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  1. #1
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    Default Tips Needed (Guadalupe Mountains NP)

    Hello, from Texas. I'm new here, so I'll start with a little background. After years of car camping as a kid and a few times with my wife (who grew up RV camping every summer) we've started to get a bit more adventurous with our destinations and have done a handful of hike-in base camping. Now that we've got a bit more/better gear and we think we're ready to try something a bit more challenging.

    It was kind of a sput of the moment idea, but since she (teacher) will be off for spring break, I decided to take that time off as well. We talked about going to Big Bend (never been) for a few days, but after reading about it more, it seems like spring break is the busiest time of year and we really want to go get lost somewhere and have some peace and quiet. Sooo.... After some more searching we've decided to check out Guadalupe Mountains NP. It seems to be more of a hidden gem and (fingers crossed) less populated.

    Now we're in the planning stages and sadly we didn't really give ourselves much time to prepare... That's where I'm going to need some help/advice.

    The idea is 4 days/3 nights (maybe 5/4 to make the drive home easier) starting at McKittrick Trailhead. Not sure how long it's going to take us to get from one spot to the next without overextending ourselves, since we've never been there. Obviously we'd like to see a little of everything, but I don't think that's possible given the time frame and water requirements. Oh and for reference I'd say we're moderately active. I'm built like your typical thru-hiker (skinny with an unstoppable metabolism) and she's of average build; not a beanpole like me, but not fat. We don't have gym memberships or do workout routines, but we often do 3-4 mile day hikes near home with packs.

    Current thought:
    Day 1: McKittrick Trailhead--> McKittrick Ridge
    Day 2: McKittrick Ridge --> Blue Ridge Trail --> Bush Mountain ???Too far???
    Day 3: Bush Mountain --> Bowl Trail --> Bear Canyon Trail --> Pine Springs ???Too far???
    Day 4: Pine Springs --> Devil's Canyon Trail --> Guadalupe Peak
    Day 5: Guadalupe Peak --> Pine Springs --> Home

    Concerns:
    Ideas for carrying enough water?
    I'll check the forecast but should I bring rain gear just in case?
    Do I need to shorten my route?
    How do I get back to my car? I doubt I can call an Uber from Pine Springs.


    Any advice is greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by Animag771; 02-21-2020 at 16:00.

  2. #2
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    I've hiked the Guadalupe "Mountains" a few years ago. I can't help you plan your route since I only did several day hikes.

    A good rule of thumb is one liter of water for every five miles of trail. E.g. if it's ten miles between water sources, then bring at least two liters of water per person.

    If y'all hike 3-4 miles a day regularly, then I'd say it's a safe bet that y'all can do 10-12 miles a day for 3 or 4 days pretty comfortably.

    Lastly, I hiked the Guadalupe Mountains during spring break and it'll definitely be crowded. Especially on the popular trails like El Capitan.

    Gig'em and God bless from the Austin area.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the reply. From what I've been reading, it doesn't seem like there will be ANY water sources until we get down to the Pine Springs campground. So that means having to carry about 3 days worth of water. Not sure how I'm going to accomplish that considering we only have about 9L worth of containers for water storage... Maybe I'll have to get creative with my vacuum sealer and make some bags The rule of thumb on water consumption is really helpful. Looks like I'll have to download the trail maps and do some math to figure out exactly how far we'll be hiking. Every we've gone somewhere it's been near a lake or river, so this will be the first time having to carry our water. At least on Day 1 we can camel up and refill before we head out.

    I kind of figured it would still be pretty busy, but I imagine it still won't be as bad as Big Bend would be. We plan to arrive on Monday the 13th so hopefully a lot of the weekend campers will have left. Since it will still be busy, that's why I added the detour of Bush Mountain since it's a bit farther out of the way.

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    So I mapped it all out online and the full hike comes out to 34 miles. So as far as water goes, it'll look something like this...

    --Camel Up--
    Day 1: 7.6mi
    Day 2: 8 mi
    Day 3: 7.4mi
    --Refill Water--
    Day 4: 6.9mi
    Day 5: 4.1mi

  5. #5
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    Never been to Guadalupe, but curious to know if the 1 liter per 5-miles rule of thumb includes water for cooking.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    Never been to Guadalupe, but curious to know if the 1 liter per 5-miles rule of thumb includes water for cooking.
    I'm pretty sure that's just a rule of thumb for when you're hiking, not once you get to camp. Any cooking would require you to bring additional water.

