Guadalupe Peak

More summit photos

The hike to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, is a very enjoyable and scenic hike, on a par with the South Rim hike in Big Bend as one of the truly “must see” hikes in Texas. It's about four miles each way (8 miles round trip). The hike ascends from about 5,800' at the trailhead in the campground, to the summit at 8,749'. That's about 750' per mile, which is moderately steep in anyone's book. But note that much of the elevation gain is in the first mile or so; the part of the trail closed to horses. You should probably plan on 4 hours going up, and 3 coming down. If you're in extremely good shape, you can make it up in a little over 2 hours, but it would be irresponsible of me to suggest anyone would make that kind of time.

And note this: It can be extremely windy along the trail. Sustained winds of 45-75 mph are not unusual, particularly through the winter and spring. These winds are not easily predicted, and you should always be prepared for them. As an example; in February 2000, I was at the campground and saw predictions of winds 15-25 mph, even though they turned out to be closer to 40 mph. They then predicted winds of 40-60 mph for the next few days. I didn't do my planned overnight to the summit. But the winds were almost nil that night, so the next day I did do the summit and overnight at the Guadalupe Peak camp site. Not a breath of wind. But that morning at the summit, the winds began to blow (I had arisen about 5:00 a.m. in order to photograph from the summit). By the time I reached the trailhead again down at Pine Springs, the winds were howling at about 70 mph.

Now these winds, when blowing, are quite strong, but generally do not hassle the hiker all the way up or down the trail. It depends on the direction, so one gets hit along one switchback or ridge, but then is in calm on the next.

The Guadalupe Peak backcountry campsite is about a mile short of the summit of the peak. Although I'd been to the summit many times since 1984, this year (February 2000) was the first time I've spent the night at that particular campsite. I thought it was extremely nice; it's on a summit of a sub-peak of Guadalupe Peak and there are panoramic views from both the northern and southern sides. They are graded, leveled sites, probably capable of holding two tents. (I wouldn't know; I don't take tents any more, only a bivy sack and tarp.) There is one which has a crude windbreak (as of this writing 2/2000). Again, a warning about the wind: it can be 80 mph or higher.

Anyway, if the wind doesn't blow you off the mountain, the backcountry site affords great access for those who want to take sunset or sunrise pictures from the summit. After passing the Guadalupe Peak backcountry camp site, one actually descends for awhile (much to the chagrin of those who hate to lose altitude), then crosses a wooden bridge. At about this time, the anxious hiker may have seen one or two “false summits”. My personal advice, after climbing this thing for almost twenty years, is: you won't figure out the correct peak by looking up. It's best to just walk ahead. You've got, at most from the bridge, an hour, and maybe only twenty minutes or so. You'll go through another forest, and interestingly enough, I've seen snow there the last two times I've been to the summit. In March of '98 there were still three snowfields to cross, remnants of a snowstorm in December '97, near the summit. In 2000 (it was almost ludicrous to consider in light of the 80 degree temperatures at trailhead) there were a couple of tiny patches of snow/ice in the last forest near the summit.

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