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On Walkabout At: The Guadalupe Mountains’ Smith Spring Trail

Basic Trail Information

  • Name: Smith Spring Trail
  • Where: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
  • Distance: 2.3 miles round-trip
  • Difficulty:easy- moderate
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • More Info: Guadalupe Mountains NP Website

USGS map of the trail:

spring trail map2

Narrative

After checking the out the Frijole Ranch House in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, I then proceeded to hike the 2.3 mile Smith Spring Trail loop hike that begins at the historic ranch:

guadalupe mountains map

The start of the trail takes hikers through the arid high desert landscape that surrounds the base of these rugged mountains:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

The trail eventually starts ascending up towards the base of the Guadalupe Mountains:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Along the way there is plenty of high desert plant life to view.  The most interesting plant to view in my opinion is the red skinned madrone tree that only grows in the American Southwest and Northern Chihuahua Mexico:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Here is a picture of another desert plant called an agave that has the unusual feature of having a tree like appearance when it grows a stem upward to catch the wind to spread its seeds:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

There was also a few wildflowers to see along the trail as well:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Besides seeing plant life along the trail, I also saw many lizards like this one pictured below hiding under the shade of a yucca plant:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

It was so hot as I walked up this trail that the lizards I saw were all hiding in the shade as I walked by them.  Soon enough I would have shade to as I rounded a corner and saw the cluster of trees where the Smith Spring is located:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Soon enough I was entering into the small valley where the spring is located:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Eventually I entered into the dense foliage:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Up I ahead I heard some noise and sure enough a deer came hopping towards me.  It paused, took a look at me, and then ran off into the brush:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

As I walked up the trail to where the deer was I soon found out what it was up to, the deer was getting a drink of water from the creek:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

This gently flowing creek begins at this small poll known as Smith Spring, which named after the former owner of the Frijole Ranch House:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

The water from Smith Spring comes from the heavy rains and snow melt from the higher elevations of the Guadalupe Mountains.  This water slowly percolates down through fissures in the sandstone.  In certain areas in the lower elevations this water bubbles to the surface like it does here:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

This spring was a critical water source first for wildlife, than eventually for the Native-Americans that moved in out of the area, and finally the ranchers that permanently settled the land.  This settling of the land would cause conflict with the local Apaches who were dependent on the limited water resources in the area that settlers were using.

At the springs there is a small bench for walkers to rest at and enjoy the cool shade which I took advantage of:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

It was easily over 100F outside but the shade and cool breeze from the creek easily dropped the temperature within the springs to into the 80’s.  It was really quite pleasant to enjoy the cool temperature, fresh air, and take in the surrounding views of the high desert to include the small hill known as Nipple Hill for obvious reasons:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

After hanging out at the spring for about 20 minutes I then proceeded to head out back to the Frijole Ranch House.  The trail follows along a large ravine cut out over the centuries by rain water quickly rushing down the side of the Guadalupes.  Along the ravine there was plenty of tree to include even an occasional ponderosa pine which is rare to see at these altitudes in the high West Texas desert:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

As I proceeded down the trail I took in the sweeping vista of the Chihuahua Desert all around me to include another view of Nipple Hill:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

These bluffs I seen out in the distance actually have a number of windmills on them which are just a few of the windmills that makes Texas the nation’s leader in wind power generation:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Here was the view looking back at the wooded valley where Smith Spring lies:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Eventually the trail descends into the ravine where I saw a number of the red wooded madrone trees:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

The trail then runs parallel to the ravine as it heads back to the ranch house:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Towards the end of the trail it bends away from the ravine and towards the ranch house.  Here is the view looking back to Smith Spring at this bend in the trail:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Here is the view looking west from the trail where El Capitan Peak can be seen rising in the distance:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

Near the Frijole Ranch House is the last highlight of the trail, which is the small pond known as Manzanita Spring:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

This spring was created by the Smith family by creating a small dam that captured water draining down the side of the Guadalupes:

Pictures from the Frijole Trail

The pond was actually big enough that the Smith family would take small boats on it for recreation activities.  The waters from Smith Spring has definitely made this area a true desert oasis.  From the Manzanita Spring it was a short walk back to the Frijole Ranch House and back to my truck thus concluding my hike.

The Spring Trail is a really nice walk that just about anyone of moderate fitness should be able to complete without much effort considering the minimal elevation gain and round trip distance of 2.3 miles.  However, if hiking in the summer like I did during this walk, make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, wear a hat, and finally bring plenty of water.

Here is a Google Maps view of the trail:

spring trail map

The best part about the hike is that the two springs are really nice rewards for completing the hike.  I like hikes where there is something reward to see at the conclusion of the walk such as a sweeping view, a waterfall, a large tree, an unusual rock formation, a historic site, etc.  The Spring Trail provides some nice rewards for moderate effort that I recommend people visiting the park check out.

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