  7. #7

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    Where are you parking? Is overnight parking allowed there? You may have to pay for a "space." I think it was $14/day when I was there.

    Without looking at the map myself, is there any places where you could cache water ahead of time? It may take you a little off your scheduled path but an extra couple of miles for water could be well worth NOT carrying it until you need it. And if you do cache water - label it with your name and dates of hiking so people know it's not for them. Be aware that all water in the park is "protected" and is for the animals.

    I am not sure that this would apply to your route or this time of year, but you may want to make sure you avoid places that could have flash floods (canyons).
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  8. #8
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    Oh. Good thinking, I didn't even consider a parking charge. The only fee the NPS website shows is a $10/person entrance fee which is good for up to 7 consecutive days. I'll be sure to come prepared for a parking fee, just in case.

    I did consider caching water (which I only learned of today) but sadly the only viable location to cache would require the better part of a day to get to in order to save half a day of water. It just doesn't seem worth it to me.

    Also didn't think about the flash flooding issue (this is why I need this site). There are two canyon sections on the itinerary, one is our starting point and the second should be avoided with a small detour if we end up with unfavorable weather.

  9. #9
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    I've backpacked now two big trips in GNP, once just recently (last December), I love the place. I certainly wasn't charged any "parking fee" for overnight parking inside the park, never heard of that. Nor are there any flash flood areas to worry about.

    There is a spring we found when hiking what's now called the Guadalupe Ridge trail:

    http://guadaluperidgetrail.com/

    But there is no guarantee that water will be flowing this year. when exactly are your dates? My last trip I had unlimited water because of existing snow I could melt. The southern aspects were dry, but there was plenty of snow on north facing slopes. I doubt though that this will help you. I'll take a close look at your itinerary and report back, though it will probably be next Friday, as I leave in a few hours for a Utah BP trip.

    Great choice, I like GNP better than BBNP, though BBNP is definitely worth a visit.

  10. #10
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    One thought is 3 separate 1-night trips, it's what I almost did my last trip, this eliminates both the water and car shuttle issues.

    Three trips, in no particular order:

    1) Hike up to the camp just below Guadalupe Peak, camp, summit the next morning and hike down. You could easily do this starting fairly late in the day, 3-4 hours up to camp, an hour to the peak the next morning, 3-4 hours down.

    2) definitely McKittrick ridge.... up the canyon to the ridge, topping off your water just as you leave the creek, camp somewhere up high, reverse you course back down. This might be my favorite hike in the park. Don't skip the Grotto area for a visit but really, this hike is all about that spectacular ridge. If you COULD somehow arrange a rid, you could descend to Pine springs via the Tejas rather than reverse course.

    3) From Pine Springs, go up the Tejas trail, do the Hunter-Bush Mtn loop then back down Tejas, camping somewhere high, there are a couple of choices.

    We've used this multiple day but single overnight scheme a couple times now, last time was in Canyonlands NP, three separate 1-nighters, returning to the truck twice to fill up water and resupply food. Works great in places with no water supply.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    One thought is 3 separate 1-night trips, it's what I almost did my last trip, this eliminates both the water and car shuttle issues.

    Three trips, in no particular order:

    1) Hike up to the camp just below Guadalupe Peak, camp, summit the next morning and hike down. You could easily do this starting fairly late in the day, 3-4 hours up to camp, an hour to the peak the next morning, 3-4 hours down.

    2) definitely McKittrick ridge.... up the canyon to the ridge, topping off your water just as you leave the creek, camp somewhere up high, reverse you course back down. This might be my favorite hike in the park. Don't skip the Grotto area for a visit but really, this hike is all about that spectacular ridge. If you COULD somehow arrange a rid, you could descend to Pine springs via the Tejas rather than reverse course.

    3) From Pine Springs, go up the Tejas trail, do the Hunter-Bush Mtn loop then back down Tejas, camping somewhere high, there are a couple of choices.

    We've used this multiple day but single overnight scheme a couple times now, last time was in Canyonlands NP, three separate 1-nighters, returning to the truck twice to fill up water and resupply food. Works great in places with no water supply.
    OP, I would definitely suggest you think about this. Water availability, and the consequences of running out, are serious considerations there.

