Guadalupe Mountains National Park — unexpected

My day trip to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park didn’t turn out as expected but the unexpected was worth the trip. I usually have two goals in mind when exploring new places on day trips — someplace my dog will enjoy and someplace where I can get some great photo ops. Studying my maps a few weeks ago, I noticed that, although in Texas and not my home state of New Mexico, the Guadalupe Mountains National Park was only 75 miles from me.

The unexpected included the spectacular scenery but also a few negatives so be prepared if you take the trip. There is a large visitor’s center but dogs are not allowed and I wasn’t willing to leave mine in the car so I passed on the visitor’s center. Sometimes if I carry him in his sling, people will let me slide but not this time. And since he has medical issues, I didn’t want to leave him tied up outside while waiting for me.

My biggest disappointment was that there are no driving tours through the park. The only way to access the park other than the camping area and the visitor’s center is by walk-in hiking. And no dogs are allowed on the trails! Bummer. We did spend some time exploring the campground area, checking out potential tent sites for future use and there is one paved walking trail by the visitor’s center that does allow canines.

From the website: Opportunities for pets are limited. Leashed pets may walk on the short Pine Springs Campground connector trail or along the Pinery Trail from the visitor center to the Butterfield Stage Station.

The morning in July when we were there we saw numerous hikers and backpackers getting ready to hit the trails from the parking lot. There was also a large bus full of teens and their chaperones. I’m not too fond of hiking with crowds but I’m sure if you go far enough, it starts to thin out. The tent camping areas were about half full and the parking lot with RVs was also about half full.

The park ranger standing outside the visitor’s center did tell me about some photography worthy scenery about four miles farther down the road but we decided to save that drive for another time. There are bathroom buildings that are accessible from the parking lots at the Pine Springs Visitor’s Center and campground. If you do decide to hike into the park, be sure to read all the information first and be prepared for changeable weather.

Roswell Beyond the UFOs — Nature Areas Near Roswell

Thousands upon thousands of fans and the curious descend upon Roswell every July for the Alienfest. You will also find the International UFO Museum and various trading posts busy with tourists throughout the year. But did you know that there are two large nature spots just a few miles outside of Roswell?

Bottomless Lakes State Park is 14 miles southeast of Roswell and has stayed open for camping and swimming throughout COVID restrictions. Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge, home of the annual Dragonfly Festival, is just 7 miles northeast of Roswell.

I visited Bottomless Lakes for a day trip in June 2021 and Bitter Lake in August 2021. There is a large visitor’s center at Bitter Lake that is currently closed but the hiking trails and driving tour are both open. Fall and winter is the time to see all the migrating birds, including thousands of Sandhill Cranes, but I was still fortunate to be able to photograph several species, including stilts and a heron.

At Bottomless Lakes, I drove through the campground, parked at the picnic area and walked down to the largest swimming lake, chatted with the workamper couple who mans the little visitor’s center, and took the scenic drive around the park. There are numerous smaller lakes along the route and several primitive camping spots (non-reservable).

Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge is free and is open during daylight hours. Bottomless Lakes State Park has a $5 fee for day use and a separate fee for camping. Annual passes are also available for purchase.

I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Bottomless Lakes State Park:

Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge: