A Hike to the Top o’ Texas

Texas isn’t the first place that comes to mind when I hear the word “mountains”, so it seemed like an interesting idea to find and hike to the highest point in the Lone Star state.  I had a good opportunity on a recent roadtrip down to explore southwestern Texas and get in some hikes.

Make no mistake, Guadalupe Peak in the Guadalupe Mountain range is a mountain by any definition.  Standing at 8751 feet altitude (2667 m) it is about 5000 feet higher than I expected the highest point in Texas to be.  Following some time at Carlsbad Caverns in southeast New Mexico, I was up before daybreak to make the hour or so drive south to Guadalupe Mountains National Park website.

Location of Guadalupe National Park in the US
Location of Guadalupe National Park in the US

The sun was rising in the east and the moon was setting over the Guadalupes as I pulled up to the park.  This is a remote place.  I could have camped here, but I chose to stay up at Carlsbad where there was restaurants and other services.  There are none at GMNP.   It is about a 40 mile drive south on good highway.  Carlsbad Caverns are also in the Guadalupe Mountain range which looms to the west during the entire drive.

This is also a place of great natural beauty.  The Park features more than 80 miles of trails through desert canyons crowned by high peaks.  This is the Chihuahuan Desert and is home to typical desert flora and fauna.  Cactus, agave, cresote,  junipers, desert grasses and scrub bushes dominate the lower altitude terrain at the beginning of the hike but they give way to bigger pines and even some aspens as you get higher near the peak.  This is definitely a place to carry plenty of water and liberally slather on the sunscreen.

click for interactive map
Route of the hike – click for interactive map

The hike up Guadalupe Peak lives up to its billing as “very strenuous”.  It is about an 8 ½ mile round trip and is quite vertical having a 3,000 foot elevation gain from the start at Pine Springs Campground to the top.  Leave plenty of time and start early to beat sun and heat .

Following are images from the hike to the top o’ Texas …

Guadalupe Peak Hike
This hike goes up and up and up …
The geology is predominantly limestone.
This was a Fall hike and there were plenty of flowers and lush undergrowth.
The trail is rocky and rugged in places.

Expansive view to the floor of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Various segments of the trail are on narrow cliffs.

A wooden bridge crosses a gap in one of the cliffs along the way.

As you get higher, you pass through stands of big pines.

I encountered various lizards and a snake along the way.

One of the most prominent features in the Guadalupes is El Capitan. The route passes between Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan. This view is looking down on El Capitan from its back side.

The summit features a (pre-National Park) monument and a peak register box.

The trail below when descending.

A view of El Capitan with Guadalupe Peak behind taken from the highway below.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *