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Big Bend, Guadalupe Mnt and Carlsbad NPs around Thanksgiving

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Aug 6th, 2014, 04:34 AM
  #1
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Big Bend, Guadalupe Mnt and Carlsbad NPs around Thanksgiving

Disparate school schedules have eliminated any October travel possibilities so that bumps us to using Thanksgiving. I looked into Big Bend for this year but I was too late. Assuming there is minimal to zero cancellation penalty, I thought I would book 2015. Question is, how to split the time?

We would take the full week (7 nights), fly into El Paso and do a loop that includes Guadalupe Mnt and Carlsbad Caverns NP. I've not given much thought yet to whether those are appropriate for that time of year.

Family of 4 interested in medium/long walks/hikes and other low impact activities. Kids will be 16 & 13.

So, recommendations for splitting 7 nights among Big Bend, Carlsbad/Guadalupe and El Paso (if any)?

Thanks.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 09:31 AM
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Big Bend is pretty busy during Thanksgiving week. Assuming this trip would be Sunday to Sunday with Thanksgiving in the middle of it, I'd go to Big Bend first for several days as it should be slightly less busy in the first part of the week.

Roughly 3-4 days to drive to Big Bend and visit the park, then 2-3 days around Carlsbad/Guadalupe and El Paso. I think the bats will have left Carlsbad by then so you won't be able to watch them exit in the evening but you can still tour the caves and do a wild cave tour if you want.

There is a lot to do in the Big Bend area. 3-4 days is skimming the surface really. Inside the park, must-do hikes are Santa Elena Canyon, Lost Mine Trail, Windows Trail and a hike to the South Rim (that one is a really long day hike). There are plenty of other hikes and things to see inside the park but those are the big ones you must do.

Outside the park, there's a great museum in Alpine (Museum of the Big Bend). Fort Davis has several things to visit - Fort Davis National Historical Site, McDonald Observatory and Davis Mountains State Park. There's a great drive from Presidio to Big Bend National Park along the Rio Grande - I would recommend taking that drive either coming or going. You can stop at Closed Canyon and maybe Barton Warnock Visitor Center along the way. Closed Canyon is a relatively short slot-type canyon that's part of Big Bend Ranch State Park.

If the water on the river is high enough you could do a one-day rafting trip through Santa Elena. I've never done it because the river has always been too low when I've visited but I've heard it's an amazing trip.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 10:24 AM
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You might want to look into flying in/out of Midland/Odessa. One other thing of slight importance. The time zones are whacky in that area. Like two counties in Texas are different from the rest. I have only been to BB once and that was over Spring Break. Supposedly, that is the busiest time of year. Frankly, the place is huge and I didn't find it crowded at all.
Think of BB as 3 parks in 1. There is the river, mountains, and desert. Be sure and explore a bit of all 3. Rafting there is pretty tame, and is a must do, IMOP

I have been to Guadalupe twice. Once in July and climbed Guadalupe peak in 105 degree weather. It was great. Went backpacking there a couple of years ago, the first week in November. Had a little sleet one night and it got down to about 30, but super experience. Surprisingly, this is one awesome place for fall colors. I think those will be gone by Thanksgiving though.

I've been to Carlsbad Caverns on 6 occasions. Both Wild Cave Tours are the best things I've done in any national park.(I've been to 40 of them). You must be 16 years old and they only allow 8 people per week to go on each tour. Get your reservations 6 months in advance. They do one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Both are equally good. The bats will be gone by then and they are great too though.

Carlsbad is good anytime of the year, because the cave temp and weather don't play a factor. Guadalupe and BB are best around the time your are going or in spring, IMOP.

DO NOT stay or eat at Whites City which is right at the entrance of Carlsbad. Cannot begin to tell you how bad I think the lodging and food is there. I had much rather sleep in a tent than in their beds. Rice Cakes for a solid week would beat their food. IMOP.'
You only option is camping in Guadalupe or a hotel in Carlsbad. There isn't much to eat in any of the locations you mentioned.
Frankly, there isn't much to do in El Paso either. For a town that large, it has the least amount of places to eat at that are decent. There is a restaurant there called "Lox" (something like that) that is good.

One other thing. If you fly into El Paso, you possibly could do a day at White Sand Dunes National Monument. Just another option.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 02:10 PM
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I've been to El Paso a few times recently now that my son lives there. Here are some things that he/we can recommend -- hiking in Franklin Mountains State Park, the aerial tramway, the Holocaust Museum, the Museum of Art, the Air Defense Museum and the Ft. Bliss Museum and Concordia Cemetery. If you decide to make a day trip to White Sands, go a bit further and visit the Museum of Space History in Alamogordo.

As for places to eat there, he'd recommend Leo's Mexican Food, Mesa Street Grill, L& J Cafe, Pho Tre Bien, and the Clock Family Restaurant--a little bit of everything. On my next visit, I want to try the Cattle Baron Restaurant. For a hotel, we stayed in the GuestHouse International Suites--very nice, good price and really friendly staff.

Finally, I can't recommend enough a visit to Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory. We stayed at the historic Indian Lodge in Davis Mts. State Park and really enjoyed it. If you like hiking, get the directions for the hike from Indian Lodge to Ft. Davis Historical Park--fabulous scenery and views!

Oh, and don't miss the Marfa Lights. Yes, there is certainly something out there. And even if you don't see those lights, you'll see an amazing night sky--I can't remember ever seeing that many stars!
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Aug 6th, 2014, 07:03 PM
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Great, detailed advice. Much appreciated.

As with most areas, there will be more to do than we have time for. I think for now, I'll book the Big Bend lodging for Sat-Wed and plan on spending Wed night to Sat in the Carlsbad and El Paso areas. Plenty of time to plan those.

Thanks again.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 07:11 PM
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Check the hours of the visitor centers at each park. I think Carlsbad may be closed on Thanksgiving, not sure how that impacts cave tours.
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Aug 7th, 2014, 02:58 AM
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Aug 7th, 2014, 03:47 PM
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Good Catch WHEREARE WE. The park is closed on Thanksgiving.
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