Texas is a large state, covering an area of more than 268,000 square miles (694117 square kilometers). Little of this area is covered in mountains. However, in the far western part of Texas the land begins to crumple into scattered collections of peaks. The highest of these is an ancient reef rising abruptly from the Chihuahuan Desert floor. These mountains are the Guadalupe Mountains, and at their apex stands the high point of Texas - Guadalupe Peak.
This popular peak, accessible via a well-graded hiking trail, is capped by an odd stainless steel monument placed by American Airlines in the 1950s. Per the inscription on the plaque at its base, the monument was placed to remember both the Butterfield Overland Mail stage line as well as the latter-day stage drivers, the pilots who shuttle airmail about in aircraft.
Standing on top of Guadalupe Peak means the high point of many things--The high point of Texas, of course, as well as the highpoint of the Guadalupe Mountains, as already stated. One also stands on the highpoint of Guadalupe Mountains National Park as well as the highpoint of Culberson County.
The vast majority of visitors to Guadalupe Mountains National Park will arrive by vehicle. El Capitan is accessible via the primary park entrance. The park is located in far west Texas, about 110 miles east of El Paso, Texas. To reach the main entrance, put of El Paso, follow U.S. Highway 62/180 to the park entrance.
El Paso has the nearest major commercial airport, though Albuquerque, New Mexico, would be an option for air travelers, as well. Per SP Member MarkDask Midland-Odessa Airport (Texas) is about 200 miles away, and should be considered if you're also heading to Big Bend on the same trip, as it is 90 miles closer to Big Bend than El Paso. Carefully compare the airfares and cost of car rental at location / airport.
The Guadalupe Peak Trail--From the visitor center, drive 1/2 mile to Pine Springs Campground. The signed trailhead is on the west side of the large parking lot near the RV sites. The trailhead sign is very large with an information booth.
The trail begins at the signed trailhead (5730 ft) on the west side of the parking lot. The trail forks a short distance after the trailhead. Go left at the fork. After another 100 ft or so, the trail forks again. Take the middle fork and begin climbing hard and switchbacking up through the forest. At a mile, the trail forks again...stay left. After three miles you will come to the Guadalupe Peak campsites trail on the right. Continue on the main trail to a footbridge. After the footbridge, the trail circles around the south side of the mountain, finishing the climb from the west side. There is a metal pyramid and ammo can (summit register) at the top. Round-trip is 8.5 miles and 3019 ft of elevation gain.
Get an early start to avoid afternoon monsoons.
The entrance fee to this national park is $5.00 per person for adults 16 years of age and older, and is good for 7 days.
Many use restrictions apply in national parks, most notably that dogs are not allowed on most trails and are restricted only to parking lots, campgrounds and interpretive trails or other trails designated as dog-friendly.
Pine Springs (Elevation 5,822')
Located just off U.S. Highway 62/180 near the Headquarters Visitor Center, Pine Springs Campground is a simple, desert camping area situated at the base of the mountain.
- Campground conveniences include: potable water, accessible flush-toilet restrooms , utility sink, pay telephones, and a drink machine. There are no showers available in the campground.
- Tent campers have a choice of 20 leveled, gravel sites. Small junipers and oaks partially shade most of the sites and each site has a picnic table. Numbers are limited to 6 people or 2 tents per site.
- The RV camping area is a paved parking lot with 19 sites to choose from. RV sites are defined by painted lines and numbers on the pavement. There are no hook-ups and there is no dump station. RV water tanks can be filled from an outside water faucet near the registration board. RV campsite 21 is wheelchair accessible.
When you arrive, select a campsite, then pay at the self-registration board near the restrooms, or fees may be paid by credit card at the Headquarters Visitor Center. The fee is $8.00 per night per site, $4.00 for Golden Age (Senior) and Golden Access Passport holders.
You must register to camp at Pine Springs. You can do so via Recreation.gov.
Photo credit: Neil James Fernandes