The Old Guano Road Trail follows the old road that was used to haul guano from the cave to Whites City in the early 1900s. To access the trail, you can park in the visitor parking lot and follow the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail
down to the road, or you can go toward the cave entrance and follow the old road on the right side of the cave. Note, if you approach the cave entrance, you'll need to explain to the ranger there that you are hiking the Old Guano Road Trail so that they let you pass with food, water, and whatever else you might be carrying.
The old road departs the natural entrance to Carlsbad Cavern
and follows a portion of the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail
, which provides some information on the plants and animals that you'll encounter on the trail. The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail
breaks off to the right while the Old Guano Road Trail continues straight ahead and begins to narrow. Approaching a chain-link fence roughly a tenth of a mile later, the trail breaks off to the right of the fence (this fence blocks an old entrance that was blasted into the cave in order to help haul the guano out of the cave). In this area, you may notice old, rusted cans and lids from the early 1900s. Please leave them alone so that others can enjoy them as well.
The trail continues ahead as little more than an animal path as it makes a slow descent toward Whites City. On the left-hand side of the trail, you'll glimpse views of the canyons found within the national park that are hidden from the roads. On the right-hand side, sweeping views of the New Mexico and Texas landscape spread out before you, with the Guadalupe Mountains off in the distance. Follow the cairns and posts that mark the trail through the gently sloping landscape. Watch your step as lizards and other reptiles might be on the trail, especially during the heat of the day.
Rounding a bend in the trail at roughly 2.75 miles, you'll enjoy the first views of Whites City as the descent begins to steepen. After 3.25 miles, the trail descends the hillside even more steeply and becomes slightly harder to follow. Flowering cacti can be seen on either side of the trail, especially in the spring. Finally, the trail levels out and passes through the fence marking the park boundary before emerging in the campground at Whites City. You can go to your hotel if staying there, or return to your car at the visitor center by hitchhiking or following the trail back up to your car.
A variety of cacti can be found throughout the trail. Flowering plants can be seen in the spring, especially cacti. Lizards and snakes may be encountered throughout the day while turkey vultures and hawks are soaring overhead. Mammals like deer and barbary sheep may be seen along the trail as they feed in the morning and evening.