Vehicle: Dodge Caravan
Camp Setup: 2 Person Tent
The Pine Springs camp sites are amazing! Each camp site is tucked away amongst trees and cacti, creating something of a mini-interpretive trail just getting to your site. This provided some much appreciated seclusion and privacy from other campers, but was not overly inconvenient for unpacking or using facilities. When we arrived, it was snowing, creating an absolutely magical atmosphere!
The campground includes plenty of parking for campers, as well as a few restrooms at the end of campground road.
As others have noted, the campground is currently first-come-first-serve. We arrived late morning (11 am or so), and most of the spots were already taken by that point. It was snowing and near freezing, so I can imagine that the spots go even quicker in better weather.
I've stayed at campgrounds in other National Parks (Glacier, Zion, Bryce Canyon), and this is by far my favorite thus far. Very highly recommend!
A visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park is not complete without a hike up to Guadalupe Peak which the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet (2,667 m). This trip was better and brighter because I had the opportunity to test a new light system by HeadSpin Outdoors.
On your way into the park fill up with gas and pick up supplies either in the towns of Fort Stockton, Pecos or Van Horn. The route passing through Pecos is more direct, but the road is often crowded with large trucks traveling to the oil fields. The route that passes through Van Horn is longer, but more relaxing and scenic. I advise taking the route through Van Horn.
Guadalupe Mountains National Parks operates on a first come first served basis and does not take campsite reservations. If you are driving to the park from one of the major Texas cities such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio or Austin you must leave early in the morning (4am) to arrive early at the park (1pm) in order to secure a campsite. The drive is typically 8 to 10 hours. We elected for a different plan. We left after work at 6pm on Thursday, drove 5 hours and camped at Monahans Sandhills State Park. Reservations can be made at almost all of the Texas State Parks, so we made a reservation at Monahans Sandhills SP. We knew that we could arrive late and still have a reserved campsite. Then the next day we continued to GMNP at a leisurely pace. We arrive by 1pm and secured one of many available campsites - #12.
Arriving by mid-day allowed us the option to choose between a number of short trails to acquaint ourselves with the park and acclimatize to the higher altitude. We had the options to explore The Devils Hall trail, The Smith Spring trail or The Pratt Cabin trail. We elected to hike the Pratt Cabin trail.
The Pratt Cabin trail was a nice introduction to the park for the first time visitors in our group. The trail is a 4.8 miles long out and back hike, relatively flat and the leaves were just starting to change colors. There was water in the creek. And at the turnaround point of our hike there was a historic stone cabin - Pratt Lodge. We returned to camp and had a nice meal. Campfires are not allowed in GMNP so we brought a propane camp stove.The night was cool, but pleasant.
The next day we woke up early and set off for the hike up to Guadalupe Peak. The hike typically take about 4 hours up and 3 hours down. We left early at 8am so that we could avoid the potential crowds. Our group summited without any problems in about 3:30 hours. We celebrated at the top, took some photos, signed the log book and took in the views. We then descended the trail. On our way down the wind picked up and at one corner the wind was whipping around at what I would estimate 40 mph. We reached our campsite by early afternoon and relaxed. At the Pine Springs campsite the winds picked up speed and for the rest of the day and into the night. Many tents in the campground were collapsing or blowing down. Luckily we had secured our tents with extra cordage and rocks.
Overall, this is an excellent park to car camp or backpack. On previous trips to this park I've backpacked up to Guadalupe Peak as well as Pine Top. There are many good trails with trailheads near the Pine Spring campsites. There are latrine toilets near the tent camping sites and normal toilets near the RV camping sites. There are no showers in the park so be prepared to embrace nature.The true beauty of this park is not really the summit of Guadalupe Peak, but the rustic nature of the high desert trails and views.
Product Review of HeadSpin Light System
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I am provided products to test. For this outing I was provided a HeadSpin Light System.
For more info: www.headspinoutdoors.com
I was immediately impressed with the HeadSpin Light System when it arrived in the mail. When I unboxed the product I discovered that it was contained within a sturdy semi-hard case. There were five easily identifiable pieces within the kit - the light head, a handle, a headband, a bicycle mount and a wall charging plug. There was also an instruction manual, sticker and USB cord. The system is very intuitive to use.
