Guadalupe Mountains National Park ranks as one of the least attended parks in the United States. Coming in at #48 (out of 59 in 2017), the park received only 225,257 visitors. While this west Texas park isn’t the easiest to get to, it’s surprising that it draws less than half the number of visitors to nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park (located less than one hour away).
March is frequently the most popular month, which is during the spring bloom and before the temperatures soar to nearly 100 degrees in the summertime months. The amazing fall colors draw a steady number of visitors as well, particularly on trails such as McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail.
Perhaps one reason for the light attendance is that most of the sights in the park require a bit of hiking. For those that are willing to strap on their boots and get on the trail, they are in for a great experience! Hikes in the park range from easy walks (like the 0.6-mile Manzanita Spring Trail) to the ambitious 8.1-mile Guadalupe Peak Trail, which rewards hikers with amazing views (along with plenty of wind and cold temperatures!).
The Devil’s Hall Trail is one of several moderately difficult trails in the park. We hiked it as a family in early 2018 and highly recommend it!
DEVILS HALL TRAIL DETAILS
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 4.2 miles (round-trip)
- Trail: Out-and-back
- Elevation gain: 682 feet
- Peak elevation reached: 6,362 feet
- Best time of year to hike: Early fall to spring, but good year-round
- To beat the crowds: Arrive before 9:00 am or after 2:00 pm
- Footwear: Hiking boots
- Watch out for: Sun exposure
- Restrooms: Located at the trailhead, but not on the trail
- Pets: Not allowed
- Time needed: 3-4 hours
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE DEVIL'S HALL TRAIL
Devils Hall Trail parking area, courtesy of the National Park Service
The hike starts from the Pine Springs Trailhead, located less than one mile from the Pine Springs Visitor Center near the Pine Springs Campground. Be sure to check out the visitor center ahead of getting on the hike, to get the latest information on the trail conditions and hear what the rangers recommend.
- Directions from the Pine Springs Visitor Center to the Devils Hall Trailhead (this will take only about three minutes, and traffic won’t be a problem!)
- Directions from Carlsbad, NM to the Devils Hall Trailhead (this will take only about an hour after you get out of the traffic of Carlsbad-that may be an issue if you are on the northern side of the city).
The parking area for the Devils Hall Trail isn’t large, and it is shared with other trails and is also the parking area for RVs that are staying overnight. There are about 40 parking spots. Though the lot is usually not full, if it is you may be in for a bit of a wait as many of the hikes from here are long.
There are clean restrooms at both the Visitor Center and the trailhead.
DEVILS HALL TRAIL: TRAIL SURFACE AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Trail surface. The trail early on is packed dirt and is fairly easy to hike on. However, there are some small crossings that dip down and require a bit of climbing. Once you get to the wash, the trail is rocky (with some rocks being very slippery).
- Accessibility. The trail is for people who are very steady on their feet. Those who cannot easily get around or even recover quickly from slipping should use great caution and talk to a ranger before heading out on the trail to make sure it is right for you.
PREPARATION FOR HIKING THE DEVILS HALL TRAIL
The trail is not too long, but you need to be prepared before heading out. There are a few things that we recommend:
- Water. We always recommend bringing plenty of water whenever you head out. It’s likely that you’ll be on the trail a bit longer than you normally would expect as some of the trail can be slow-going, so don’t skimp on the amount of water you bring. A hydration pack is a great option.
- Shoes. We recommend closed-toed shoes (we love these hiking shoes as they are not too bulky). Hiking boots are also a good option to prevent ankle turns.
- Trekking poles. This trail really challenges your balance and having hiking poles can really be a big help. We started using them when we turned 40, but now even our kids use them and won’t take many hikes without them!
- First aid kit. If you are hiking with a family, you will want to have a small hiking first-aid kit as it’s likely you’ll have a scrape or two after this hike!
- Sunblock. The first half of the hike is exposed and you’ll likely want to have sunblock with you.
DEVIL'S HALL TRAIL: THE FIRST MILE
Devils Hall Trail map, courtesy of the Natioanl Park Service
The trailhead starts on the western side of the parking lot. After a few yards, the Tejas Trail splits off to the north. About 50 yards later, the Devil’s Hall Trail separates to the north, away from the Guadalupe Peak Trail (which continues straight) and the El Capitan Trail (which heads south). The signs make it easy to see where you are going.
After separating from the Guadalupe Peak Trail, the path moves slowly uphill while hugging the side of the mountain. The well-maintained dirt trail is out in the open for most of the 1.0-mile trip before arriving at the wash.
