Finding Fall Foliage in the Borderland

Friday, November 2, 2012 - 6:28pm

Every fall thousands of people travel to the New England to check out the fantastic fall foliage. For many it's a once in a life time trip. However, you can check out fantastic fall colors without actually leaving the Borderland. The Destination? Devil's Hall in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, just an hour and a half drive from El Paso. The national park is an adventure lover's paradise. The park is the world's best example of a fossil reef.

But to truly appreciate this local gem you have to step off the beaten path.

"We've got the canyon, we've got the creeks, we've got the whole thing for a national park," said one hiker.

The first half of the hike to Devil's Hall is through a desert like environment. More than a thousand types of plants grow here. The real draw, however, comes about a mile in. Hikers drop down into a wash and are greeted by fall colors so bright it nearly takes your breath away.

"When these leaves start to pop here they kind of rival anything in the Northeast," said another hiker, visiting from out of state.

If you're a fan of foliage this is where the real fun begins. This canyon is full of bright red maple trees, and it just gets better the further you go.

"It's the pairings of the maples with the desert that you won't find anywhere else," said Michael Haynie, a Park Ranger with Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Getting to the park isn't a challenge. The secret is knowing when to go. The bright colors come alive for only two to three weeks every year and it's only found off the road in canyons which receive more shade and rainfall.

"It's kind of going from mexico to canada vertically with our life zones," said Haynie.

"You just can't describe it, being out and seeing God's creation. It's pretty amazing," said a hiker.

The end of this hike isn't bad either. The walk ends with a natural rock staircase that leads to Devil's Hall. The hall is a narrow gap in the rock where the walls here are more than a 100 feet high.

From start to finish it's the perfect place to get lost for a few hours. The 4.2 mile round trip hike hike is also relatively easy. Elevation gain is minimal.

If you want to check out this local treasure for yourself, the best times to visit are late October and Early November. To get to the Devil's Hall Trailhead from El Paso take US Highway 180 toward Carlsbad, New Mexico. Follow the signs for Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Pine Springs Campground. The drive takes about an hour and a half. The trail begins at the campground. If you're looking for fall foliage elsewhere in the park, also consider McKittrick Canyon. That trailhead can be found a few miles further north on the highway. This canyon is even better know for it's foliage, but the hike is longer and slightly more difficult.

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