This easy 2.3-mile loop begins at Guadalupe Mountains National Park’s Frijole Ranch, which now houses a museum highlighting the human history of the area. Though you could hike the loop in either direction, this route takes a counterclockwise approach following the paved trail from the ranch, past an orchard and toward Manzanita Spring where it turns to dirt.
The rocky trail veers north and dips into a wash and climbs gradually—gaining almost 400 feet over the next half mile—as it climbs toward the base of the escarpment of the Guadalupe Mountains. After winding across a yucca- and cacti-covered hillside, the trail enters a lush riparian zone where the area’s only spring—Smith Spring—appears below layers of percolating limestone.
The shaded clearing below the spring is a great place to stop for a picnic or wait for signs of wildlife (the springs serves as a watering hole for many animals). The loop’s second half drops down a couple of rocky downhills and offers views of El Capitan as it heads south, bypassing the Frijole and Foothills trails before looping back to the Ranch.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland