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Distance: 8.40 Miles
Duration: 7 hours
See the NPS website for Guadalupe Mtns NP to get detailed trail information - this is my impression of the hike.
Make sure you wear sturdy hiking boots and have plenty of water - no water is available other than at the trailhead.
This hike is the main reason I came to the park and I'm glad I did! Originally, I planned to hike this route the day prior but with 50 mph winds predicted, I delayed this hike by a day and instead went to McKittrick Canyon (see other report). Anyway, the trail is 90% rocky - small, medium and large rocks of varied shapes. As can be imagined, you are climbing most of the way up along a trail that is not very wide but wide enough to walk easily on. The trail is easy to see and you cannot get lost.
I stopped numerous times to take photos and just look around. The altitude didn't bother me too much (I'm used to 2000 ft elevation) but a couple of times, I had to stop and take some deep breaths. The wind was blowing the entire time yet I was soaked in sweat by the time I reached the summit 3 hours and 45 minutes after I started.
I found a nice flat piece of rock and sat with some bushes behind me letting the sun dry my jacket and shirt. There were hikers already at the peak when I got there but when they left 20 minutes or so after I arrived, I had the peak to myself for 10 minutes before the next group arrived - solitude was not to be had. Nonetheless, I stayed another 5 - 10 minutes before heading back down myself. The return time was much shorter and I encountered no difficulties heading back.
Of note - while walking back, I was in a section of the trail that has coniferous trees on both sides when I smelled "cat". Looking around, I did not see either a bobcat or mountain lion but the smell was definitely in the air. The smell had not been there on my way up so I can only assume a cat of some size had passed by and marked his turf at two places separated by about a half mile or so.
I strongly suggest to anyone contemplating this hike to be as physically prepared as possible - hike as much as possible in rocky terrain with hills. Make sure you have plenty of water!! Unless you are trying to set some personal speed record, remember you are there to enjoy Nature - stop, look around and enjoy the sights!
McKittrick Canyon - The Notch
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Distance: 10.20 Miles
Duration: 5 hours, 15 minutes
Please look at the NPS website for Guadalupe Mtns NP for trail descriptions. This is my impression of the hike.
Make sure you wear hiking boots and have plenty of water - there is no water available other than at the trailhead.
There are three portions of this hike - the Pratt Lodge, The Grotto and The Notch. If you go all the way to The Notch, you will see all three sights. The first portion to Pratt's Lodge is fairly level and relatively easy to hike on mostly gravel/rock, nice wide trail in most places. The second leg to The Grotto/Hunter Line Shack is mostly level and a mixture of dirt and rock. LOTS of Fall color when I hikes and the main reason I wanted to see the canyon. At The Grotto, there are tables to relax at.
Prior to going to the notch, the trail branches left to The Grotto and right to The Notch. When you go right, you will be on a series of switchbacks going mostly up for about 1.75 miles. The trail is rocky but as you climb higher you can see down the canyon quite a ways. When you get to The Notch, the trail continues on the other side of the crest but I didn't go any further. The attached photo shows the view of South McKittrick Canyon from The Notch.
This route was very enjoyable and this hike was one of the reasons I went to the park. Nice Fall colors as well!
[View Log Page]
Distance: 4.20 Miles
Duration: 3 hours
There are numerous descriptions of the trail and on the NPS website for Guadalupe Mtns so I won't repeat that information - I will give my impression of the trail.
Make sure you wear hiking boots with thick soles that will give a good grip on the rocks throughout the trail. The trail has some dirt but is mostly rocks - all sizes and shapes, not just riverbed rocks. The trail is marked by rock cairns and colored tape so keep your eyes open. You will walk in the creek bed for a good portion of the hike and when you come to the end of the creek - look to the left and you will see some natural rock "stairs". (Photo attached) Climb those and go another 1/4 to 1/2 mile where you will find trail tapes signifying the end of the trail. Return along the same route.
The hike was enjoyable but the constant looking for tapes and/or rock cairns, the fact I did this in late afternoon and this was the first time on the trail made this an "OK" hike rather than a "great" hike.
Frijole Trail, Frijole Ranch, Smith Spring Trail
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Distance: 9.09 Miles
Duration: 3 hours, 30 minutes
We started at Pine Springs Campsite and hike the Frijole Trail for 3.1 miles... starting elevation of 5,750 and climbed to 6,000 feet. Along the way we saw golden eagles and red-tail hawks flying above us... the trail was a mixture of dirt/grass, rocks and step-like rocks that ascended and descended and a few switchbacks. The trail led to the Frijoles Ranch History Museum which includes a springhouse, milkhouse, schoolhouse, bunkhouse and a barn. From the Ranch, we hiked to the Smith and Manzanita Springs (another 1.88 miles)...The Smith Spring sits back against the mountain and hidden under the canopy of trees.... clear spring water with the soothing sound of the water flowing downstream along the streambed and rocks. From the Smith Spring trail, we hiked along the Foothills trail back to the Pine Springs campsite (another 2.57 miles) that was mostly dirt/grass with few rocky trail.... and few uphill/downhill hikes.... during the entire hike, we saw only a handful of hikers, but very sporadic....
Outstanding place to hike, grandeur amazing
[View Log Page]
Distance: 15.00 Miles
I took my three older boys (12,8,6) on the trails from Dog Canyon Campground to McKitterick Canyon Visitor's Center with an overnight stay at McKitterick Ridge Primitive Campground, about halfway. The weather was in our favor; it quit raining the night before we hiked out, which made for some beautiful wildflowers along the trail. The trail up from Dog Canyon is a steady climb; we gained about 1900 feet in elevation before stopping for the night. The trail is good, and though strenuous, the views make up for the pain and suffering. The next morning, we hiked solid switchbacks for roughly 4 miles, dropping a whopping 2,600 feet in elevation before we reached the Grotto in McKitterick Canyon. Made a nice place for a lunchbreak. Large flagstone picnic tables are there, and McKitterick Creek flows nearby with clear, cold water (be sure you filter or treat it, and only use what you need). The hike from the Grotto to the Visitor Center is level and well maintained. Seven or eight creek crossings make for wet shoes if the creek is running high, as it was after the rains. Otherwise, the creek normally runs beneath the outwash gravel for most of the trail. As this is a desert, the most important thing to carry is water, and plenty of it. The recommended amount is 1 gallon per person per day, and I promise that you will use every drop of it, even when the weather is cooperative and cool.
[View Log Page]
Distance: 5.00 Miles
Went on a mini-vacation with the family, and hiked "almost" to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, Hey, I was just a kid, give me a break!!! Personally, I blame not finishing on my little brother....