Highest Mountain in Texas in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Hikers are provided information on hiking the trail up to 8,749 foot Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. The four-mile long trail to Guadalupe Peak begins at Pine Springs campground in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas some eighty miles east of El Paso.There is no other way to get here but by private car where there is enough parking at the trail head for twenty cars or so. The starting point is a little over 5,000 feet above sea level just above the main ranger station. Please sign the trail register just beyond the starting point. The best times to climb Guadalupe Peak are early fall and late spring and the worst times would be mid-summer and mid-winter. There are no man-made hazards on this trail but hikers should be wary of rattle snakes, sharp-needled cactus and the possibility of very high winds. Once the hiker is on the way, there are many unique species of desert vegetation can be seen as the trail rises steadily upwards toward a towering, lateral limestone ridge.
Guadalupe Peak Trail Features Madrone, Cholla, Yucca
The red-barked madrone (ma-drun) tree is eye-catching as well as man-high spiny cholla and knee-high yucca. Canyon wrens can usually be seen hopping from one tree to the next. Their song is characterized by a high pitched rising and falling trill. Directly to the east of the trail and across a valley rises Hunter Peak (8,368 feet), one of the park’s six mountains over 8,000 feet in elevation.
A mile later, after many switchbacks, the trail crosses a pass just under the high limestone ridge and affords a magnificent view of three more 8,000 foot peaks: Shumard Peak (8,615 Feet), the closest, Bartlett Peak (8508 feet), middle range, and Bush Peak (8,,631 feet) in the distance. This limestone pass can be quite windy, sometimes with gusts over fifty miles per hour. It is at this point that the trail enters a fairly dense forest of pinyon and juniper trees growing along the backside of the initial limestone ridge. This forest houses a variety of wildlife including occasional mountain lions, more prevalent coyotes and abundant chickadees and pinyon jays. The trail rises steadily towards an open meadow two and a half miles from the trail-head.
Agave Plants Used for Tequila
This meadow is titled at a thirty degree angle that rises up to a false summit three miles from the trail head. It is worth pausing here to see up close blue-green agave plants (the source of tequila), pointy-spined lechagilla plants growing in clusters and the less frequent, thick-spined Spanish Bayonet. At the top of the meadow’s false summit, one finally gets a full view Guadalupe Peak in the shape of a giant Mayan pyramid. But the trail descends from the false summit down a steep ravine, so steep that a bridge was built to cross over a narrow gap that would otherwise cause the hiker to descend even more. Once over the bridge, the hiker should pause to look down upon the massive summit of El Capitan (8,053 feet).
Views of Salt Flats
From this point onward, the trail switches back and forth up the eastern (leeward) side of Guadalupe Peak permitting the climber to enjoy wind-free scenes of the valleys below and the vast stretches of prehistoric salt flats 5,000 feet lower. At 8,700 feet, the trail makes several steep turns through crumbling layers of sandstone to an six-foot high aluminum triangle marking the summit at 8,749 feet and four miles from the trail’s beginning. Up here one may encounter fierce winds that bring up salt particles from the flats far below to create an air that can actually be tasted.
The Mexican State of Chihuahua spreads to the south, Texan mesquite flats to west and east and the Guadalupe Range northward into nearby New Mexico. The hike takes up to a full day with a vertical gain of 3,600 feet. Bring sufficient water as there are no water sources on the trail nor are there any restrooms. You can pick up a trail map at the Pine Springs Visitor Center or go to National Park Service web site, Guadalupe Peaks National Park.