By Michele Robertson Over 80 miles of hiking trails await adventure seekers who visit the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. These trails vary from easy to strenuous, include panoramic views, and a rich geologic history. The park was established in 1972 for its scenic and scientific merit. McKittrick Canyon has five hikes you can try out: The nature trail is near the information center and takes 30 min to an hour to complete, next is hiking to Pratt Cabin, which will take you between 2-4 hours, continue on to the Grotto and Hunter Line Shack for an afternoon picnic among the cave features on the stone benches. The Notch will take you on a challenging 4-6 hour hike, and the Permian Reef Trail, one of the park's least used trails, is a 4-6 hour hike that will bring you stunning views. A Thursday morning in the middle of October brought out many couples and some families from all over the country to enjoy hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains. About 30 cars were in the parking lot ranging from California to New York, easily a dozen different states represented. Fall color is beginning to emerge, and the next few weeks will provide a show for the changing of seasons. If you seek stunning views and solitude, a hike anywhere in the Guadalupe Mountains is sure to provide just that. With 76,293 acres of desert mountains, be sure to come prepared for your adventure. Always take plenty of water, dress for the weather, follow Leave-No-Trace principles, pack it in, pack it out, share your itinerary with someone not traveling with you, and remember to recreate responsibly. Day use fees for the Guadalupe Mountains National Park are $10 per person and is good for seven days after initial purchase. Fall is a busy time of year for hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Many options, in addition to those at McKittrick Canyon exist. Salt Basin Dunes trail is a moderate hike, taking 1-3 hours. Dog Canyon’s hiking trail is the Bush Mountain Trail that will take you to the Marcus Overlook, a 2-5 hour hike. The Pine Springs area has the Devil’s Hall trail, Hunter Peak, and Guadalupe Peak (the highest point in Texas). All three of these trails are considered strenuous. Frijole Ranch offers Smith Spring Trail, a moderate hike taking about 1-3 hours and the Manzanita Spring Trail, an easy ½ mile walk from Frijole Ranch to the spring is excellent for bird watching. Newcomer to the area, Jan Stowell is a first-time Interpretive Volunteer for the Guadalupe Mountains National Park service. A retired professional firefighter from upstate New York, he has been in the area about six weeks so far. Stowell had been searching for a location out west to volunteer. He spent quite a bit of time talking with different parks and looked at being a campground host or an interpretive volunteer. With a plethora of options for campground hosts and after many conversations Stowell eventually decided on an interpretive volunteer role with the Guadalupe Mountains. “I’m fortunate I did. Everyone who works here wants to be here,” Stowell shared. “The staff and volunteers are excellent.” “I think I’ll come back again next year,” he added.
“The park superintendent Eric Leonard is fantastic. There isn’t a job that is beneath him. On a busy weekend you will see him out parking cars,” said Stowell. Stowell enjoys interacting with visitors and splits his time between McKittrick Canyon and Frijole Ranch. Are you interested in volunteering with the National Park Service? If so, visit volunteer.gov to see where your next adventure could be.