Next to the mountains, where several large caves can be found and where there are dense pine and fir forests, in addition the landscape form of salt desert at the foothills are recognizable. Also, there are canyons between the uplifts, where maple, oak and ash trees grow. Among the animals living here are rattlesnakes, coyotes, scorpions, mountain lions, badgers and lynx. The animals can best be watched in the cooler morning and evening hours. Late in the day, a trip to the caves within the National Park or in the nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, where several bat species are at home. But even visitors interested in extinct species will find something interesting here, because more than 260 million years ago, the area was covered by an ocean and the geological processes in later centuries have resulted in scientists today being able to find many maritime fossils here.
Apart from these, numerous arrowheads, rock paintings and objects were found by which it could be proved that humans have lived here already 10,000 years ago, mainly dwelling in the caves. Dating back to the 16th century, traces of the Europeans have been discovered; but the Spanish explorers that came here back then did not stay for long and thus, the region remained in the Natives’ hand until the middle of the 19th century. Then, however, the time of the treks to the West began and a few smaller settlements developed, but up until today, this area remains very sparsely populated.
Fall is a good time to pay a visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, not only with cosinderation of the more agreeable temperatures then. Fall is also the time when the leaves begin to change colors and a small version of an “Indian Summer” can be witnessed. McKittrick Canyon is especially popular then, it can easily be explored by taking a short hiking trail. But in all other seasons, the National Park offers many points worth seeing, too. Among these are the sand dunes, up to 20 meters tall and consisting of deposited gypsum particles. To visit the Salt Basin Dunes, one has to travel about 20 miles from the visitor center, where the key needed to open the gates of the access road can be obtained. Those travelling on this road will gain access to a very unique, deserted scenery. Just as much worth seeing is Dog Canyon, located at an altitude of 1900 meters in the northern section of the National Park. Far removed from any sign of civilization, the Park has excellent opportunities for climbing and hiking. In this area, there are several hiking trails with approximate lengths varying between 30 minutes and 5 hours. There is also a campground for those visitors wishing to stay more than one day. Another, slightly larger campground is located near the visitor center.
Visitors interested in the nature of the Guadalupe Mountains as well as in the history of the region, can find another attraction within Park limits. The Frijole Ranch near the visitor center is home to a small museum that chronicles the history of human settlements in the area. In the ranch’s surroundings, there are several fresh water springs, which are a great place to watch the animals living in the Park that come here for watering. Visitors having a fourwheel drive car at their disposal, may also opt to travel to the Williams Ranch. Along the road going there (it is necessary to get the key for the entrance gate in the visitor center!), there are a number of good observation points, for example looking at El Capitan, the most famous rock formation of the Park.
Further information on Guadalupe Mountains National Park can be found on the National Park Service website.