Old Guano Road

Diana Northup on the trail and the Guadalupe Mountains in the background
This hike goes from White's City to the visitor's center at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. When you hike this trail, you can see much of the native plants (blooming if you hike it in the spring and the rains have been favorable). You also get good views of the gypsum plains below and the Guadalupe Mountains stretching off into Texas.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: National Park Service; Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Region: Southeast; Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Elevation:
start: 3648ft; 1112m end: 4399ft; 1341m
min: 3648ft; 1112m max: 4399ft; 1341m
elevation gain/loss: 754ft; 230m.
Length: 3.60mi; 5.80km. One-way distance; if you do not set up a shuttle, you will need to double the distance.
Trail:
surface: mixed dirt/rock
condition: Excellent.
ease of following: Easy.
obstacles: None.
We have never seen anybody else on this trail. Most everybody visits the caverns and forgets that the surface exists and is worth seeing also.
Fee: $0.00.
Season: All year. Summer will be hot. Start early, and be sure you have sufficient water and sunscreen.
Dogs: Unknown.
Bikes: Unknown.
Handicapped accessible: No.
Trailhead facilities: flush toilet(s), picnic area. Picnicing at White's City is not available unless you have paid for the campground. Picnic tables exist on the west side of the park visitor's center. trash can(s), water.
Hike attractions: exercise, history, scenery, wildflowers, wildlife.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2001-11-22
Time it took us: 2:00.
Usage (people/hour): 0.00. We have never seen anybody else on this trail.
Cleanliness: 10.

Waypoints:

Waypoint Type Description
GTTHTrailheadOld Guano Road lower trailhead

Maps:

Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Carlsbad Caverns National Park National Geographic Trails Illustrated 2001 1:34500 Y from Amazon (purchase) Includes a map of Carlsbad Cavern on the back.
Lincoln National Forest, Guadalupe Ranger District US Forest Service 2003 1:126720 N from Amazon (purchase)
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the trailhead:

From Carlsbad, take US 62/180 south towards Carlsbad Caverns National Park. When you turn off of the highway at White's City, find a parking place. The trailhead is in the campground, at the west end. Note that there are two parts to the campground. You want the part furtherest from the road.
No short text
No short text
For the upper trailhead, continue past White's City and up to the park visitor center. Go as if you were going to enter the cave through the natural entrance, but stay right at the ampitheater and walk past the gate shown here; just to the right of the vehicle gate is hiker access (between the two vertical poles).

About the hike:

The guano road trail trailhead

The trailhead looks like a jeep road. This appearance is not surprising since at one time, it was a road. In the photo, you can see the shelter and picnic table of one of the campsites just to the left of the trailhead.

Almost immediately after heading up the trail, you reach the park boundary (GTBDY).

At times, the trail is marked by cairns. The trail is easy to follow, even when there are no cairns. At other times, fiberglass trail markers indicate the trail.

Not surprisingly, the trail is rocky at times.

A fiberglass trail marker
Moss between the rocks
In spite of the arid heat, some moss manages to grow between some rocks.
The cholla have bright yellow fruit.
Cholla fruit
Bloooming barrel cactus
This cactus has large, showy flowers.
The Shaggy Narrowman (Stenandrium barbatum) is a showy spring flower.
Stenandrium barbatum (Shaggy Narrowman)
Desert plantain (Plantago helleri)
Desert plantain (Plantago helleri) also bloom in the spring.
The catsclaw is aptly named. Pretty, but it has thorns that grab at you as you walk by.
Catsclaw acacia (Acacia greggi)
The second entrance to Carlsbad Cavern

You know you are getting close to the visitor's center when you reach a Y in the road (GTY1). Go right.

A short distance after the Y, you come across the second natural entrance to Carlsbad Cavern (CAENT2). A short distance further (GTYNT) and the nature trail joins the trail you are on.

When you reach the natural entrance to Carlsbad Cavern on your right, you are done.
The natural entrance to Carlsbad Cavern

Plants we saw along the trail:

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