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Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

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Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby daw37 » Sat Jan 10, 2015 5:07 pm

Hi,

I have an opportunity to come to Texas as part of a business trip in either late March or late April. I'm hoping this is a good time to visit the NPs in the west of the state. A few questions:
- Will I have any trouble getting camping spots or will it be quite enough as I know many are just walk in? Is it worth ca
- Is it worth backcountry camping on Guadalupe peak for the sunrise/sunset?
- How long might I need if I got to Carlsbad Caverns? One day sufficient?

Thanks,

David
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby Bob Sihler » Sat Jan 10, 2015 7:25 pm

One day is enough for Carlsbad if you're fine with just the standard tour of the caverns. A nice thing about the tour, unless things have changed, is that you go through on your own rather than having to be part of a guided group.

It gets very windy in Guadalupe in spring. I remember camping there and hoping my tent would stay in place while I was out for the day. That was at the campground, so I imagine it is much worse up on the peaks.

In Guadalupe, the main campground is pretty small and probably will fill during Easter week.

Big Bend is larger, has better weather at that time of year, and has more to do. If you can fit that in, go there as well. It's very remote, though, and a full day's drive from Guadalupe. Where exactly in Texas your business will be will make a big difference.
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby surgent » Sat Jan 10, 2015 8:27 pm

What Bob said.

If you are coming in from Dallas or San Antonio or even El Paso, both Guadalupe and Big Bend NPs are a very long distance away, a half- or full-day possibly. El Paso is the closest, and even then, El Paso to Guadalupe NP is about 200 miles, to Big Bend almost 300 miles. The two NPs are about 200 miles apart. On the upside, the drives are scenic, especially if you take the high roads through Fort Davis.

Both NPs are beautiful places with great hiking options. The hike to Guadalupe Peak takes bout 5 hours at a moderate pace. The hike into McKittrick Canyon is also popular. Two days in Guadalupe NP should be enough to visit both and not feel rushed.

Big Bend's signature peak is Emory Peak, which takes about 4-5 hours round trip at a moderate pace. You'd probably want to hike farther south to the south rim of the Chisos Mountains, too. That's one day. You could fill another day or two with drives along some of the roads, e.g. to the hot springs along the Rio Grande, or to the Terlingua/Study Butte area. It's all very interesting.

I hope you have enough time for one or both, including drive times. And, as Bob said, beware the winds.
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby Bubba Suess » Sat Jan 10, 2015 11:55 pm

This is personal preference here, but if your business takes you to Dallas, I would not make the attempt to head to the Transpecos national parks, unless you are dead set on seeing national parks. Only an hour further than Big Bend is Santa Fe, and there is a lot of great hiking out there, even in the winter and the history and culture is tough to beat. Also, you can stop at Palo Duro Canyon on the way there or back. Also, worth consideration is the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. They are only 3.5 hours from Dallas, are very beautiful and you can't beat the wildlife, especially the elk and bison. You might even time it to be there during the elk rut. You won't spend nearly so much time driving and the scenery is still fantastic.
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby daw37 » Sun Jan 11, 2015 7:33 am

Thanks all. I'm in San Antonio so Oklahoma is about as far sadly and I'd quite like to visit the national parks! I have a week so I'd budget a day driving in each direction giving me six days between the parks, say 1 at Carsbad, 2 at Guadalupe and 3 in Big Bend? I like mountains so do an extra day in Guadalupe as it suits what I want to do.

I'd plan on getting to Guadalupe early in the day so I can get a camping spot. I'd love to camp high but will talk to the rangers. I've had a tent demolished on me before so wouldn't want to repeat that!

Looking at Big Bend I'd consider camping out on the south rim after doing Emory Peak. I love sunrise and sunset and that would be fabulous...
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby elhombre » Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:03 am

Big Bend can be very hot by that time of year. This past valentines day we had 104 on my wrist watch. No problem getting a site in BB as long as it is not easter. You will most likely want to stay in the basin campground becasue it is coolest.

Guadalupe NP is the only place for people who drive and car camp to stay. There isn't any other developed campground in the area. There is BLM land, but it is like the "badlands". Pine canyon campground is your one developed camping area, and can fill up around dark, especially on a weekend. Show up around mid afternoon and you won't have any problem. The campground is usually cool at night (60degrees) even in the summer.

We were at Carlsbad this summer and they still have the self paced tour. If you hit it around noon, you would still have plenty of time to make it to Guadalupe for a campspot after the tour.

BB has Emory peak and a social trail up Casa Grande. Both are real nice. If you drive out there, you Must do the South Rim hike if you only can do one hike.
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby Bubba Suess » Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:25 am

daw37 wrote:Thanks all. I'm in San Antonio so Oklahoma is about as far sadly and I'd quite like to visit the national parks!


