The sea in the desert: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Here you can experience three zones of climate in one park, from desert, to lush forest to mountain tops. Just beware that if you are suddenly transported back in time, you will swim with the fishes…

We journeyed south through the desert from Carlsbad Caverns region into the Guadalupe National Park. We parked our RV in the dry camping lot and took Delta Flyer to three sites our first day:

Our first day these three hikes

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Pine Springs RV Lot Highlights:

  • $7.50 for Senior /Access passholders
  • Dry dock only
  • 12 quiet hours
  • Fab view

Two surprises beat our expectations. Although we stayed mostly in the desert with only a preview of the riparian zone, we spied lots of colorful late spring blooms. And we learned that long ago, the area we explored was 1,500 feet under water.

Our first hike of the day took us part way up the entrance of McKittrick Canyon. Interpretive signage wowed us by pointing out the cliff face once lived as a coral reef:

  • A yucca appendage bent in foreground, canyon walls in background
  • Selfie of the hikers on the ridge
  • View of the canyon floor from the ridge and the longer trailhead
  • Tiny bees nibble on an orange-yellow cactus flower blossom.
  • Sign post Geology of an ancient reef details that the high ridge in view was once living coral under the seas.
  • A brownish rock with a round protruding wheel-like fossil
  • Close up of the cliff face
  • Another closeup of the cream color cliffs above McKittrick canyon..
  • Foreground of cactus with greenish mountain in background.
  • Another yellow prickly pear blooming.
  • Gray rock with raised white fossil-like sections
  • A long brown lizard descends a coral like rock.

Our next stop at Frijole Ranch enlightened us to the living conditions of the first non-natives to settle this area. The Ranch looked lush surrounded by huge trees, but those trees caused the closure because of concerns about dangerous winds.

  • A cone shaped hill
  • A six leaved purple flower with yellow center growing between rocks.
  • One stalk juts up with many brownish tiers.
  • Closed entrance to Frijole Ranch complex
  • Red painted wooden outbuilding with tin roof.
  • A strange tree trunk with three large upshoots
  • Sign on gate about "Hazardous trees" -- Yard closed.
  • Purple flowers and daisies.
  • Yellow flowers
  • Sign titled Could you survive here? with semi desert backdrop.
  • The pond surrounded by lush greenery with mountains in background.

The irony of wind closing the Frijole Ranch didn’t escape us.

Sign at Frijole Historic site.
The fascinating story of the settlers of Frijole Ranch and Smith Springs.

The sun would soon slip behind the mountains as the moon arose, but we decided to squeeze in one last hike to the Stagecoach Station.

  • A sign about the Fossil reef in the foreground with mountains in background
  • Another angle of the reef now mountains.
  • Yucca stalk with nearly full moon in deep blue sky.
  • Four or five thin stalked but tall yucca on plain in front of Capitan Reef ridge
  • Phlox like pink blossoms in green brush.
  • Hairlike pinkish blossoms on a green bush with white flowers
  • Butterfield overland mail -- Pinery station wall ruins propped up by two - by - fours
  • A rocky cliff face with a taller, clear point atop.
  • Looking at the front of the wall of ruins of the station toward a nearly full moon in the dark blue sky.
  • Red blossoms and daisies
  • Bill beside the ruins where the trail disappears around the wall
  • Yellow flower with maroon center.
  • White and fluffy hair-like blooms on dark green bush in foreground with distant ridge background
  • Index finger and thumb holding quartz stone the size of a nickel in the sunset light

Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Salt Flat, Texas

(915) 828-3251
GMNP Website

2 thoughts on “The sea in the desert: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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