As Day 5 began, I had just one goal: go for a hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. That seems easy enough, but Guadalupe Mountains National Park isn’t an easy place to visit. The park is, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. You could camp at one of the park’s campgrounds, but if you want to sleep in a bed, you’ll have to drive a very long way. The nearest motels are in Whites City (in New Mexico, 38 miles away), Van Horn (60 miles), and El Paso (100 miles).
I booked two nights in Van Horn, and accepted that I’d have to do a long stretch of driving at the start of my day, and again at the end.
The drive north from Van Horn on TX-54 is mostly straight and uneventful. For at least half the way, you can stare at El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. Check out the Drivelapse video below to fully appreciate this flat and uneventful, but thoroughly enjoyable drive.
As you get close to the park, TX-54 ends, and you’ll join up with US 62/180, which runs from El Paso to Carlsbad. For a moment, it looks like 62/180 is going to drive right into El Capitan, before it curves around the foot of the hills. There’s a picnic area at this spot, so you’ll probably want to get out and take a picture. I took an almost identical shot when I visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park in 2006.
During my 2006 visit, I didn’t have enough time to properly experience the park. Then, I tackled the first part of the Devil’s Hall Trail, but I didn’t make it all the way to the trail’s main attraction, Devil’s Staircase.
On this visit (in 2011), I was determined to either hike two short trails (including Devil’s Hall), or attempt the big one: 8 1/2 mile (round trip) lung-straining climb up to Guadalupe Peak. In addition to arriving early enough, you must also hope for good weather in order to hike to the top of Texas. Thanks to my early start in Van Horn, I arrived with plenty of time to spare. The forecast called for windy conditions later in the day, so I crossed my fingers, hoping I could get the hike done before the desert breeze kicked up. I’ll tell you about the hike to Guadalupe Peak on the next page.
If you don’t hike on a trail, there isn’t much to do at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The park has a visitor center, but there are no restaurants, no gift shops, and as I mentioned earlier, no motels. You can admire El Capitan from the road, but that’s about it.
[tmt_info =””]To end the day, I drove west to Salt Flat, to view the sunset and the Guadalupe Mountains. Salt Flat is just a few miles west of El Capitan, on US 62/180. You should also pay a visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, about 40 miles east on 62/180. If you have to choose between the two parks, the caverns may be the better option, especially if you’re visiting in the hot summer months.[/tmt_info]
Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Van Horn to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas: