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Backpacker Magazine – April 2008

Highpoint Texas

Traverse Guadalupe Mountains National Park to the state's airiest perch.

by: Alistair Wearmouth

Guadalupe Peak, Donna Ikenberry
Guadalupe Peak, Donna Ikenberry

From Big bend to Dallas, find your perfect trip in the Lone Star state here.

Alpine adventure in the Lone Star State? You bet. Towering over lowland scrub are the Guadalupe Mountains, a 65-mile-long range with limestone walls that shoot thousands of feet above the Chihuahuan Desert. Trout swim in one of the region's only perennial streams, and the state's highest point, Guadalupe Peak (8,749 feet), rises like a pyramid above it all (1). Hit the loftiest peaks by traversing the park on this point-to-point hike from the McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center (2) to the Pine Springs Visitor Center (3). You'll gain and then lose 2,600 feet along the 25.7-mile route.

The Route
Enter a narrow, cactus-lined ravine at McKittrick Canyon Trailhead. At 2.4 miles, you'll reach Pratt Cabin (4), a homestead built in the 1930s. In another 1.1 miles, you'll find The Grotto (5), a cavern with stalactites. Then switchback up 1,600 feet in just over 1.5 miles to McKittrick Ridge. Cruise the pine-covered spine of the Guadalupes to the Tejas Trail junction (mile 11.1) (6). Go left (south), and pitch your tent at the Mescalero Campground (11.9 miles) (7). The next day, continue south down a gentle slope coming to junctions with the Blue Ridge Trail (mile 12.6; left), Juniper Trail (mile 13.7; right), and Bush Mountain Trail (mile 15.2; straight) (8, 9, 10). A 3.7-mile homestretch brings you to Pine Springs' tent sites and cold running water. Wake early on day three to nab Guadalupe Peak, 4.2 miles and 3,000 vertical feet above. A pack trail splits 0.1 miles from camp (11), then rejoins it at mile 0.8; go left at both junctions to save time. The highest camground in Texas (Guadalupe Peak CG, 8,150 feet)(12) is a mile from the top. Plan a shuttle from Pine Springs for a three-day trek or reverse your route for a five- to seven-day trek.

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Reader Rating: -


Steve Snyder
Jun 11, 2009

Don't forget the "bowl."

If you really want backcountry, hike over the rim of the Guadalupes into the bowl. You can then hike to the northern boundary at the NM state line and loop back south on a different trail.

Dan Szczesny
May 27, 2009

Be careful here. I spent a long weekend in Guadalupe in April, but was told there is no shuttle running between McKittrick and Pine Springs. Forced me to change my plans and do a bunch of loops instead of through hikes. Wonderful place though, well worth a visit!

Joe Cole
May 17, 2009

I have done Pine Springs to McKittrick numerous times each time is an adventure. Water is a problem. Spring is good time to go, but wind can blow up to 70 mph.

Steve Knowles
Jun 02, 2008

This is a beautiful hike although I hiked it from Pine Springs to McKittrick Canyon. I would have enjoyed it more if there were a water source once you top out. That 3000' of vertical from Pine Springs to the ridge packing water for 4 days is tough. Sounds like the suggested route might be easier!!


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