What time is it?
At many national parks, the most common question asked is “Where is the restroom?” But at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the most common question is “What time is it?”
This question gets asked even before the park visitor center opens. It’s not uncommon for park rangers to arrive at the office to find people waiting outside, wondering why the visitor center isn’t open yet. Or around 3:30pm, some visitors start apologizing for keeping the staff late, even though we don’t close for another hour.
So what gives?
Most of Texas is in the Central Time Zone. However, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is in Mountain Time – barely. The boundary between central time and mountain time is just a few miles south of the park. Twenty years ago this distinction wasn’t that big of a deal. Visitors would consult a travel book or park brochure, note the mountain time, and set their watch or car clock accordingly. However, with the advent mobile devices, including smart watches that are connected to the phone, this time zone boundary causes confusion. Most of the nearby cellular towers are located in central time just south and east of the park. Which means that people’s phones and smartwatches display central time in most of the park. Or sometimes the devices will switch back and forth. Or in a travelling group, some people’s devices will display mountain time while others will show central time. Increasingly some cars’ clocks are even set to pick up off a cellular tower. What does this mean for visitors? It means that your watch, phone, and car clock may or may not have the right time displayed! Which means you could miss the scheduled ranger program, or a reservation at your next stop.
What can I do about this?
If you know you’re going to be visiting the park, plan ahead! Most staff members and visitors who plan to spend more than a few hours in the park will change the settings on their phone to manually be in Mountain Time (Your phone might label this by city – so select El Paso, Denver, or some other city in the mountain time zone). If you’re just passing through and don’t want to change the settings – that’s ok! If you plan ahead and are aware of how long you have before things open or close, or programs begin, you can ensure that you have a fantastic (and on time) visit!
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is in Mountain Time!