There are a few small natural drainage crossings. However, unless there has been a lot of rain before your hike, you’ll manage to keep your boots dry without any problem.
This part of the trail is a breeze, climbing barely 200 feet. Before you know it, the path heads down into the wash and then the real fun begins!
After entering the wash, the actual “trail” disappears and hikers continue up the dry riverbed. Because of the time of year that we went to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the leaves hadn't come on the trees yet. However, if you want to see what it looks like in greener times of year, check out the great information and photos on Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National parks, as documented by Melissa Moore from Trekaroo.
Traveling in the riverbed alternates between easy walking and boulder scrambling. Navigating the rocks can be tricky, as many of them are smooth and unstable. We advise hikers to use either trekking poles or have your hands at the ready for balance. Hiking boots are highly recommended to avoid ankle or knee injuries.
Keep your eye out for reptiles as the park is home to poisonous snakes. While you are likely only to see lizards on this trail, it’s best to not put your hands in any crevasses if you can avoid it!
Your hiking pace will likely slow down while in the wash, but you’ll soon arrive at the natural staircase (known as the “hiker’s staircase”) that leads to Devil’s Hall!
Climbing the staircase requires some care. Most of the stairs are fairly narrow, so hikers with larger feet may have a more challenging time getting up than smaller children. Nevertheless, the staircase is passable for all ages.
Shortly after climbing up the ~15 feet of stairs, Devil’s Hall becomes fully visible. The hall is made of impressive limestone cliffs that reach over 100 feet high on both sides.
The trail ends abruptly at the end of the hall, and hikers are forced to retrace their steps back to the parking lot.
THE RETURN TRIP
On the way back, you’ll be heading downhill on the wash. Be especially careful, as you may be a bit tired from the first half of the hike. Stepping down onto slick rocks takes much more care than going up.
DEVILS HALL TRAIL: TOP LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Great for families. While this was not an easy hike, it wasn’t overly difficult and the kids loved scrambling over the rocks. The 4.2 miles really flew by!
- Varying Scenery. The trail had quite a variety of scenery, from open views to Devils Hall, which was really impressive.
- Lack of Crowds. Though you will see people on this trail, it won’t be crowded (since not many people come to this park).
- For sure-footed hikers only! You really need to be careful on the rocks in the wash. If there has been any rainfall ahead of your trip, you’ll need to be extra careful.
OTHER HIKES AT GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Guadalupe Mountains National Park has quite the variety of hikes worth exploring. Our Guadalupe Mountains National Park itinerary covers all the hikes and their locations. However, we thought it would be beneficial to include information about a few of them here:
Pine Springs and Frijole Ranch Areas:
- The challenging Guadalupe Peak Trail is the highlight of the park, climbing up to a 360-degree view of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can see for many miles. 1 miles total.
- The Smith Spring Trail goes through a desert landscape before arriving at a spring, which is a great place for wildlife spotting. 5 miles total.
McKittrick Canyon Area:
- The McKittrick Canyon Trail to the Grotto heads through diverse scenery (desert, streams, woods and canyons) and is commonly regarded as one of the best hikes in the park. 8 miles total.
- The Permian Reef Trail is challenging, and heads along the Wilderness Ridge. For those interested in geology, this trail is for you. Markers along the trail provide great information. 4 miles total.
Dog Canyon Area:
- The Indian Meadow Nature Trail teaches hikers about the local vegetation. 6 miles total.
- The Bush Mountain Trail to Marcus Overlook climbs to the peak of Bush Mountain with great views of West Dog Canyon. 5 miles total.
OTHER RELEVANT INFORMATION ON GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
- Be sure to visit the Guadalupe Mountains National Park You can also find a great set of Guadalupe National Park maps online as well.
- We have a lot of the hikes listed, but you can also check out a complete list of the Guadalupe Mountains Hiking Trails as well.
- Kristen (from Yonderlust Ramblings) has a great overview of other hikes and things to do in Guadalupe Mountains National Park that is definitely worth a read!
FURTHER INFORMATION ON GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Our downloadable itinerary for Guadalupe Mountains National Park can really help you out with your trip planning. We cover the best hikes, what to do in the area, where to stay and what to pack.
- For detailed information on the park, check out our blog on What to See and Do in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We also have a blog that covers all you need to know about Camping in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
- You may be interested in a great way to remember your vacation, so check out our Guadalupe Mountains National Park Poster.
- Looking for something a bit more unique? Our custom, vintage-style travel posters made from your own photo may be interesting. We’ve shipped thousands of these posters and they are the perfect way to remember your trip in a unique way!