Carlsbad Caverns National Park Highpoint Trip Report

two areas (6,520+ and 6,535 ft)

Date: April 23, 2000
Author: John Mitchler

This was the gem of the trip, not because of beauty or challenge, but because we don't know of anyone who's done this one yet! Looking at the map, several routes are possible.
  1. Walk west up the jeep trail on Guadalupe Ridge directly through Carlsbad Caverns National Park (henceforth "CCNP").

  2. There may be south access via Pacific Slope and Wild Cow Mesa on a jeep trail that cuts through CCNP, although it may be hiking-only because the road may be poor.

  3. The most desirable route may be to access Cottonwood Well and hike uphill 600 ft south to the Guadalupe Ridge and walk 1.5 miles to the HP.

  4. For some reason known only to G-d, we choose to take the full length of the Guadalupe Ridge jeep trail from the southwest. Luckily we could go 4WD for 2 miles past the Dark Canyon Lookout tower and "only" walk 6 miles along the jeep trail to the HP. The road is very, very rough. We left at 4:30pm and returned to the car at 9:15pm, well past nightfall.

To repeat our feat, take CR412 (Klondike Gap Road) east from FR540 (Guadalupe Ridge Road) at Klondike Gap, and drive south for 2.3 miles to a gravel road to the right (south) that is signed Dark Canyon L.O. Go 5 miles to the lookout tower. Visit the nearby Cottonwood Caverns there, then climb the tower, use the restroom, and switch your vehicle into fourwheel drive. Most 4WD vehicles will be able to negotiate the rock outcrops in the road, but the higher the clearance the better and the newer the shocks the better! Dave did a good job to get us 2.5 miles along the ridge, but was stopped by a series of rock steps.

At 4pm, we set out to travel the remote high ridge to the HP. Parts of the ridge have suffered a forest fire, which actually improves the view. About 3 miles into the hike, the spectacle of McKittrick Canyon looms to the south. The HP area is immature pine forest with a healthy growth of yucca and prickly terrors.

The true HP of CCNP was determined to be the 6,535 ft hill due south of the jeep road on the 6,632 ft hill. We used hand levels from the HP to the other possible HP area (on the Dinner Hill ridge north of the jeep road) and conclusively concluded that the 6,535 ft hill was higher by about 10 feet. We then walked back north to cross-check with handlevel and we confirmed our original observation. A small cairn and register was left at the park boundary fence line for anyone else who would like to claim this seldom-visited HP.

Note from the webmaster: This report has been edited by David Olson; the original content remaining intact, albeit reworded in places.