The emphasis of Guadalupe Mountains is on hiking and camping, though several of the facilities offer both naturalistic and historical perspectives on the area. With ten backcountry campgrounds, two primitive campgrounds, and miles of trail, this is the park for the hiker.
The centerpiece is the former settlement of Tyuonyi. Both buildings on the floor of the valley and the cliff dwellings are part of a trail leading through the former Pueblo town. Hikers are encouraged to climb replica ladders to see what life was like inside the cliff dwellings, while at the end of the trail, there is an excavated kiva high up within the cliff face.
The North Rim has an emphasis on hiking and general appreciation for nature. It has fewer creature comforts and facilities than the South Rim, so the focus is very much on the Grand Canyon itself and the wide variety of trails offered.
While Bryce has educational exhibits and information on the geology and history of the region, the park is generally focused on hiking and the wilderness. The park’s emphasis on light pollution abatement allows for some incredibly stirring views of the night sky, while a battery of hiking options allow for enjoyment for a variety of skill levels.
History of the Pueblo people and preservation of an important archeological site is the focus at Aztec. Various narratives are provided, and an archeological perspective is used to explore the items found at the site. From the scraps and shards and remains found on site, the daily life of the Pueblo of the settlement has been reconstructed.
Though it’s relatively small, there’s a wealth of information there. There’s plenty of trail for a leisurely stroll, and a range of history spanning a variety topics and timelines. Paired with gorgeous views of the bay, ocean, and city below, it’s a true urban oasis. We had the good fortune to hang out briefly with a ranger while she was showing a small group a snake, and there was no shortage of things to do and explore. We came away with a lot of new information.
The Fremont people originally populated the region as early as 1000, but in the 13th century, likely due to sustained drought, they left the area. Paiutes would eventually move into the area long after. In 1872, John Wesley Powell’s team of explorers would survey the area, just as Mormon settlers moved into the area, some settling into what would become Fruita.
The focus of the park is the geologic history of the region and the preservation of the delicate ecosystem within the caves. Both self-guided and guided tours serve to educate and inspire. The native bat colony is also a star attraction, second only to the stargazing to be had.