Visiting When Its Busy

A brown directional sign with red notations of parking and campgrounds full
Full campgrounds and parking lots are no longer an unusual occurance on weekends in the spring and fall or holidays.

NPS Photo

When is it Busy?

A largely roadless wilderness park, the infrastructure at Guadalupe Mountains National Park was designed for a much lower level of visitation than the park is now experiencing. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in even more visitors seeking out the qualities of this special place. While much of the year the park may not feel crowded, the park experiences seasonal surges in the spring (March-May) and fall (September-December) that guarantee parking and developed camping will fill on weekends and during holidays.

Be Prepared For Full Parking Lots

With over eighty miles of trails, there's almost always space to hike, however, parking is limited throughout the park. During spring and fall weekends, it is not unusual for the parking at Pine Springs to fill to capacity. When these lots fill to capacity, visitors will be rerouted to other locations in the park. Be prepared with an alternative plan for hiking at McKittrick Canyon or other locations or consider visiting during the middle of the week. Epecially at Pine Springs, visitors are advised to walk to the trailhead or visitor center, as parking lots may be full throughout the day.

Developed Campgrounds Require Reservations

All of the developed campgrounds in the park are reservable in advance through the recreation.gov service. All available campsites at Pine Springs and Dog Canyon require reservations. Please make camping reservations in advance of your visit to ensure that you have a place to stay before driving all the way to the park.

Wilderness Camping

At present all overnight backpacking trips require a Wilderness Use Permit; these permits can be obtained at the Pine Springs Visitor Center. All wilderness camping sites require a hike of at least three miles, two thousand feet of elevation gain, and all water must be carried in. During busy weeks in the spring and fall, it is not unusual for the Guadalupe Peak Wilderness Campground to fill, so the park strongly encourages that you have a back up itinerary. A wilderness camping permit does not guarantee parking.

Operations modifications during peak visitation

During peak visitation periods, visitors should keep in mind the following:

  • “One-in, one-out” traffic control measures may be in place at Pine Springs and McKittrick Canyon when all parking is full and heavy congestion warrants.
  • To meet demand to the visitor center, the park may insittute control measures, to include:
    • Reduced capacity inside the visitor center
    • Closure of the exhibit area
    • Additional COVID restrictions may be in place, depending on the latest CDC guidance.

What should I do if the park is full when I arrive?

While there is no commercial or dispersed camping immediately ajacent the park, an hours drive north, west, or south will take you to alternatives for camping outside the park. If parking is full at Pine Springs, have an alternative location within the park in mind, or consider nearby attractions such as Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Do not park along U.S. Highway 62/180 if parking areas are full.

 
A uniformed ranger in a safety vest talks to the occupants of a pickup at the lead of a line of cars

Parking

On busy weekends, parking is the resource that is in the shortest supply. Have a backup plan and learn when different areas are busy.

A bright tent in a tent campsite with mountains behind it.

Developed Campgrounds

Learn about primitive tent and RV camping at the Pine Springs and Dog Canyon campgrounds.

A visitor takes photographs in the gypsum dunes

Things To Do

Hikes, historic sites and other things to do during your visit.

Tall desert mountain cliffs are framed by bright orange maple leaves

Fall Colors at Guadalupe Mountains

Experience Fall Colors by hiking in McKittrick Canyon. Shorter hikes to color can be found on the Smith Spring trail or along Devil’s Hall.

Last updated: August 26, 2022

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

400 Pine Canyon
Salt Flat , TX 79847

Phone:

915-828-3251
Voicemail messages are responded to within five business days.

Contact Us

Stay Connected