  12. #12

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    Here is a link to a trip report I posted here after I hiked in that park:

    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthr...ark?highlight=

    In arid conditions like in west Texas I drink around five liters of water a day when hiking so I would not want to go more than a day or slightly more between water stops.
    Life Member: ATC, ALDHA, Superior Hiking Trail Association

  13. #13
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    @colorado_rob
    Thanks for the infor on the "parking fee", glad to know I shouldn't be charged anything on that. Also I appreciate you confirming the concern regarding possible flood areas as all I have to go on is some maps... None of which have flood zones marked.

    Chances are that the spring you mentioned probably won't be on our route, considering the Guadalupe Ridge trail is 100 miles long. Snow shouldn't be present either so there's no chance of melting snow for water, as you did. I've looked up the historical weather data for Pine Springs and it looks like it'll be in the low 70's during the day and low 50's at night. Looks like the weather should be nice with practically no chance of rain (4% avg historically), clear skies and 12hrs of sunlight each day.

    As far as our dates, the idea is to drive through the night (Friday, March 13) to arrive before the visitor center opens (March 14th) to get first dibs on permits. Then sleep in the car for a few hours before heading out. We'll be heading back home, March 18th sometime in the afternoon.

    I like where your head's at with the suggestion of making this into separate 1-night trips and I don't doubt that it's an effective strategy opposed to hauling water long distances... However the whole idea of this trip was to see how it would be to hike to each campsite without the need to backtrack. Similar to a thru-hike. I feel that I have yet to put myself or my gear to the test and would like to get some good miles under my feet. This trail seems like a pretty safe way to do that and to put myself in a new situation. Know that your advice is not falling on deaf ears though. I have considered it and I intend to go this route (multiple 1-nighters) if we are unable to find transportation to McKittrick Canyon.

    @Paleolith54
    I completely agree that the consequences of running out of water could prove to be serious. I am doing my best to find the balance between running out of water and carrying too much. It's a tricky topic because you have to bring enough water to prevent dehydration but bringing too much will also increase your fatigue, which will make you drink more water. I think I've found a middle ground and have planned 3 alternate (shorter) routes to water sources if things go awry, which hopefully we wont have to take, but at least we've got options.


    Guadalupe Itinerary.png

    Attached is the map of my route, starting at the NE and heading S. The blue dots (it's a bit off near Guadalupe Peak) are where I intend to camp each night. I'm thinking 10L (about 3.5/day) of water per person, since we will be able to drink to our hearts content before heading out on day 1 and again as soon as we get to camp on day 3. That reduces our water requirement by (+/- .5L) for day 1, not so much for day 3. We'll also be able to refill before heading out on day 4. I also don't plan on using water for cooking (maybe some cocoa) until we have access to water on the third night. As for water storage it looks like this...

    x4 - 1L Smart Water bottles (1 per shoulder strap and 1 per bottle holder)
    x1 - 1L Sawyer Squeezable Pouch (inside pack)
    x1 - 8L Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack (filled with 5L of water and placed inside pack)

    I know the dry sack isn't technically made for hauling water but I've found many reports of people who use it that way and reported no leaks. I'll test this in a few days and if the water makes its way through the bag over a 48hr period, I'll test it again using a trash bag inside the dry sack. Another reason I like this storage method is that I'll be able to use it as a food storage bag, hanging bear bag or dry bag for kayaking on future adventures. I only intend to fill it with 5L so it fits more easily into my pack and doesn't bulge. This puts my total weight (for water and containers) right around 22.5lb for the first night which will drop by about 7.5lb per day.

    Opinions/suggestions???
    Last edited by Animag771; 02-24-2020 at 22:24.

  14. #14

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    I second/third Colorado_Rob's 'multiple day but single overnight scheme' - great way to do it. GMNP is a gem and a must-do for every Texan who loves the outdoors! It's the highest you can get in the Lone Star State after all - at least legally speaking! Also, there are other great spots out that way as you're not far from Carlsbad, Hueco Tanks, and Monahans is worth a stop as well. Enjoy!

  15. #15
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    Here's my gear list as of now. I'll have to finish hers later, because I'm not sure what else she intends to bring.

    Mine: https://lighterpack.com/r/qn1z1i
    My wife's: https://lighterpack.com/r/4ozu3w

  16. #16
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    Cool, cool cool! I like your plan, and I understand not wanting to do the 1-night x3 scheme.

