Guadalupe Peak (8,751′) | Texas’ State High Point | 04/02/21


Guadalupe Peak (8,751′) | Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Salt Flat, TX | 04/02/21 | 9.82 miles | 3,044′ gain


Capture

Although 2021 started out slow (with no traveling and very few exciting hikes), April started with a bang and I haven’t slowed down since. On a whirlwind three-day trip, Allie and I road-tripped around Texas and New Mexico; visiting three National Parks, climbing one state high point, and hiking nearly all day, every day. We flew in to El Paso Thursday night with just enough time to grab our rental car, eat dinner, and buy groceries. After our busy night, we woke up early Friday to make the two-hour drive to Guadalupe Mountains National Park where we would climb to the Top of Texas! (aka Guadalupe Peak)

It was a beautiful drive through the Chihuahuan Desert and we soon neared the Guadalupes with El Capitan standing guard. These mountains are an island of diversity within the harsh desert. From below, the rocky cliffs look like an extension of the arid desert but the highest reaches of the Guadalupes are home to coniferous forests reminiscent of the Rocky Mountains and the deep canyons protect streamside oak and maple woodlands.

The National Park uses Mountain Time but our phones were displaying Central Time, so we spent much of the day confused about what time it really was. We arrived just before 9am (Mountain Time) to an extremely busy park. Rangers were out in full force, warning of the dangers of dehydration. Eventually we were able to assure them we packed plenty of water and they directed us to park at the large lower lot. The small upper lot by the Pine Springs Campground filled much earlier. We weren’t expecting so many people to be hiking on a Friday morning at one of the lesser visited National Parks.

DSC_0734
Heading into the desert

We first had to walk from the lower lot to the upper lot and the main trailhead. It took a while to find the unmarked connector trail but eventually we were on our way into the desert. The flat trail between parking lots was a great warm-up.

DSC_0735

The Guadalupe Peak Trail begins at the mouth of Pine Spring Canyon, bounded on each side by the Guadalupe Mountains. Cactus, yucca, and scrub dominate the desert ecosystem. It started out cool but quickly warmed, especially as we got to work climbing the steeper sections. Our once flat trail began to switchback steeply up the hillside for about a mile and a half.

DSC_0736
DSC_0737
Heading up, the creekbed is visible below
DSC_0738
Prickly pear and rocky cliffs were a common sight
DSC_0740
Stairs along the trail
DSC_0741
One of my favorite parts

There are plenty of places to take a break on the way up, including a few overlooks. Shade was hard to come by and while it was probably only 70°, it felt much hotter.

DSC_0742
An overlook of the Guadalupes, Shumard Peak (8,615′) is on the left
DSC_0743
Looking out to the surrounding desert
DSC_0744
Switchbacks
DSC_0745
Our first view of Guadalupe Peak

After a steep mile and a half, the trail circled around the north side of the mountain and offered us our first view of Guadalupe Peak. As the trail entered the forest, it eased a bit and we had a break from the sun as well as a break from the steep. We made really good time through this section.

DSC_0746
A cool reprieve in the forest
DSC_0747
Making progress now! Looking back down
DSC_0748
Our little friend
DSC_0749
The peak doesn’t look any closer here even though we’ve made a ton of progress.

After a few more switchbacks, the forest opened up and we enjoyed another easy section past the backcountry campground. The open forest looked so much like the Colorado foothills that it didn’t seem possible that we were still in the Chihuahuan Desert. The Guadalupes are truly an island.

DSC_0750
A cool view of Hunter Peak (8,368′) on the other side of Pine Spring Canyon
DSC_0751
The final stretch!

Before the final climb to the summit, we walked along some cliffs and crossed a very cool bridge.

DSC_0752
DSC_0753
Okay, it doesn’t look that cool from this angle
DSC_0756
NOW it looks cool

The bridge dumped us out at the final set of switchbacks. After the last 550′ climb, we made it to the rocky summit.

DSC_0757
We stared at an awesome El Capitan the entire way up
DSC_0766
Finally we made it!

The summit was crawling with people but we were able to snag one of the few shady spots for our lunch break. The summit marker, a steel pyramid, was erected in 1958 by American Airlines as a tribute to the Butterfield Overland Mail route, a stagecoach trail also used by Pony Express riders. The three sides of the pyramid commemorate American Airlines, the Boy Scouts, and the Pony Express Riders of the Butterfield Stage.

DSC_0769
Hunter Peak (8,368′) across Pine Spring Canyon
DSC_0770
Shumard Peak (8,615′)

The hike down was uneventful but hot. We rushed a bit, hoping to visit the Visitor Center before it closed at 4:30. Thankfully we made it with just enough time to view the exhibits and buy a t-shirt. Since we’d only hiked one trail, we felt we didn’t really see what all the park has to offer, and although there was no way we’d have enough time to see everything, we stopped to visit a few historic sites on our way out.


Chelsea


25 thoughts on “Guadalupe Peak (8,751′) | Texas’ State High Point | 04/02/21

  1. Pingback: Historic Sites of Guadalupe National Park | Texas | 04/02/21 – Colorado Chelsea

  2. Tammy Metzger

    Yay! I did this one with a FB group of women campers in Nov 2019. It was a blast. That was before I moved to NM and have since summited so much higher! And yes, temps feel much hotter here – less atmosphere to filter the sun’s radiation.

    Like

  3. Hey! I am camping two nights in Guadalupe at the Pine Springs Campground in early Nov….going by myself. Its a solo trip and I am thinking of doing this hike and the Devils thing…or maybe one of the other longer hikes. I hear Hunter gives killer views of all the sights as well? Your post didn’t say so…but snakes???

    Like

    1. We didn’t see a single snake, but there were a lot of people on the trail. They do live down there so just be mindful. Keep on trail, watch your step, and if you see a rattlesnake, keep your distance. Snakes don’t want anything to do with you, so just give them some time to move out of the way and then you can continue. I hope you have a great trip!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s