Hike up the Guadalupe Peak Trail and reach the roof of Texas! Standing at 8,749 feet, Guadalupe Peak is the tallest point in the Lone Star State. This is a strenuous 8.4-mile out-and-back hike with a 3,000-foot elevation gain. Hikers are going to want to get started as early as possible on this one to avoid the brutal Texas heat. The National Park Service recommends allowing 6 to 10 hours to complete this hike.
The trail starts from the parking lot of the Pine Springs Campground, where there is a hiker sign-in sheet. Not far from the trailhead, the switchbacks begin. The first 1.5 miles of the hike is the bulk of the ascent. The trail clings to the cliffs as you continue with a back and forth motion up around 1,500 vertical feet. Once you manage the initial ascent, the terrain breaks a bit as you traverse to another side of the mountain. Shade can be found on this side of the mountain in the early hours, and while there are still some switchbacks, it provides a nice pause from the constant grind of the first face.
From here the trail wanders through a scattered pine forest as you can see the environment start to change with the elevation. After crossing a wooden cliffside bridge, get ready for the final ascent. As hikers turn the bend, the prominent rocks of El Capitan are revealed. One last section of exposed switchbacks is all that remains until the summit is reached.
At the top there is a large silver pyramid erected to mark the state highpoint. A box at the base of the pyramid holds a booklet for successful hikers to make their mark. The 360-degree views are spectacular. A vast emptiness can be seen across the desert and salt flats of the southwestern side. To the north lies the rest of the Guadalupe Mountain Range as it stretches into New Mexico.
Overnight options here consist of the Pine Springs Campground at the base and Guadalupe Peak Campground, a small backcountry campground located just off of the trail about a mile from the summit. There is a small store with water and snacks located at the park visitor center, but other than that the area has no other amenities or services. Another popular park in the area is Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which is located 45 minutes north.
Note: Some potential dangers along the trail include sections of exposed cliffs. Keep small children away from these exposed areas.
Part of this trail merges with a horse route and can get crowded along the cliffside sections. Rattlesnakes aren’t uncommon near the lower portion of the trail and up the initial ascent.