Along the Texas-New Mexico border is Guadalupe Mountains National Park, one of America’s most remote and least visited national parks. Home to the highest peak in Texas, Guadalupe Peak, this park sees relatively few visitors due to its location and lack of facilities.
Although the number of visitors has been climbing in recent years, many people still wonder: is Guadalupe Mountains National Park safe?
The short answer is yes, Guadalupe Mountains Nationa Park is safe. However, there are some things you should be aware of before you head into the park. Let’s get into the details.
What Are the Biggest Dangers in Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
The most common danger and the biggest threat in Guadalupe Mountains National Park is exposure to the elements.
Not crime, not wildlife, but the sun, wind, and cold. Specifically, the heat.
Of course, there are also the usual dangers that come with any wilderness area. There are steep cliffs once you start climbing, scrambles that can be tricky, and loose rocks everywhere.
But if you take the necessary precautions and come prepared, then these dangers are easily avoidable.
However, with no water sources and very little shade, it’s easy to become dehydrated or develop heat stroke. Make sure you bring plenty of water and take frequent breaks if you’re hiking in the summer months.
The wind in the Guadalupe Mountains can also be brutal. On average, the wind speed is around 20 mph. But it’s not uncommon for wind gusts to reach up to 50 or 60 mph, year-round.
In addition, during the summer months, there are often closures due to fire risk due to high-to-extreme fire danger. Please check with the park before you go to see if any trails are closed.
And just to repeat, once you get to the backcountry, there is no available water source. You must absolutely bring all the water you will need for your hike. Plan accordingly and be aware of your water consumption.
Is Guadalupe Mountains National Park safe at night?
Guadalupe National Park is relatively safe at night, although it is recommended that you camp in a group and avoid hiking alone after dark.
Hiking through a mountain poses its own unique dangers and it’s always best to be prepared.
When hiking through mountainous terrain at night, you should always:
- let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return
- bring a flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries
- wear sturdy shoes and clothing
- be aware of your surroundings at all times
And lastly, please be aware that most wildlife you’ll encounter at Guadalupe Mountains National Park are nocturnal – meaning that if you’re out for a night hike, you’re more likely to encounter animals than during the day.
What Should I Do if I Encounter a Dangerous Animal in Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
While getting up close and personal with wildlife while hiking may be a thrilling experience for some, it’s important to remember that they are still wild animals – and should be treated as such.
While most of the wildlife in the Guadalupe Mountains are harmless, there are some animals that you should be aware of, such as:
- Mountain lions
- Black bears
Most wildlife will leave you alone if you leave them alone. If you do encounter an animal on the trail, give them plenty of space and do not approach them.
However, if things take a turn for the worse, it’s important to know what to do.
If you encounter a mountain lion, javelina, or a bobcat, you should:
- stand up tall and make yourself as big as possible
- wave your arms and make noise
- do not turn away or run – they will see you as prey
If you encounter a rattlesnake, on the other hand, you should:
- remain calm and still
- avoid making sudden movements
- give the snake plenty of space to move away
- Never attempt to handle a venomous snake – even if it is dead.
Getting to know how to handle the different types of wildlife if you ever were to encounter them is an important part of staying safe, not just in the Guadalupe Mountains, but anywhere out in the wilderness.
Is It Safe to Go Alone to Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
Generally, yes – it is safe to go to Guadalupe Mountains National Park alone.
Some people love hiking alone, others enjoy hiking in a group.
I say as long as you’re familiar with all the necessary tools, gear, and techniques for being safe in the wilderness – then go right ahead!
However, if you’re new to hiking or are not confident in your abilities to hike solo, I would recommend joining a group. That way, if anything were to happen, there’s someone there to help. And again, even for experienced hikers, there are a few unique challenges to Guadalupe such as its mountainous terrain, and lack of available water sources.
How Safe Is It to Camp in Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
Camping in Guadalupe Mountains National Park is safe, but for your own safety and the safety of others, please follow the Leave No Trace principles.
Some things to keep in mind when camping in Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
- always camp in a designated campsite
- never camp near wildlife
- be aware of your surroundings at all times
- never leave food or trash out in the open clean up after yourself
- bring enough water to last you the entire trip
As I said, the water part is critical. Once you’re in the backcountry, there are no water sources, so this usually limits most camping and backpacking trips out in Guadalupe Mountains National Park to 3 days or less.
And as far as food and trash goes, remember that you are in bear country. Bears have an incredible sense of smell, so it’s important to store all food and trash properly.
Most black bears are harmless, they’re actually pretty afraid of humans. However, the problem with black bears arises when they get used to humans – which often happens when people don’t follow the proper food storage procedures.
When bears become used to humans, they often become aggressive and have to be put down. So please, for the sake of the bears (and your safety), make sure to store all food and trash properly.
How Safe Is It to Hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
Barring a few very difficult hikes, most of the hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park are safe for solo hikers and groups alike.
Of course, as with anything else, there are certain safety precautions that you should take when hiking, such as:
- wearing the proper footwear
- bringing enough water
- staying on the trail
- bring a map of the trails
- not hiking alone if you’re inexperienced
Those are just a few of the most important safety precautions to take when hiking. In general, if you’ve gone hiking before, the trails in the Guadalupe Mountains are really no different than many other trails.
If you haven’t gone hiking before, I would suggest reading about the biggest beginner hiking mistakes, so you can avoid making them yourself.
But in short, yes – it is safe to hike in the Guadalupe Mountains. And it’s quite beautiful too.
Is It Safe to Bring the Kids to Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a great place to bring the kids. There are plenty of things for them to see and do, and as long as you take the necessary safety precautions, they’ll be fine.
Some tips for traveling with children in Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
- plan your trip ahead of time
- pack plenty of snacks and drinks
- dress them in comfortable clothing
- be aware of your surroundings at all times
- have a first-aid kit handy
- teach them about Leave No Trace principles
- follow all park rules and regulations
One thing to keep in mind – Guadalupe Mountains National Park just updated its regulations as of June 21st, 2022, regarding human waste requirements. I thought this was very important to know about if you’re planning a trip with the kids.
All day hikers and overnight backpackers will now be required to use a landfill-safe toilet bag system for their waste.
You can read more about it here.
I thought I’d mention it here because, let’s face it, kids sometimes have accidents. And other times, they just can’t hold it in as well as an adult. And it’s always better to be prepared for those situations.
So, in short – yes, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a great place to bring the kids. Just make sure you’re prepared, you know the rules and regulations, and you take the necessary safety precautions.
Is It Safe to Bring My Pets to Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
For the most part, leashed pets are only allowed in areas accessed by vehicles. They are not allowed in the following areas:
- park buildings
- in all of the backcountry
- on all park trails, except for the Pinery Trail and the Pine Springs Campground trail.
There is an exception for service animals, which are allowed in all areas, except for the park trails.
So, generally, it’s going to be pretty safe to bring your pets to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, as long as you follow the rules and regulations.
However, I would not recommend bringing your pet if you’re planning on doing any backpacking or hiking. The best thing to do would be to find a friend or family member who can watch them for you while you’re gone.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a safe place to hike, camp, and explore – but just like anything else, you still need to take be prepared for the unexpected.
Familiarize yourself with park rules and check for updates on the NPS website before your trip. With a little preparation, your visit will be enjoyable and worry-free. Have you been to Guadalupe Mountains National Park? What was your experience like?