Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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McKittrick Canyon Trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
McKittrick Canyon Trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Cookie Ballou/National Park Service)

More than 80 miles of trail and ten backcountry campgrounds are available in the park. The highest elevation accessible is Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet—the highest peak in Texas. To see this park, you must visit the backcountry. There are some limitations on horse and mountain bike use in the park. More than one-half of the park's 86,415 acres are designated wilderness, which the 1964 Wilderness Act describes as "...where earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor ... " Maps, trail guides, and a trail index are found at visitor centers for your convenience.

Day Hiking
Hiking opportunities range in time required from a few to several hours. Check in at a visitor center for orientation, trail conditions, and suggestions. A paved, handicapped-accessible, interpretive trail leads from the Visitor Center to the ruins of The Pinery Stagecoach Station (1/3 mile).

Some suggested day hikes in the park include:

Guadalupe Peak Trail - This is a strenuous hike to the "Top of Texas." On clear days, the views from the peak (8,749 ft., 2,667 m.) are outstanding. Use caution if high winds and thunderstorms are present. The trail is well established and does not require rock-climbing abilities.
8.4 miles round-trip
Rated: Strenuous (3,000 ft' elevation gain)

The Bowl Trail - Experience a "High Country" hike through a conifer forest. In June 1990, a wildland fire burned areas of the Bowl. Witness the recovery following this natural process. Note: We recommend the following route: Tejas Trail, Bowl Trail, Hunter Peak side trip, Bear Canyon Trail, Frijole Trail.
9.1 miles round-trip
Rated: Strenuous

El Capitan Trail - This trail leads through Chihuahuan Desert to the base of El Capitan (southern terminus of the Guadalupe Mountains), and the Salt Basin Overlook. We recommend: El Capitan Trail, Salt Basin Overlook Trail, El Capitan Trail.
11.3 Miles round-trip
Rated: Moderate

McKittrick Canyon Trailhead / Permian Reef Trail - This trail has elevation markers every 100 ft. and stop markers that can be used with a geologic guide book, which is available at park visitor centers. There are excellent views from the top of this ancient Permian structure.
8 miles round-trip
Rated: Strenuous

Pine Springs Trailhead / Devils Hall - Follow the Guadalupe Peak Trail for a short distance before branching off on the Devil's Hall Trail. This trail becomes a cairned route when entering Pine Canyon. Unique rock formations await you as you climb Hiker's Staircase to Devil's Hall, an extremely narrow rock corridor.
4.2 miles round-trip
Rated: Moderate
Trail follows a very rocky, dry wash for 3 miles; ends at narrow rock corridor
Flash flooding can occur during heavy rains

Headquarters Visitor Center / Pinery Trail - This wheelchair-accessible, self-guiding trail leaves from the main park visitor center and leads to the ruins of the Pinery, a stagecoach horse changing station along the Butterfield Trail. You may also be picked up from or access this site from the Pinery parking lot on Hwy. 62/180.
0.75 miles round-trip
Rated: Easy

Frijole Ranch House Trailhead / Smith Springs Loop Trail - A "quick" way to observe some of the diverse plant and animal life protected in the park. You will see two springs: Manzanita and Smith. Wildland fires in 1990 and 1993 burned over much of the trail area. Please stay on the trail and do not drink the water or wade in the springs.
2.3 miles round-trip
Rated: Moderate

Frijole Ranch House Trailhead / Frijole Foothills Trail - The Frijole and Foothills Trails make a loop connecting the Pine Springs Campground and the Frijole Ranch. Start at either end.
5.5 miles round-trip
Rated: Moderate

McKittrick Canyon Trailhead / McKittrick Canyon Nature Loop - This self-guiding loop trail provides a "snapshot" of Chihuahuan Desert environment. In June 1990, a wildland fire burned a portion of land accessed by this trail. Excellent views of the unique local geology are found overlooking the mouth of McKittrick Canyon.
0.9 miles round-trip
Rated: Easy

McKittrick Canyon Trailhead / McKittrick Canyon - Biological diversity and world-class geology await you on this hike. An intermittent stream flows through the canyon. This trail leads from the visitor center through the desert, transition, and woodlands to the historic Pratt lodge and Grotto picnic area. A guide book is available. To protect this fragile environment you are required to remain on the established trail. Do not drink the water or wade in the creek.
6.8 miles round-trip
Rated: Easy

Dog Canyon Trailhead / Indian Meadows Nature Loop - This loop provides a look at the flora and fauna of a meadow community. A trail guide is provided at the beginning of the trail.
0.5 miles round- trip
Rated: Easy

Dog Canyon Trailhead / Lost Peak - By following the Tejas Trail, you climb out of Dog Canyon and the valley below into a coniferous forest. Witness changes in vegetation and outstanding views as you hike along this trail.
6.4 mile round-trip
Rated: Moderate to Strenuous (1,500 ft. elevation gain)

Dog Canyon Trailhead / Marcus Overlook - Follow the Bush Mountain Trail for 2.3 miles. Where the trail sharply falls, you can look down into West Dog Canyon.
4.5 miles round-trip
Rated: Moderate

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 12 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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