Guadalupe Peak - Highpoint of Texas
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, presents the hiker with incredible trailside views, surprising mini-climates, a variety of flora and fauna, and a summit view worthy of a postcard—not to mention a summit monument that would make any mountain envious. For these reasons, and many more, this summit trail is the premier hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park—so grab your hiking boots and set out for the highpoint in, not only the park, but in the entire Lone Star state.
At a mere 8,749 feet, the towering 14,000-foot summits of other western states appear to overshadow Guadalupe Peak, but in terms of outstanding scenery, elevation gain, and pure mountain beauty, it ranks right up there with the big boys.
The hike to the summit begins at the Pine Springs Campground, just west of the Visitor Center, where it gains 3,015 feet over the course of 4.2 miles—if possible, plan your hike in the cooler months or begin your hike early to avoid the heat of mid-day. We planned our hike for late October, and luckily, the weather was perfect—despite a prediction of high winds. Setting out at around 10am, the air was still on the chilly side—around 45°F—but the steady climb towards the summit and the bright clear skies combined to help warm us up. The expertly constructed trail definitely adds to the enjoyment of the hike, the grade of the trail minimizing the stress on legs and lungs, but a gain of over 3,000 feet in less than 5 miles is nothing to discount—who said Texas is flat.
Following the “hiker only” route, located 0.1 mile from the parking lot, we began the steep climb up the switchbacks around the side of Pine Spring Canyon—admiring the picturesque views from the Indian paintbrush and yucca lined trail.
In these mountains, towering above the salt flats of Texas, the plants and animals of the desert meet those of the mountains—as you climb, you will notice this shift in biomes—cactus and yucca soon give way to the higher-elevation pine forests. As we entered the trees, we were even treated to a bit of fall color—patches of red and yellow from the leaves of bigtooth maple painted the landscape.
The final 1.5 miles follows the edge of a canyon, eventually crossing a footbridge over a deep chasm before beginning the final climb to the summit—now visible from the trail. Amazing views of the Chihuahuan Desert, the top of El Capitan, and the salt flats all eventually come into view—along the trail, sparkling crystals of quartz shine in the Texas sun, along with the metal surface of the obelisk on the summit.
Towering above the jagged cliffs of El Capitan, the rocky trail finally leads to the summit—once on top, the panoramic views are incredible—note the view of the two peaks to the north, they are Bush Mountain and Shumard Peak, the second and third highest peaks in Texas. After taking in the view all around, make your way to the impressive obelisk that marks the summit—here you will find the metal box that contains the summit register—be sure to leave your comments. Pick and I signed in and then set out in search of a benchmark, which we never found, but while exploring the summit we enjoyed the bright sunshine and exceptional vistas. As the wind began to pick up a little and the air took on a chill, the two of us leaned against the reflective surface of the summit pyramid—the bright silver metal reflecting the sun’s heat perfectly—energized and warmed by the heat of the sun, we were ready to begin our descent.
It had taken us 3 hours to reach the summit, where we then spent about an hour enjoying the highpoint before retracing our steps back to the parking lot—arriving back at our car in 2 hours, for a roundtrip hiking time of 6 hours. Our return journey was just as inspiring as the climb and surprisingly easy on the knees—just a little bit of jarring—prompting us to designate Guadalupe Peak as our favorite hike in the park. If you only have time for one hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, make it a climb to the peak and you won’t be disappointed.