We visited the Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where we explored one of the largest underground caves in the world. In this episode, we talk about Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which has more than 119 known caves full of interesting formations. We’ll also take you on a journey to the rugged Guadalupe Mountains National Park, where you can scale the highest summit in Texas – Guadalupe Peak.
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Guadalupe Mountains National Park
This park in West Texas is known for its rugged peaks, deep canyons, and vast desert wilderness. The park is over 86,000 acres, offering visitors a unique opportunity to explore a variety of stunning terrains. The Guadalupe Mountains, from which the park gets its name, are an ancient fossil reef formed by the same limestone deposits that have created the incredible caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
History of Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, a treasure trove of natural wonders and rich history, has an intriguing story that spans millions of years. Before the park’s iconic mountains formed, the area was part of an ancient ocean, with the Capitan reef mostly buried beneath its waves. The sea eventually receded, leaving behind the stunning limestone formations that define today’s park.
Throughout the centuries, the Guadalupe Mountains have been a focal point in human history. Many Native American tribes have called the area home, leaving traces of their culture and way of life.
The Butterfield Overland Mail, a stagecoach service between 1858 and 1861, played an important role in shaping the region’s infrastructure, connecting the eastern and western parts of the United States.
The park’s historic structures and landmarks offer visitors a glimpse into the past. For example, the Frijole Ranch History Museum allows visitors to walk through a preserved ranch house filled with artifacts, explore an old orchard, and admire the spring house, old barns, and buildings that once made up the thriving ranch. You can also see the remnants of an old schoolhouse.
Ranching has had a lasting impact on the Guadalupe Mountains. Cattle grazed the land for many years before the park’s establishment, shaping the area’s ecosystem and human landscape. In the early 1900s, Wallace Pratt discovered oil on his ranch, using the profits to get much of the land that now comprises the national park.
The main park is open 24 hours a day, allowing plenty of time for exploration, and requires a $10 entry fee (unless you have an America the Beautiful Annual Pass). The Pine Springs Visitor Center is the central hub for information, permits, and park resources. Dog Canyon Ranger Station is situated in the northern section of the park. McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center is located in McKittrick Canyon.
Be aware that pets are prohibited in most park areas, including the backcountry. The nearest gas station is 35 miles away in either direction, so it’s essential to plan your fuel stops accordingly.
Safety precautions are vital when visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The park experiences extreme weather conditions, including high temperatures, sudden storms, and strong winds. Be prepared by checking the weather forecast, carrying plenty of water, and dressing in layers. Watch out for snakes and other wildlife that may be present in the area, and always maintain a safe distance from any wild animals you may encounter.
Things to see, do, and know about Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The key features of Guadalupe Mountains National Park truly set it apart as a land of extremes. Visitors can experience everything from rugged mountains and deep canyons to shifting dunes.
The park is home to Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding desert. McKittrick Canyon is another of the park’s highlights, renowned for its stunning fall foliage and breathtaking natural beauty. Another prominent landmark is El Capitan, a massive limestone formation that is an iconic symbol of the Guadalupe Mountains.
The park has a range of unique flora and fauna, including a diverse range of plant species and many animal species, such as elk, mule deer, and golden eagles.
The gypsum dunes present a striking and fragile landscape, highlighting the delicate balance of ecosystems within the park. If you haven’t visited White Sands National Park, this is an opportunity to see a smaller version.
Throughout the year, ranger-led programs and guided hikes are available, offering visitors an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the park’s history and ecology.
The park’s mountains provide excellent hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing opportunities, while the canyons and desert areas invite exploration and wildlife observation. Over 80 miles of hiking trails suit various skill levels and interests. The Guadalupe Peak Trail leads to the summit of the park’s highest point, while the Devil’s Hall Trail takes visitors through a stunning natural rock hallway. The El Capitan Trail offers a challenging hike with rewarding views of the surrounding area.
Don’t miss this Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a captivating destination that combines stunning natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and rich history. The park offers something for everyone with an array of attractions, from towering peaks and picturesque canyons to historic ranches and remote dunes. Whether seeking adventure, tranquility, or a deeper understanding of the area’s past, visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park is an unforgettable experience.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
In the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert in southeastern New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a unique landscape filled with magnificent geological formations and a fascinating ecosystem. Established May 14, 1930, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is known for its complex network of limestone caves. The caverns offer visitors an extraordinary glimpse into an underground world of breathtaking beauty and mystery. The park covers an expansive area of approximately 73 square miles.
History of Carlsbad Caverns National Park
The origins of Carlsbad Caverns National Park date back to over 250 million years ago when the region was submerged under an ancient inland sea. The marine life from this time, including coral and seashells, eventually formed layers of limestone deposits that, over time, were shaped by natural forces into the spectacular cave formations we see today. It was the keen eye of a 16-year-old cowboy named Jim White who first discovered these awe-inspiring caverns in 1898. Since then, continuous exploration and research have unveiled over 119 known caves within the park, with discoveries still being made.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a testimony to the Earth’s geological history, with its complex caves and underground chambers providing a unique window into the ancient past. This park offers an unforgettable experience, transporting you into a world of unparalleled beauty and wonder. The beauty of nature is on full display in the form of stunning stalactites, stalagmites, and countless other mesmerizing cave formations.
Awareness of the park hours, admission fees, and other important visitor information are essential. To enter the caverns, you should reserve your tickets online to make sure you get into the cave. Adults aged 16 and older are cost $15 per person, while children 15 and under can enter for free. America the Beautiful Pass holders are granted free admission.
The visitor center operates from 8 am to 5 pm. But it’s important to note that the last cavern entry is allowed at 2:30 pm. If you prefer to use the elevator to access the cavern, it runs from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm for entrance.
Quick tips when visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park
When planning your visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, there are several tips and considerations to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Due to the park’s popularity, you must make a reservation in advance using the online-only reservation system for the cavern.
As you prepare for your journey into the caverns, you should know that baby strollers are not permitted inside the caves. If traveling with young children, consider using a backpack-style baby carrier to navigate the caves more safely and comfortably.
If you’re visiting the park with pets, be aware that they are not allowed inside the caverns. But, the park offers a convenient kennel service for day use, allowing your furry friends to be cared for while you explore the caves.
The underground environment may have slippery surfaces, so wearing appropriate footwear with good traction is essential. Additionally, be cautious while navigating the caves, and stay on designated pathways to avoid accidents or damage to the delicate cave formations.
Why are Carlsbad Caverns unique
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a truly exceptional destination, featuring a combination of extraordinary geological formations, extensive cave networks, and diverse wildlife. The park’s unique features have made it a popular tourist attraction and an important site for scientific research.
The park is home to the famous Big Room, one of the world’s largest known natural limestone chambers. Spanning over 8.2 acres, the Big Room features many different cave formations.
The caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park have been formed primarily by the dissolution of limestone by sulfuric acid, resulting in an elaborate network of underground chambers and passageways. The formations you will see include stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and draperies, formed by gradually depositing minerals over thousands of years.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park has a significant bat population, with nearly 17 species inhabiting the caverns. The most famous is the Brazilian free-tailed bat, which forms a vital part of the park’s ecosystem. These bats play a crucial role in controlling insect populations in the area and serve as a primary food source for other local predators.
Visitors will witness hundreds of thousands of bats emerging from the caverns at dusk during summer.
Don’t miss this Carlsbad Caverns National Park
You don’t want to miss checking out Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The park offers visitors a rare opportunity to explore the enchanting world of caves. A trip to this extraordinary park is a journey into a magical underground realm that will inspire awe and leave a lasting impression.