    I'd personally be much less concerned about "running out of water" and slightly more concerned about cold conditions up high along your route. Per your plan, after meandering a couple few miles in the pleasant McKittrick canyon in nice shade, lots of water, etc, then you climb steeply up to some decent elevation where you'll stay until you descend to a nice water tap at Pine springs. Hiking at the lower elevations of GNP or in the hotter months, sure, water can be critical, but in your case, if the weather is unusually hot up high and you're running low on day two, you just dive down the Tejas trail to Pine springs, skip Bush Mtn and you'd be fine.

    The attached pic shows a couple buds one morning along the GRT, very near the elevation along the higher points of your route on APRIL 2nd, three weeks after you'll be there, we had a morning temperature of 15 degrees, not sure how cold it got in the wee hours, maybe down to 10 or so, plus it poured on us the afternoon before, thankfully we got camp set up and stayed dry. Talk about frost the next morning though. It was actually gorgeous.

    Don't count on great weather is what I'm saying. If I remember correctly, the heavy rain and sharp cold we had that afternoon/night was a complete surprise and was not in the forecast.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  17. #17
    Garlic
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    I don't have any backpacking experience in GNP, just a day hike decades ago with no clear memory of it. But I have a lot of desert experience, with hikes of the CDT and the Arizona Trail, for instance. I've done lots of dry camps.

    Your first dry camp will need a lot of water, up to 1.5 liters per person per night. After many dry camps, you can get that down to 0.5 per person. (Stoveless hiking helps in that regard.) My wife and I can hike in temperate desert conditions (80F or so) at the rate of 10 miles per liter, and as a couple can make 40 miles between water sources in two days, carrying six liters of water each, well hydrated and with a safety factor. But this took many desert trips.

    GNP could be a good place to start getting that experience. As one of the hikes from a base camp, try at least one overnighter and see how you do with water consumption. My wife and I did that sort of thing on warm-up hike for the PCT, on a section of the CDT in southern New Mexico. The desert experience was invaluable.

    One lesson learned on that trip was to not use any single container larger than two liters. I had a 4L container that leaked badly, luckily within a mile of our water source so I could go back and refill. The consequences could have been severe a day later. Now we carry three 2-liter Platypus bladders each, along with a 1-liter bottle for drinking.

    Always have a plan for bailout if your planned water source is dry. That might mean a cross country hike (with a good map) to another source, or having an extra liter for ten more miles, etc. Along the AZT, I would look for cattle around distant wind mills for instance, and would note them on my DeLorme Atlas small scale map. That map also showed every little ranch road and two-track for bailing out.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  18. #18
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Just to reiterate, doing your route in GNP in early-mid March will be nothing like desert hiking where water is super-critical. Well, of course water is always super critical, but what I mean is that you'll be doing a fairly cool-weather hike, where the only place you will be quite toasty is near the two major trailheads.

    FWIW, I would not take anywhere near 10L of water per person, or did I misunderstand your scheme? If I were doing this, my wife with me, I would be leaving the MC trailhead with maybe 12L total (for 2) plus both of our bellies full and fully pre-hydrated, then I would try to down another liter (each) along the McKittrick canyon trail up to the Grotto (I can't remember, maybe 3 miles?), refill those two liters there, then head up to the ridge, where we'd both probably down another liter before reaching camp. Now we have 10 liters of water, 5 each with us, for the next day and a half, which will be plenty. Your big climb is out of the way and you're in decent tree coverage all the way until you descend the Tejas trail back to Pine springs.

  19. #19
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    I don't have any tips since I've never been there. I want to go some day. Please let me know how it goes.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Just to reiterate, doing your route in GNP in early-mid March will be nothing like desert hiking where water is super-critical. Well, of course water is always super critical, but what I mean is that you'll be doing a fairly cool-weather hike, where the only place you will be quite toasty is near the two major trailheads.

    FWIW, I would not take anywhere near 10L of water per person, or did I misunderstand your scheme? If I were doing this, my wife with me, I would be leaving the MC trailhead with maybe 12L total (for 2) plus both of our bellies full and fully pre-hydrated, then I would try to down another liter (each) along the McKittrick canyon trail up to the Grotto (I can't remember, maybe 3 miles?), refill those two liters there, then head up to the ridge, where we'd both probably down another liter before reaching camp. Now we have 10 liters of water, 5 each with us, for the next day and a half, which will be plenty. Your big climb is out of the way and you're in decent tree coverage all the way until you descend the Tejas trail back to Pine springs.
    You can NOT refill your water from natural water sources within Guadalupe. The water sources are protected.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

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