Often seen as a side trip from better-known Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, this park is a combination of high mountains, desert, shaded canyons and abandoned ranches. Lying 420 mi/675 km northwest of San Antonio, the starkly beautiful mountain range is part of an ancient fossil-rich formation known as Capitan Reef and include Texas' four highest peaks (the tallest, Guadalupe Peak, is 8,749 ft/2,667 m). Relatively undeveloped, the park will appeal primarily to hikers—getting to the best parts of the park requires some rigorous legwork (be sure to take plenty of water and a hat). http://www.nps.gov/gumo.
The Bowl, a coniferous forest that dates to the Ice Age, cuts a 2-mi/3-km swath through the mountain highlands. You may get a chance to see wild turkey, foxes, coyotes, elk, mule deer and even black bears there. More accessible than the Bowl is McKittrick Canyon, where desert, canyon woodlands and highlands merge along the park's only year-round stream. The walking there is on mostly level ground, but getting into the inner canyon requires a half-day hike. This wildlife-rich canyon oasis is one of the great natural gems of Texas, and it's one of the few places in the state where you can enjoy an impressive display of fall color (around late October or early November).
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