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!
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The Devil's Hall Trail is one of many hikes and sights highlighted in our 14+ page itinerary for Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE DEVIL'S HALL TRAIL
The hike starts from the Pine Springs Trailhead, located less than one mile from the Pine Springs Visitor Center. There are clean restrooms at both the Visitor Center and the trailhead. Parking is limited but, seeing as though the park is not usually crowded, competition for parking should not be a problem most of the year.
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.
DEVIL'S HALL TRAIL: THE FIRST MILE
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!
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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.
- We can’t emphasize enough that you need to be careful on the rocks in the wash. If there has been any rainfall before your trip, you’ll need to be extra careful.
- Make sure to wear good hiking shoes or boots.
- The first half of the trail is exposed. Depending on the time of day, you may end up getting sunburned if you are not protected.
- This hike is great for families. Our kids loved scrambling over the rocks in the wash, and the 4.2 miles flew by!
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.
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