We spent two days hiking Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas. Doing dayhikes in this park is difficult, since there is no convenient place to stay in this lightly populated area without camping. We started one of our days in El Paso, Texas (over 2 hours away) and another in Carlsbad, New Mexico (an hour away). During the same trip we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park and White Sands National Monument.
The park’s signature hike is Guadalupe Peak, Texas’ highest mountain at 8749 feet. It’s an 8.5 mile roundtrip with a 3000 foot elevation gain, so be prepared for a workout. We went in late March and got a perfect day, clear and 70 degrees at the summit. That was luck. March could also have the summit covered in residual snow. On our trip there was none.
The trail starts in a dry wash, then climbs steeply up a series of rocky switchbacks. The first section is challenging: a lot of elevation gain and a few narrow ledges to test your comfort. Good views of the wash. As you get higher, the trail becomes more varied. There are more trees, more shade, different view angles showing other canyons.
Eventually the trail opens up and you can see the “front” of the Guadalupe Mountains, which is a sharp face overlooking the flatter lands to the south. There is an excellent view of the neighboring peak “El Capitan”, with its distinctive waves on one side ending at a nearly vertical cliff.
The final push to the summit is above treeline. At the top is a pyramid marker donated by American Airlines. It looks like it’s made of aircraft material, maybe it is. Texas law requires all hikers to take selfies next to it. The summit is pretty large and you will likely see other hikers there. With an early start, it’s a good place for a lunch break.
The trail to Guadalupe Peak is an out-and-back track. It’s pretty easy to follow, marked with signs at intersections instead of blazes. We were feeling pretty good, so we thought we would hit another GMNP attraction “Devil’s Hall“. (Hmm, maybe it’s not just Utah that names everything after the Devil.) Our trail map showed where we should turn but the intersection I wanted to take said nothing about it. For the record, there is a sign there and it says “No stock beyond this point”. We did go that way and it turned out to be the right path.
Devil’s Hall added at least 4 miles to an already tough day. There’s a long stretch of “is this right?” before you reach an interesting step-like formation that you need to climb. After that it’s only few minutes away.
The Hall is a slot canyon, but a much wider one than those found in Utah.