The Rodney Dangerfield of National Parks

To be honest, I had never even heard of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park until I started my bucket list quest to visit as many of our National Parks as possible. And I’ve lived in Texas most of my life. So it speaks for the notoriety of such a park that gets no respect, sandwiched in between the more famous Big Bend and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks.

Approaching the Guadalupe Mountains

Hwy 62 runs right alongside the park.


The park is home to Texas’ highest point, its namesake, Guadalupe Peak, at 8,571 feet.  The “Top of Texas” alone is worthy of some respect, it would seem!

Competing with Guadalupe Peak for the jewel in the park’s crown is “El Capitan” (not to be confused with the mountain by the same name in Yosemite.) Although this rugged bluff is only the eighth highest in Texas, it is considered the “signature” of West Texas.

Yes, I know it is shocking, but I DID get up at sunrise to take this photo!

There are other reasons the park doesn’t get respect, the first being the ridiculous “campground.” It is nothing more than a parking lot with “zero lot line” white stripes painted to designate the RV spaces. No hook ups, no showers, and very few picnic tables.

Parking Lot “Campground”

The park also does not have any kind of scenic drive-through. You pass the Visitors Center along the highway, and that’s as far as you are getting in your automobile. This was the kind of park that would have driven Edward Abbey nuts, as he said in Desert Solitaire, “Industrial tourism is a threat to the national parks. But the chief victims of the system are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves. So long as they are unwilling to crawl out of their cars they will not discover the treasures of the national parks and will never escape the stress and turmoil of the urban-suburban complexes which they had hoped, presumably, to leave behind for a while.” The same goes for Guadalupe Mountain NP — unless you get OUT of your car, you are going to see very little of this park!

Trail through McKittrick Canyon

Texas Madrone Tree, with its smooth red-orange bark and shiny green leaves.

BUT where Guadalupe Mountain National Park does deserve respect is when it comes to hiking. Not only does it surround the highest mountain in Texas, but it is also home to over 80 miles of hiking trails, not only to the peak itself, but all around it.

My first day I did a five mile hike along the McKittrick Canyon, alongside a stream to the historic Pratt Cabin. This was the summer home of Wallace Pratt, who later donated 5,000 acres (including the cabin) of the surrounding land that makes up Guadalupe Mountain NP. It would have otherwise been a great trail, except they recently resurfaced it with an alternating mix of blinding white gravel and large round, ankle-rolling stones from the river. It was a beautiful hike, but the worst hiking surface I have ever seen.

Pratt Cabin, built in the 1930’s

This clear stream in McKittrick Canyon turned into a raging river during the floood of 2013.

The scenery was beautiful and the topography varied, but I was worn out at the end….not from the difficulty of the hike, but from crunching and rolling over rocks intentionally placed in the path. This repaving was due to a massive flood in September, 2013 when the park received more rain in three days than it typically does in an entire year, thereby wiping out the old path.  So much effort in repaving.  Hope they settle in before the next flood returns them to the river!

These giant stones are killing my feet!

Coming up….how I acquired respect for Guadalupe Mountain National Park…

8 thoughts on “The Rodney Dangerfield of National Parks

  1. Agree about that pathetic surface for a hiking trail. Obviously the idea of someone who doesn’t actually hike. Sheesh!

    I was there last year. The scenery blew my mind.

    • Hi, Kim — Yes, I agree about the scenery. I expected all of West Texas to be flat! Can’t wait for the “big trip plans!” Hope our paths will cross!

  2. Suzanne! how do I access your archives? I’ve been waiting to read all your posts from the Big Bend adventure! … I want to start there. All I see is previous… but no click on a particular time … have I got to do previous previous previous ? lol

    how many previoiuses do I have to previous?! Don? can you add an archives button? I got to read all this stuff. I haven’t read this one because I want to start from the beginning…. 😉

    • Hi, Carolyn — You should just be able to click down on the “Date of Travel.” If you click on March, you will see them all. The first two are fully expanded, but after that, you only see a couple of lines of text, and then you have to click to keep reading. So just scroll down until you see “Big Bend Top Ten.” That was the first one, but I think you read that one already since you left a comment. So just start with “Part Two.” There were a total of four posts on BB.

  3. How absolutely weird …. there was nothing … zero zip nada on your right sidebar last night or this morning. I went on a quest. I looked high and I looked low … nothing … clicked on your tab above of published travel narrative … noting.

    THEN yo ho … a sidebar appeared and I see what you are talking about … I see the months plus your recent posts!

    yay! …. wonder where the sidebar went … ‘morning 😉

  4. Well? I click on Home each time and there it is. It goes away with each post …

    Just read this post and I’ll previous .. haha…. Well? those rocks in that path as well as the unappetizing parking lot environment … just turn me off. That’s why I said before that you see things …. I will not. I took hikes when I as in the rain forests and waterfalls in the PNW …

    But the deserty rocky trails are just not my thing. I’m glad they are your thing and others because I get to see what I didn’t care to. LOVE the tree… I also like the shadows on rocky type bluffs and mountains. The colors in the desert are glorious in the mornings and evenings

    I loved to watch the clouds on the rocks … ! You do an excellent job of photographing and narration …

    Off the see the rest of Big Bend … 😉

    • I am not sure what’s going on, Carolyn. I will have to do some experimenting. Maybe the side bar only shows up from the home page, and once you click on a post, it is gone? I guess I need to spend more time understanding my own blog. LOL! Glad you at least got through them. I know they were lengthy, but then we saw so many different things there in the park. I never expected it to be so vast and varied.

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