Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in western Texas. It is unique among Texas national parks as it contains the highest mountain ranges in the state, including Guadalupe Peak, which is the highest point in Texas. Like Big Bend National Park, found along the state’s border with Mexico, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a popular destination for visitors looking to go hiking in Texas, with mountain trails and spectacular geological formations such as El Capitan, one of the most distinctive peaks in the Guadalupe Mountains.
The Guadalupe Mountains Texas were part of an ancient limestone reef in the Permian Sea about 250 million years ago. Since then, the mountains have been raised up, though much fossilized evidence of the range's former life as an underwater reef still remains. The Guadalupe Mountains are an impressive sight rising out of the desert and surrounded by desert plants such as yuccas, ocatillos, and the like. However, once you get into the mountains, you will quickly see why this park is so unique among Texas national parks. The ecosystem in the mountains, ranging from 3,600 to 8,700 feet in elevation, is comprised of alpine forests, rivers and creeks, and filled with wildlife including raccoons, foxes, eagles, deer and elk, a stark contrast to the relatively barren desert.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a top tourist attraction for hiking in Texas, and walking is the best way to explore its unique terrain. The topography of the mountains is not well suited to vehicular travel, so horseback riding and walking are your best options. There are more than 80 miles of trails you can follow, though make sure you come prepared with food and water as there are no restaurants or stores available once you set out. One of the most popular hikes begins at Pine Springs Campground and continues up Guadalupe Peak. Though this is a difficult climb of more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain, the trail is well maintained and the view from the top is spectacular.
Another popular hike is the trail at McKittrick Canyon, which takes you to some incredible maple forests, a rarity in this part of the country, as well as the park's original ranch house, Pratt Lodge. When hiking, bring warm clothing and good hiking boots. The Guadalupe Mountains are among the windiest of Texas national parks, and the weather can be unpredictable. In addition, rubble on the paths can make hiking difficult.
There are several campsites available in the park, with two maintained campsites at Dog's Canyon and Pine Springs. If you want to get away from other tourists, however, you may want to obtain a free permit to go camping in the backcountry at one of the primitive campsites there. Remember that as with most hiking in Texas, there is no water available in the backcountry, so make sure you bring all that you need, or refill your water containers at the main campsites. Other than camping there are no hotels or other accommodations in the park. The closest hotels are in Whites City, New Mexico, which is close to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.