100 mile trail from Guadalupe Peak in the south to Carlsbad National Park in the north. The trail starts in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, at the highest point in Texas which is Guadalupe Peak (8751 feet). Some sections of the trail in the Guadalupe Mountains climb and dip over a 60% solid rock grade and are very rugged terrain. Almost 40% of the main trail is double track; 60% is single track when including the Sitting Bull Falls segment of the trail. The trail travels through Chihuahuan desert, mixed coniferous forest, and riparian woodlands before exiting the national park to the Lincoln National Forest. The national forest has mixed coniferous forest along with spectacular rocky canyons. An optional loop will take trekkers through Last Chance Canyon and Sitting Bull Falls, a desert oasis with a series of small waterfalls and pools. The trail continues through Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Bureau of Land Management property with stunning views of the rugged and unforgiving Guadalupe Ridge. Trekkers can stop through the Caverns Visitor Center before dropping into White’s City, New Mexico and the end of the Guadalupe Ridge Trail.
More detail at National Recreation Trail website:
The "Main Trail" is ~58 miles between Guadalupe Peak and the Carlsbad Caverns NP Visitor Center. An optional loop will take trekkers through Last Chance Canyon and Sitting Bull Falls, a desert oasis with a series of small waterfalls and pools, adding ~ 30 miles,
NOTE: It has come to our attention that our map was previously incorrect for the "Main Trail" in the vicinity of Spring and Cottonwood Canyons (a little east of the Dark Canyon Lookout Tower). The official route of the GRT drops off the main ridge to follow the Munson Trail (T210) and Cave Canyon Trail (T222), rather than staying on FS201 on top. This adds ~ 2 miles and some vertical gain and loss. Prior to November 29, 2021, it appears that only Brett Davis followed this "official" route, rather than staying on FS201. In future, FKT aspirants should be sure to follow the correct, official route! As far as we know, the GPX track on this route page is correct as of Nov. 29, 2021. Thanks to the NPS person who pointed out our error.
Official routes shown here:
This was a little bit of an unplanned FKT. Having just finished up a loop trail elsewhere in the Guadalupe Mountains with a buddy, I wanted to continue on solo and add the GRT to my hiking resume but didn't have much time. My buddy (actually the previous FKT holder of the route) dropped me off at the northern terminus of the trail at 10:51am on the 11/21. It was hot going through this Carlsbad Caverns portion of the trail, as it was the hottest part of the day with a full 5L water carry. I didn't see any other signs of life before making it the 17 miles in to the Lincoln National Forest. I made it about 25 miles on the day which included about 3 hours of night hiking, thanks to the sun going down at 5pm. The next morning I got up at 5 to finish up the Lincoln National Forest portion of the trail, once again seeing no one else but a single unattended black truck and a herd of cows. There were some cow tanks with water in them but I decided I'd rather just push on to the McKitterick Canyon visitor center to replenish my water carry. I had a snack and cameled up there, I also got a roll of gauze from the ranger for a scratch I had gotten on my leg that would very my whereabouts there around 11am or so.
Moving up into the McKitterick ridge my sunny day became shrouded in clouds and mist all around me. This dampness and wind would prove to be quite a damper on my day, as I spent all afternoon cold in my windshirt and shorts. I rushed in to my designated campsite of Mescalero around 5:30pm, where there was just one other group set up. I was jealous of their large tent as my tarp got blasted by wind the entire night. The next morning I would learn that Tejas campground not much farther along the trail would have been a much better selection for a designated campsite.
I got up around 6am to finish up the last few hours of hiking. It was still pretty grey and windy all morning, but I finally got some sunlight on Guadalupe Peak, summiting at 10:26am on the 23rd to complete my thru of the GRT.
Thanks to FKT for making corrections to the route and map (11/2021). I will, however, add another correction. The GRT does not start/end at the Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center--it goes another ~4 miles along the Old Guano Rd Trail to the eastern border of the park with the terminus at the campground in Whites City. This can be found on the GRT and NRT map links in the description above. Future FKT attempts should start/end at the park border in Whites City, not the CC Visitor Center.