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.
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.
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 .
The trail below when descending.
A view of El Capitan with Guadalupe Peak behind taken from the highway below.