After leaving White Sands, I took Interstate 10 through downtown El Paso, where the border to Mexico is visible from the highway, and east across Texas. It was a relatively short three-hour drive to the next park on my list, where I was amazed by the striking Guadalupe Mountains jutting thousands of feet out of the surrounding Chihuahua Desert landscape.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a smaller and lesser-known national park, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do. There are interesting hikes surrounding the limestone cliff mountains and a bounty of wildlife and colorful wildflowers to see along the way. On my hike of the Pinery Butterfield Stage Station Trail, I saw a handful of lizards, which are numerous in the park, and a variety of birds. Being less popular, the park was nearly empty when I visited, so it’s a great place for folks who don’t want a crowded trail.
The park was established in 1972 and is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this fall. It was protected by the government in part for its amazing geological features, including 265-million-year-old fossils. The Guadalupe Mountains are part of a fossil reef complex that is 400 miles long and has 12 exposed miles within the park. This is a great destination for kids and adults curious about dinosaurs and who enjoy a hike and a history lesson in one. This same fossil reef complex is home to over 300 caves, one of which was my next and final stop on the road trip.