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Guadalupe Mountains Adventure Trail

Updated: Jun 11

In the far western corner of Texas the brooding Guadalupe Mountains rise up from the surrounding desert plains and prairies. Oft overlooked by travelers on the interstate, within the canyons and ridges of the Guadalupes lies a veritable outdoor wonderland gushing with an impressive variety of plant an animal life.

Route Overview



Trip Length & Season

Adventure Rating:  Epic Trip Length:  294 miles, 4-6 days Season:   Late April through November. Consider contacting Lincoln National Forest regarding conditions in the Guadalupe mountains if you plan to go earlier or later in the season.

Digital Map & GPX Files

Technical Ratings & Terrain

Recommended Vehicle / Moto / Adventure Vans

Fuel, Provisions, and Recommended Gear

Alternative Routes

Camping Recommendations

Discovery Points

Land Managers & Other Resources

Permits and Papers

 

Route Details

In the far western corner of Texas and at the northern edge of the Chihuahua desert the Guadalupe Mountains rise up from the surrounding desert plains and prairies. Scattered mountain ranges like these can be found throughout the American Southwest and are typically referred to as sky islands. The Guadalupe's are a small but rugged mountain range with deep canyons, sheer cliffs, and desert landscapes that give way to pine forests at higher elevations. One of the most well preserved permian fossil reefs formed here over 250 million years ago, and scientists from across the globe travel to study the reef. The same seismic and geological activity that formed the mountains also caused the uplifting of the reef over the last 30 million years, which now towers over the desert landscape of the surrounding lowlands. Within the Guadalupe mountains, you'll find the 4 highest peaks within Texas, including the tallest of these mountains, the aptly named Guadalupe Peak (DP2, elev. 8,750'). Because the Guadalupe's encompass a variety of geographical and ecological environments, they sustain and an incredible variety of plants and animals. Over 68 types of mammals can be found here including bobcats, mountain lion, black bear, coyote, ringtails, racoon, mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, javelina and 16 species of bats. More than 1,000 species of flora live within these mountains, including ocotillo, yucca, agave, and prickly pear in the desert lowlands, and sycamore and oak in the riparian ecological zones. Douglas fir, Pinyon and Ponderosa pine can all be found at higher elevations within the mountain peaks and ridges. The Guadalupe mountains are also the ancestral home of the Mescalero Apache, who were pushed from the plains into the mountains by the warring Commanche and the encroachment of European settlers. It wasn't until 1972 that Guadalupe Mountains National Park officially opened to the public. Oft overlooked by travelers on the interstate, an enchanted world of desert landscapes, canyons and mountains await those willing to take the path less travelled.


The main route begins at the visitor center of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. You'll need to check out a key to unlock the gate that leads to Williams Ranch (and pay the park's day usage fee). Keep an eye out for El Capitan (DP3) on your way to Williams Ranch. There's a great viewpoint on Highway 62. Despite the park's warning about this being a technical trail, it's more of a slow going jeep trail that can be driven by a stock AWD vehicle with all terrain tires. The track follows a portion of the old Butterfield Stage Route, which ran transported mail and cargo from St Louis to San Francisco in 25 days, quite the feat in the 1850s. The historic Williams ranch house awaits at the end of the trail along with numerous photo opportunities. If you wish to venture into the surrounding mountains, El Capitan Trail picks up where the road ends. The sheer cliffs of Guadalupe Mountains create a stunning backdrop, which make this out-and-back trek well worth the effort (keep in mind you'll need to return the gate key to the visitor center).


