Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: Pine Springs Campground in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

If you're visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park in far western Texas and want to spend the night, you've pretty much got one choice: The Pine Springs Campground inside the park.

There are no hotels, motels or other campgrounds nearby. Yep, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. That's part of the appeal.

My kids and I spent two nights at Pine Springs Campground in early April 2015. It's a pretty location, but if you're thinking of heading there, let me give you some important tips.

First, it's a small campground. It has just 20 sites, and one of those is for handicapped visitors. When we pulled in at about 2 p.m. on a Monday afternoon, nearly all the sites were taken. We grabbed the first empty site we saw. (There is also an adjacent parking area for RVs. No hookups.)

So if you're coming to camp during one of Guadalupe's busy seasons spring or fall be sure to get there early. Note: If all the other sites are taken, non-handicapped campers are allowed to use the handicapped site.

Note also that all the campsites, except for the handicapped one, are "walk-in" sites. That is, you have a walk of 20 to 30 yards from the car to each site. I like that it gives the campground a more natural feel but it does mean numerous trips back and forth to your car with your gear.

Most importantly, be prepared for WIND. Throughout our stay, the wind blew through in repeated blasts and gusts. I'd say it averaged around 25 mph. Our poor tent, which we held down with large rocks inside and outside, was battered day and night, sometimes leaning almost sideways. The flapping and shuddering of the tent made for uneasy sleep.

It may not always be that windy, but from what I've heard and read, it frequently is. Check the weather report before you come. It helps if you have a lower-profile tent (not one of those you can stand up in). A good-sized hammer to pound tent pegs into the hard ground might help, but you'll most likely still need rocks.

No camp fires are allowed at Pine Springs, given the dry surroundings and the wind. Camp stoves are fine.

There is running water at the camp site, but it's not very convenient. You either have to use a drinking fountain at one end of the campground, or walk up to the adjoining RV parking lot. There is a washing sink available or at least there was. On the second day we were there, the sink was mysteriously cordoned off and a trench was dug around it.

The charge for camping at Pine Springs is $8 a night. While I'm the last person to want to pay more for anything, I think that's too cheap. You could easily charge $16 a night, and then put some of that extra money into fixing up the campground and maybe adding some more campsites.

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