Spreading out over 135 square miles of extreme West Texas bordering New Mexico, the Guadalupe Mountains National Park contains Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in the Lone Star State at 8,749 feet. Those who visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park also cannot miss the historical landmark, El Capitan, a peak once used as a guide by travelers on the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line. In fact, the Pine Springs Visitors Center includes among its features an old stagecoach station.
Many people who visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park also drive the approximately eighty miles to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. Both parks share the same mountain range and while visitors to Carlsbad do their walking deep underground in the depths of the park's breathtaking caverns, the walking at Guadalupe Mountains National Park is above ground and extensive.
In fact, many hikers consider the Guadalupe Mountains National Park to be a haven for their sport. Routes are available for hikers of all ability levels from easy nature walks through short day hikes, to extended backpacking excursions. There are three principal trailheads in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Pine Springs, Dog Canyon, and McKittrick Canyon.
Many visitors to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park come exclusively to see the Bigtooth Maples in McKittrick Canyon that are ablaze with fall color each year. In the same area as the canyon, visitors may also tour the cabin belonging to petroleum geologist Wallace Pratt who donated the land for the formation of the park.
The McKittrick Canyon Trail takes hikers over a range of landscapes from desert to woodlands. The 4.8 mile round trip taking approximately two hours during which hikers are required to stay on the trail and out of any source of water which is there for the use of the wildlife. For those seeking a less strenuous walk in this part of the park there is also a McKittrick Canyon Natural Trail which is a moderate .9 mile walk taking less than an hour to complete
A sampling of other hikes available includes the Guadalupe Peak Trail, which covers 8.4 strenuous miles requiring six to eight hours. The Devil's Hall Trail covers 4.2 moderate miles and takes three to five hours. The Bowl involves a strenuous 9.1 miles usually eating up eight to ten hours of hiking time.
The El Capitan/Salt Basin Overlook Trails is an 11.3 mile hike with a moderate rating requiring some six to eight hours. The Frijole/Foothills Trails connect the Pine Springs campground and the Frijole Ranch. Because it is not heavily used, this is an excellent trail for those seeking solitude.
The Permian Reef Trail will be of particular interest to those knowledgeable in geology. The 8.4 mile round trip is rated as strenuous. Other trailheads available in the park include the Headquarters Visitor Center Trailhead, the Frijole Ranch Trailhead, and Dog Canyon.
The scenery and landscape available to visitors traveling these trails at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park range from starkly beautiful Chihuahuan Desert to peaceful, shaded forests of pine and Douglas fir. The trail elevations range from flat and moderate to rocky, steep, and heart-pumping.