If you are going to be in San Antonio, it is academic. In that case, I would echo everyone else and strongly recommend the South Rim in Big Bend. Aside from North Cita Canyon in Palo Duro State Park, that was the best hike I took when I was in school in Texas. I also enjoyed the hike along Hot Springs Canyon. The view of the Sierra del Carmen is one of the best views in Big Bend.

Elhombre, your location reminds me of the old Roger Creager song, "Fun All Wrong". That brings back A LOT of memories!
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby daw37 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 8:41 am

Thanks both. Really useful information on the campsites given I'm travelling a long way and can't book!

Taken a look at the South Rim and it looks fantastic. Might even attempt a backpack out and camp on the rim but that will depend on the temperature out there. I've carried 5 litres or more before so I think I can take enough.
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby elhombre » Mon Jan 12, 2015 5:11 pm

You may get lucky and get a recent rain. There is a spring (Boot Spring) that is up in the mountain area. Even if it is not running, Boot creek will have standing pools. The best place for a recent spring report can be found on bigbendchat.com. With spring break going on St. Patrick's week, there should be some good reports from the backpackers. The rangers will not (most times) tell you the truth about the spring flows. If you don't have spring flow, 1.5 gallons of water will get you up and down for a one nighter just fine. Takes about 4.5 hours to reach the rim from the parking lot.
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby Mark Doiron » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:01 am

Here's a little secret most people don't know about Big Bend National Park: You can pick up backcountry permits at the Persimmon Gap entry point. They call them in for you while you wait so you don't have to stop at Panther Junction. Not all itineraries take you past Panther Junction (though if you're headed directly to the Chisos, that would). However, the advantage is that the call ins have priority over the people standing in line at the counter. So, your wait is sometimes reduced. Also, be aware that Panther Junction closes at 4 or 4:30. Once closed, there are no backcountry permits until the next day. There are also no permits issued from the entrance near Terlingua (which is often as not unmanned). Do be aware that if you're in the backcountry by yourself they want boot prints on file. It used to be mandatory, but I think they just "encourage" it now. It's so they can identify your body when they find it. Honestly, I think it's more to encourage folks to think twice about entering the backcountry by their self. One of my favorite T-Shirts was from Big Bend and read: "Out here you're nobody. Perfect." The Chili Pepper Cafe in Terlingua is your ticket to a good meal. The peach cobbler at the Chisos Basin restaurant is a treat, especially if you're watching the sun set through The Window. The only showers (unless you stay in the lodge) are at Rio Grande Village, which is way out of the way for a Chisos Basin itinerary.

http://www.summitpost.org/sunset-at-the-chisos-basin-window/180899

Carlsbad: Recommend if this is your first visit that you take the hike in and the elevator out, but if you want a good workout reverse that. If you're short on time, you can just take the elevator and visit the Big Room and experience most of the splendid viewing. Depending on how much you dawdle (I like to shoot a ton of photos, frustrating as Carlsbad is), it could take a half to a full day. There is no camping at Carlsbad, but Whites City is just outside the gate, and has lodging and RV/tent camping.

I've been to Big Bend a lot, but more recently have been wandering into the area around Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP). While the scenery is not as dramatic at BBRSP, what you gain there is solitude. Tons of it. They typically have 2500-3000 visitors A YEAR. I've been within the main confines of the park (you drive the edge of it along the Rio Grande between Lajitas and Presidio) twice now and the only people other than my companions I've seen are rangers (and them very infrequently). They have free showers and ice by donation at Saucedo Ranch (pretty far into the park--4WD or at least high clearance recommended).

Have fun, this is a great area to visit!
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby Bark Eater » Tue Jan 13, 2015 6:02 pm

Re: Guadalupe. As previously mentioned, the drive-in tent campground is small. We were there on a holiday weekend and it was full. The NP folks were cool and let us sleep in the back of the pickup in the RV area. We just couldn't pitch a tent there.
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby lrschmidt » Wed Jan 14, 2015 3:06 am

The campground at GNMP is windy and camping on the ridges is windy. If you can get a campsite in the "Bowl" however you should be fine (this would be a backpacking trip). Basically that is the forested area high up in the mountains. I'd suggest Mescalara, or Tejas campsite. Can't tell you about Big Bend.

You'll need to carry water so I'd have a sturdy pack and be prepared to go light on everything else. I usually us a small tarp and carry a very minimalist raincoat (no rain pants). Normally rain is very unlikely there.

Oh no more local tip. In the Midland/Odessa area no one drinks tap water, its full of minerals from the aquafirs and its nasty. My understanding is the water at GMNP is similar. Anyway I always bring my own.
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Re: Guadalupe Mountains / Big Bend NPs

Postby Basham » Sat Jan 16, 2016 3:55 pm

Storms build fast in west Texas. Equivalent to Florida. Palo Duro Canyon is great. The Grand Canyon of Texas.
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