains McKittrick Canyon. A trail in the canyon leads to a stone cabin built in the early 1930s, formerly the vacation home of Wallace Pratt, a petroleum geologist who donated the land in order to establish the park. Dog Canyon, on the northern park boundary at the Texas-New Mexico State line is reached by driving through Carlsbad, New Mexico or Dell City, Texas. There is a campground which accommodates tent campers, recreational vehicles, and horse trailers. There is a public corral for livestock available by reservation. On the west side of the park near Dell City lie impressive gypsum sand dunes. Another attraction is the Williams Ranch.”

The Frijole Ranch was one of the most interesting features we saw. Here are some of the photos of our visit to the ranch:

Views while hiking near Frijole Ranch:

Another major feature of this National Park is El Capitan. We saw El Capitan in Yosemite National Park this summer and now we saw El Capitan in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This peak has long been a landmark for travelers traveling through this area many years ago. Here are our photos from El Capitan: 

We did a half day at this National Park and then headed an hour back to Carlsbad and spent the second half of our day at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. This quaint park was a great surprise for us. We hadn’t planned this visit, but our trip to Guadalupe National Park didn’t take as long as most of our National Park visits, so we decided to check out this little local Gem that was listed on Trip Advisor as the #2 place/thing to do in Carlsbad, NM.

They had wolves, Javalinas (they look like pigs, but are actually related to the hippo), buffalo, elk, mule deer, bob cats, owls, black bear, mountain lion, eagles, hawks, a reptile exhibit, a nocturnal exhibit, and more. This zoo very much reminded me of Irvine Park in Chippewa Falls, WI, the town where I grew up. A local gem that when you visit you can’t help be impressed because they have done great things creating a zoo and beautiful park space on a smaller scale compared to big city zoo destinations. The staff was extremely friendly, the in-house exhibits were neat, and the cost to get in was $10 for adults and free for our kids. We also bought hand carved walking sticks that were locally made for each of the kids. They used them for our 1 mile trek through the animal exhibits. It took us about 2 hours to see all the animals and walk through all the exhibits. Well worth the time! It was a perfect stop for us and the kids. Here are our photos: 

My favorite animal of the day was this porcupine. It was quite large. We were there at feeding time and got to see him eat his dinner. He ate corn on the cob with his hands and it was neat to watch this little critter!  

If you ever get a chance to travel to Carlsbad be sure to check out these three major highlights: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. If you plan it right, you can visit all three locations in a two day visit. It is a great short getaway, with very interesting historical significance, and a fun educational experience for both kids and adults! Who knew the desert could be so fascinating?

If you plan to camp during your trip, then make reservations at Brantley Lake State Park located in Carlsbad, NM. It is the best camping in the area. We had numerous road runners come into our campsite, which was pretty neat!  This State park has hook ups for campers and RVs, a shaded playground for the kids, and a lake area to hike and explore. The proximity of this state park to the National Parks was perfect for our holiday getaway.