Guadalupe Mountains National Park in a Kia EV9 -- photo by Jennifer Sensiba

How To See All of Guadalupe Mountains National Park In Your EV

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Growing up around El Paso and southern New Mexico, Guadalupe Mountains National Park has long been a place to go. As a kid, I spent a lot of Saturdays getting up early in the morning to go visit Pratt Cabin in McKittrick Canyon, and even got to go inside a few times when we were lucky enough to show up when a ranger was letting people tour the inside.

In recent years, I’ve started exploring the back roads more. When it comes to US-62/180 (the National Parks Highway), you’re already on a bit of a back road, so most people aren’t aware that there are roads even further back away from the interstate! Behind these national parks, I found some real gems, and it’s clear that I’ve barely scratched the surface.

So, in this article, I want to talk about not only how to get to the main part of Guadalupe Mountains, but how to see the rest of the park and the mountains behind it in an EV!

The Front-Side Of Guadalupe Can Be Tough All On Its Own

Guadalupe Mountains isn’t a national park that you can mostly explore by car. At many other parks, there’s a main road and a few side roads that take you to the best spots, but the rugged Guadalupe Mountains just didn’t give engineers much of a chance at building those roads. So, to really experience the park, you need to park at one of the visitor centers and hike in. There’s so much hiking to do that you really couldn’t see all of the park even if you stayed for a couple of weeks. So, most people visit a bunch of times and see it a little at a time.

The most popular places to start hikes are at Pine Springs and McKittrick Canyon. You can take different trails from those parking areas to just about anywhere in the park. So, people come in from Carlsbad, Van Horn, or El Paso and visit one of those visitor centers.

Sadly, though, there aren’t any EV charging stations between El Paso and Carlsbad. So, getting there and having enough range to get back out can be tricky, especially if you aren’t rolling in there with 100+ kWh of battery like I did on my most recent trip. To get around this, many EV drivers have to charge at the Whites City RV Park outside of Carlsbad Caverns National Park or stay overnight at the one hotel in Carlsbad with Level 2 charging.

The Rest Of The Views You’d Miss Sticking to Pine Springs & McKittrick

If you stick to Carlsbad and the two major visitor centers, you’d still miss out on a lot of the beautiful views and hikes that the park offers.

First off, simply going a few more miles down 62/180 can net some beautiful views of the park’s key peak: El Capitan. Going down there in an EV means you’d have to climb back up, so that probably discourages some people from trying it instead of just turning around and going back to Carlsbad.

But, if you’re heading out of the park to El Paso or Van Horn, you need to drive by these places anyway. So, be sure to stop and take in the views a little! Even then, I wouldn’t recommend calling it a day and heading for charging. If you have the range for it, there are two more things to see on the downhill side of El Capitan.

Kia EV9

First off, there are the Salt Flats. They’re not part of the official park, but they offer great views of the park’s mountains. There’s also a TX DOT historical marker nearby that tells the story of a small war that broke out in the 1870s over the salt. It turns out that Hispanic and Native American residents of the region consider the salt communal property to be used by anybody. But, in the wake of the Mexican-American war, Americans and Texans coming from the east figured somebody should own it and sell the salt, and that the somebody should be them!

Further up the road near Dell City, there’s another turnoff to the Salt Basin Dunes section of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Due to either time or range constraints on each trip out there, I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, but it’s another part of the park many people miss out on.

The North Side

Beyond what’s near the main highway, there’s a lot more on the north side of the park. Getting up there requires some long drives up Dark Canyon Road (Eddy CR 408) or the Queen Highway (NM 137). For longer range EVs, it’s not much of a problem to get to Dog Canyon (the official park campground on that side) and back out to charging somewhere, but all of the little side treks you can take to places like the Guadalupe Rim, Five Points Vista, Dark Canyon Lookout, Sitting Bull Falls, and more can add up to eating up some serious range.

Fortunately, there’s one RV park out that way with 50-amp service you can use for L2 charging if you bring your own charging cord (EVSE) along. The Queen RV Park has RV spaces, two small cabins with some minor deferred maintenance issues, and a restaurant. If you call ahead, they can almost always help you get a charge while you’re there sleeping or eating.

Kia EV9

While most of the stuff out that way isn’t officially part of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, it’s still part of the Guadalupe Mountains. In fact, there’s a whole Guadalupe Ranger District run by the Lincoln National Forest full of fun things to do stretching up dozens of miles into New Mexico.

On my most recent trip out there in a Kia EV9 press car, I came in through Cloudcroft and drove the length of the Guadalupe Rim Road. This road offers not only stunning views of the Otero Mesa, but views of the Guadalupe Mountains that you simply can’t get from any other angle. It’s a rough forest road, but any two-wheel drive vehicle with a little clearance can easily make the trip if you have enough range.

Kia EV9

All images by Jennifer Sensiba.


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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1983 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba