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DON’T MISS: McKittrick Canyon, a sheltered, 2,000-foot-deep limestone chasm nourished by a year-round, spring-fed stream. Some call this the most beautiful spot in Texas. You’ll see why when you hike the canyon’s serpentine, 7-mile round-trip trail to the Grotto, where cactus and ferns grow side by side with hardwoods and ponderosa pine. The entrance road for McKittrick Canyon is 7 miles east of the park’s Pine Springs Visitor Center on U.S. Highway 62/180.


BACKPACKING DETAILS: The majority of the park is a designated wilderness area, providing numerous opportuni- ties for backpackers. Ten primitive campgrounds are sprinkled through the backcountry. If your goal is to reach the highest peak in Texas, an overnight at the Guadalupe Peak back- country campground, 1 mile below


the summit and a little more than 3 miles from the Pine Springs trailhead, is ideal. Backpackers willing to travel to other, more remote primitive camp- sites are likely to be the only humans for miles. Free backcountry-use permits are required. Note: Hikers must carry all necessary drinking water.


LOCAL WISDOM: Stake your tent down. Winds in excess of 80 miles per hour are not uncommon in the park.


DID YOU KNOW? This darkened corner of West Texas is one of the best places in the country to stargaze. On a cloud- less night, you might be tempted to lie awake for hours, enthralled by the galaxy’s immensity.


WHEN TO GO: Guadalupe Mountains National Park is open year-round, but spring and fall are generally the


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best seasons to visit. Except during mid-October to early November, when maple leaves turn and bathe McKittrick Canyon and other areas in red, orange and yellow, putting on a foliage show unrivaled in Texas, this is as lonely a national park as you’ll find outside of Alaska.


FOR MORE INFORMATION: nps.gov/gumo or 915-828-3251


GETTING THERE: Guadalupe Mountains National Park is in far West Texas on U.S. Highway 62/180. The driving distance is 110 miles east of El Paso, Texas, or 56 miles south- west of Carlsbad, N.M. ¿


LARRY RICE, who resides in Buena Vista, Colo., has written four books and more than 450 articles on wilderness travel and other related outdoor subjects.


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