The light head is the primary unit that can be combined with the accessories to form multifunctional lights. I'm a fan of good design and I liked the rounded square form of the light head. It has four buttons on top. One button turns on the unit. One button increases or decreases the intensity of the light. One button switches the light pattern from wide to spot. And one button switches the light to a flashing strobe.
I received the light system just prior to my trip, so I wasn't able to charge the unit at home. One of the great advantages of this product is that it is a rechargeable light with a lithium ion battery. I took the entire kit in the car and charged it with the included USB cable plugged into the car socket. The USB cable can also be plugged in to any portable power bank. By the time that we reached our destination, the unit was charged. This came in handy as we set up our tents in the middle of the night.
The next day we hung the HeadSpin light in a tree above our camp kitchen and used it like a lantern to cook. The soft wide light provided great lighting for camp chores.
I also used the light for walking on some trails. Typically I used the lowest setting, because this light is bright. I played around with the higher settings but my friends kept asking me to turn it down because it was too bright. Hahaha, too bright. See the demo video.
I only used the light system with the headband accessory. I didn't use the handle nor the bike attachment. I think that the handle would be useful around the house. I think that bike attachment plus the headband attachment would be great for a bike packing trip. One could attach the light to the bike's handlebar when riding. Then disconnect it and spin it onto the headband for other activities.
So who might like this light system? Anyone that likes multi-functional lights. I think that I'll find use for it around the house. It would also be useful to keep within a vehicle. This would be ideal for bikepacking. Hunters might like the intensity of the light, but I'm guessing that they would like a red light added. And of course it would always be useful for camping. If you are in to overloading where you need a reliable, rechargeable bright light this product would be a no brainer. The ability to charge the light from a variety of sources makes this a game changer for me.
Super bright light
Super soft light
Outlet and USB rechargeable
I'd like to see a red and maybe a green light
I'd like the buttons to be a little more tactile
Overall I am very impressed with the HeadSpin Light System. I have the feeling that I am just starting to discover all of the functions, features and uses. If you'd like to find out more about the light system or buy one visit their website at: www.headspinoutdoors.com
This campground is very scenic and right at the base of Guadalupe peak. It is very close to the visitors center. There are 4 trailheads that start here and the GPT is very strenuous and 100% uphill. You can also climb El Capitan or hike to Devil's Hall. The views here are hard to beat. I would not go in summer months but that's my personal opinion. They don't reservations. First come, first served
The campground itself is kinda cool. Good usual amenities in usual National Park fashion. The wild nightlife that can be seen and heard is really, really cool. And of course the hiking and views are absolutely incredible.
Tent spots were just a short walk to the trail head to go up to the peak. Spots are first come first served, so get there early. We lucked out and got the last one by just a few minutes. Get up and on the trail super early in the late spring/summer months. If it’s a sunny day it is very hot and it gets pretty miserable on the trail. There is really no way to get relief when done (no showers to cool off). Toilets were clean. The sky at night was amazing. Don’t forget to stop at the visitor center, there were some neat displays and some historical building ruins to see. It was fairly windy during our stay and we had to use rocks to help hold down our tent, since we only had the flimsy stakes that came with the tent with us to use. We’d definitely stop there again if we wanted to hike in the park.
The tent camping sites are all private making it a very peaceful experience! The views are beautiful with access to several hiking trails. There are vault toilets at the tent sites with flush toilets at the rv lot. There are no other facilities but if you are looking for remote primitive camping this is a great option!
The campground is “what you see is what you get,” & there’s not very much to see. If you do your research you know to be prepared though, so it shouldn’t be an issue! It is primitive camping, so bring out everything you would need. Guadalupe is such a beautiful National Park & worth visiting so that you can hike the peak (fun fact: it’s higher than El Capitan in Yosemite)! It’s the tallest point in Texas. The trail is not all that strenuous but it does take up a good deal of time (about 6 hours) so you have to make sure you’ve got enough daylight.
Campers should know that despite being small and “unknown” this campground fills up without warning. The pit toilets are NOT smelly and there is a water source. You will need to hike a short distance in to your tent site but it is totally worth it!
Small but peaceful