Texas Mountain Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Mountain Air

Alongside the eastern flank of the Guadalupe Mountains you’ll find a long-standing but little-known mountain hide-away, rich in history and remarkable for its delightfully serene surroundings. The small Frijole Ranch complex, a historic site in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, highlights the tiny Frijole Spring and its simple rock house built around 1876 by the Raders, two bachelor brothers who were among the first Anglos to arrive in the Guadalupe Mountains region who put down roots (but not for long). Perhaps because of the location’s remoteness, the Rader brothers abandoned the property sometime before 1900. In 1906, settler John Thomas Smith filed a claim on the Frijole site then spent the next thirty-six years there raising a family with his wife Nellie May. The Smiths transformed the lonely outpost rather than succumbing to its isolation, making it the place to visit for everyone within a hundred mile radius. Frijole Ranch served as post office, school, farm, home, ranch, orchard, and waystation for travelers, providing the Smith family, including their ten children, a pleasant (but labor intensive) lifestyle.

Today, the restored ranch house and grounds feature interpretive exhibits exploring the stories and artifacts of the people that once occupied the Guadalupe Mountains terrain. Nearby, Manzanita Spring, another tiny oasis used by the Smiths to irrigate orchards, is an easy 0.4 mile round-trip hike on a wheelchair accessible pathway from the Frijole. The shallow Manzanita Spring pool, surrounded by reeds and a wetland bog, host a variety of wildlife including Violet-green swallows. The birds often strafe the water’s surface in early morning, dive-bombing for nymphs and mayflies. Access to Frijole Ranch and the short Manzanita Spring Trail is located just off US 62/180 one and a half miles northeast of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park headquarters Visitor Center. Entrance to the National Park requires a fee and permit but the additional entrance to the Frijole Ranch Museum (located inside the historic ranch house) is free. Hours of operation depend on available staffing. The Frijole Ranch grounds provide shade trees, picnic areas, and the sound of water flowing along small concrete and hand-dug canals emanating from the enclosed spring house. The entire setting makes a great place to spend an entire afternoon napping in the shade or, for the less motivated, doing nothing but breathing in the fresh mountain air.

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