Once you've returned the gate key to the visitor center, backtrack on Highway 62 and make your way over to the Salt Basin Dunes. Before Texas joined the union, the local Mexican populations would come from New Mexico, Texas, and Chihuahua to fill their wagons with salt. When Texas joined the union, anglo-American businessmen lay claim to the salt flats, and a short-lived armed conflict arose out of the situation. While a key can be obtained to access the dunes, it's only about a .5 mile hike from the gate, not a bad trade off given the long drive back to the visitor center. Before you make your way north and into the mountains, considering fueling up in Dell City, a short drive from the Dunes. From Dell City, the pavement county roads eventually give way to graded dirt county roads. The route passes through a number of salt flats as you circumvent the Brokeoff Mountains Wilderness. Steadily gaining elevation, the graded dirt roads begin to give way to rockier trails and jeep tracks. Topping out at over 7,000 feet, there are numerous viewpoints of the expansive desert landscape from Camp Wilderness Ridge (DP9). Continue east along Guadalupe Ridge. The trail continues to become more primitive and rocky the further you travel with numerous viewpoints along the way, including the Dark Canyon Lookout Tower (DP10). While you may encounter numerous campsites, keep in mind that you'll likely be dealing with desert winds over the course of the night. Once you've explored the various trails and discovery points, backtrack to Dark Canyon Lookout and into the lower lying canyons and washes below. While the northern facing slopes of the Guadalupes aren't nearly as impressive as the craggy southerly slopes, it's always a bit of a treat to drive through the meandering canyons and washes of the desert. Here you'll travel through Dark Canyon and Turkey Canyon. Should you encounter summer monsoonal rains, you'd be advised to avoid driving these trails which can easily succumb to flash floods. As you make your way out of the canyons, a series of gently undulating hills takes hold and rugged and rocky jeep trails and washes soon give way to pavement and mild forest service roads. Here you'll find the quirky village of Queen, which happens to be home to Flying Paperboy Memorial (DP14). At the end of Forest Road 25 there are a series of trails. If you're feeling adventurous, follow the trail down into the canyon which leads to Sitting Bull Falls (DP15). For the final leg of the journey, head west over to Forest Road 67 that follows Guadalupe Ridge. Guadalupe ridge runs south to north featuring expansive views to the west. The dirt road along the ridge is regularly graded and well maintained and can be driven in a 2WD vehicle during dry conditions. The route reaches its terminus at Highway 24, not far from Cloudcroft. If you want to continue your adventure, considering exploring the dirt roads and trails in Lincoln National Forest that surround Cloudcroft.


 

Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on Overlandtrailguides.com, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by Overland Trail Guides, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.



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4 Comments


Thank you for posting updates!


I'm about to take Guadalupe Rim Rd/FR 67 and nearby routes and the Costs Viewpoint warning will save us some backtracking.

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Unknown member
Jun 09

Do not take the first part of this trail from Dell City to Big Dog Canyon, Just follow the green path below.


Green is the path you should take Red is the Overland trail guides route baby blue is the path I took.

Red numbers on map: 1. This is the point you go from paved to dirt road. The fence posts are painted purple here, meaning no trespassing in Texas. 2. Huge ruts in the road. I got through with my FJ with 6 inch lift and 35 inch tires but was scraping on front and back. 3. gate here, not locked. After this point there is no road. You can see my random paths trying to find one or a way to get…



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Unknown member
Dec 12, 2023

We had the same experience with this route. What's labeled on the map as County Road G008 is not much more than a ranch two track once you turn north past the Alkali Lakes/Salt Beds. There's no road at all where it's marked around 32.06712, -105.04047, and the two track that does exist slightly to the south of that fork (also labeled G008) disappears completely not much further on. We also had to backtrack to County Road G005 and take that north until it joins up with the New Mexico BDR route (which mirrors this route starting at 32.27813, -104.99739). However, it was definitely a fun route to drive, and once we got into the mountains it was amazing.

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Just got back from traveling most of this route. The GPX files worked well, except for the area coming back around the Brokeoff mountains toward Dell City, where we lost the trail in ranchland that has grown up considerably with mesquite. Had to backtrack and go on the paved county road. Sidetracking did let us find this cool old dugout home though, which is what this stuff is all about!



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