Standing On The Top Of Texas
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Distance: 8.70 Miles
Duration: 6 hours, 3 minutes
After year of wanting to climb Guadalupe Peak, I finally made it happen! For me, this was an item on my Bucket List. Doing this trail was a major accomplishment on my list.
My original plan was to climb the peak, descend, ascend Hunter's Peak via the Tejas Trail, camp at Pine Top and spend 4 days backpacking and camping in the backcountry. Consequently, I ascended Guadalupe Peak fully packed out with a 35 lb load. Needless to say, my overly ambitious plan didn't happen, lol. The old adage, "ounces lead to pounds and pounds lead to pain", became very true and something I experienced first hand and forced me to change my plans.
Climbing Guadalupe Peak took a lot of effort and reminded me of my painful slog up Pike's Peak in Colorado back in 2008, only in much hotter conditions and a lot less shade. Fortunately, my trekking poles helped immensely by converting me from an overconfident biped into a humbled, laboring quadruped. By the time I descended Guadalupe Peak, I was spent. My legs were shaking uncontrollably and I was forced to change my plans by camping down below at Pine Springs campground. Actually, camping isn't the right word. It was more like going into shock and passing out from overexertion in my tent at Pine Springs campground, lol.
The trail is easy to follow and a series of switchbacks that seemingly never end. The terrain changes along the way from desert vegetation to pines. There are no distance markers along the way and the "brochure map" they provide you at the Visitor's Center is lacking. It does not have many topographical features and trail distances are not indicated on the map (although some of the popular routes and distances are described in verbiage in the brochure). A very good topographical map made by National Geographic is available for purchase in the Visitor's Center for $20. It is costly, but I still recommend you get one if you're going to hike the less frequented trails in the backcountry. This is wild, rugged, remote country which demands a good map!
Along the way up and down the trail, you are afforded spectacular views of the adjacent canyons, mountains and surrounding area below. You will pass the cutoff to the Guadalupe campground about 4/5th of the way up. If you plan to camp here, you must first obtain a backcountry permit from the Visitor's Center. It is free and it helps the rangers know where everyone is.
The view from the top is incredible and extremely rewarding. On a clear day, you can see 40-50 miles. Knowing that you are standing at the highest point in the great state of Texas is a cool feeling, too. Be sure to sign the register! It can be found in an old ammo container next to the pyramid monument at the summit.
A word about weather. Be advised that weather can change very quickly and winds can gust at high speeds. I talked to one guy that camped overnight at Guadalupe campground and he told me the winds were gusting around 30 mph at night. Rangers later told me that sometimes the wind can gust 60-70 mph or more. Lightning, rain, hail and snow are all possible.
So, if you're camping, be sure to stake your tent down tautly and bring long, solid tent stakes that can penetrate hard, rocky soil. If you bring small, aluminum stakes or thin, shepherd's hook stakes, they will either break or bend miserably when attempting to drive them into the ground.
If you're hiking during high winds, be very careful as the trail is narrow in spots with steep drop-offs of several hundred feet. If you're carrying a heavy pack, the change in your center of gravity can throw your balance off. If you slip or faint, it could easily lead to serious injury or death.
Warning: Climbing the peak is harder that it looks! Even if you make it, the descent is hard, too. Do not attempt this trail if you have health issues or are not in shape. You will put yourself and rescuers in harm's way. People get into trouble all the time in this park. Also, be sure to take a lot of water. You will need more than you realize, especially during the hotter months. The park recommends you take 1 gallon per person per day (Note: If you hike long distances, you will need even more). Some people attempt to ascend the peak woefully unprepared. Do not be one of them.
The Top of Texas
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Distance: 8.40 Miles
This was my second time hiking the Guadalupe Peak Trail. I thought that maybe this time around the hike would seem easier, but I was wrong; it is definitely one of the hardest hikes in Texas. There were many more people on the trail this time, though most were near the beginning of the trail. As can be expected, the views from the top are stunning; the world just seems to drop away from the mountaintop to the desert below. As for the temperature, it's hot at the beginning, but becomes very pleasant by the time you reach the first trees. I would suggest a very early start. We began at 8:30 and didn't finish until 4:15, though we took many breaks and sat on the peak for about an hour. Enjoy!
One of my favorite hikes in Texas!
User: texas trekker
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Distance: 9.00 Miles
My second climb of this highpoint of Texas! My first time was alone, this time climbed with my two sons. We had a great day, cool and clear! Fantastic views from the top!
On the High End of Texas!
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Distance: 9.00 Miles
Inspired by a chapter titled "On the High End of Texas," from Edward Abbey's book "Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside," I set out for this remote location.
The trail begins near the Pine Springs campground, and is 4.5 miles one way. Though the length isn't that long, nevertheless, it's a strenuous hike. The elevation gain from Pine Springs is 3003 feet, which is accompanied with an immense amount of switchbacks. The first part of the hike is in the foothills of the Guadalupes, which allows you to take in the ecosystem of the Chihuahuan Desert. There are all kinds of xerophytic plants including yuccas, agaves, sotols, creosote, lechugilla and more. The vegetation changes as you head into the higher elevations of the mountains and, as Old Cactus Ed said, you begin to smell the aroma of pine. You'll find Piñon Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Oaks, Juniper, Texas Madrona, Arizona Cypress, maples, and more. The trail is easy to follow and well shaded once you get up the mountain a bit. There is one bridge which skirts a ledge when approaching the top, but other than that, it's all natural. About a mile or so from the top is the Guadalupe Peak Backcountry Campground. It sits in an open area which is exposed to the wind; there's nothing there, only a couple of logs and rocks to sit on. Continuing on, you reach the summit. It's a large area with a silver marker signifying the point of highest elevation. Unfortunately, it says something like "The Butterfield Stagecoach and American Airlines pioneering new horizons," or some similar ad slogan. That was disappointing, going all that way to get away from the grind and seeing a marketing ploy on top of the mountain. However, look away from the marker and you'll find astonishing 360 degree views. To the north, the rugged Guadalupes; to the east, desert as far as the eye can see; to the west, the salt flats (playa lakes,) which Spaniards and Anglos battled for long ago; and to the south, a view of the top of El Capitan, 800 feet below. As for wildlife, I saw a Peregrine Falcon, Mule Deer, a snake, lizards, a tarantula, a Ring-tailed Cat, and on a Madrona right on the trail, fresh claw marks (mountain lion?).
Start early and take plenty of food and water. Also, I would suggest staying at the Pine Springs campground at least one night to acclimate to the higher elevation.
The park is in the middle of nowhere, which makes it all the more exciting. The views are stunning and, on the trail, solitude is guaranteed. Plus, as far as hiking in Texas goes, you can't get any higher.