SW National Parks, USA • Trip

›› 19 September - 01 October 2010

Fall National Parks Trip

Five of us drove from Austin for a busy tour of five National Parks in four states. Clicking on the photos will enlarge them but they don't really do the scenery justice.

  • As the first day wore on we were greeted with a little rain in west Texas.

    Somebody turn on the wipers!

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

  • Our first stop was Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas, seen here in the distance as we approached. This section of road had lots of tarantulas crossing it in the late afternoon.

    We camped at the Pine Springs campground, which has an elevation of about 5500 feet.

  • The next day we hiked the eight mile trek to Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.  The hike starts with a pretty steep ascent, with a 3000 foot elevation change overall.

    The trail is quite rocky for the most part (hey it leads up a mountain so of course it is rocky).

  • After a four hour hike we reached the peak. The marker says something about how American Airlines helped open up the west. We ate lunch hoping the clouds below us would open up but they didn't.

  • Our cheapy altimeter is somewhat accurate.

  • The trail includes this short bridge between the peak and the hiker campground. As you can see, it is still cloudy.

  • Eventually we got below the clouds and could see the campground. The RV section on the left is really just a parking lot.

Carslbad Caverns National Park

  • Tuesday we left for a tour of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. The day started with a bang (literally) when a turkey vulture took off just as we were driving by. Unfortunately for the bird, it was it's last flight. The van had a minor dent in the hood but no other damage. The drive up to the caverns from Whites City was much greener than expected. There must have been some rain recently.

  • The cavern pictures have been edited to compensate for the low lighting.

Mesa Verde National Park

After a couple of days in Santa Fe (with some heavy rain!), we headed for Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. The Morefield campground is quite large but the sites are well isolated from each other. Despite all the warnings, no bears showed up to greet us although some deer did pass through the campground.

  • Spruce Tree House is a short hike down into a valley.

  • Cliff Palace is a ranger guided tour with up to fifty of your new BFFs (well, maybe not).

  • It looks like the owner of this nest is pretty big.

  • Square Tower House is one of several cliff dwellings visible on the Mesa Top loop.

  • Late in the day, heading back to the campground, this coyote wandered out on to the road in front of us.

  • Driving from Mesa Verde into Utah is quite scenic.

Arches and Canyonlands

Follow the link to continue the journey to Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

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