Highpoint Texas

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

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.

Supplies

Whites City, NM (35 miles E on US 62/180) has the nearest market and gas.

Water

Pack at least 1 gallon per hiker per day for the two-day trek to Pine Springs. Tank up before climbing Guadalupe Peak, then again for the walk out.

Gear

Pack the standard kit plus a wide-brimmed hat, a light-colored long-sleeve shirt (like Columbia's Silver Ridge, $40, columbia.com), and a cactus-proof closed-cell foam sleeping pad. And guyline your tent: The winds here can whip.

Season

Late spring, with highs in the 70s, is primo. Fall's changing leaves are also sweet.

Plan It

Map

Trails Illustrated 203: Guadalupe Mountains NP ($10; shop.nationalgeographic.com

)

Permits

Free at Pine Springs Visitor Center. nps.gov/gamo, (915) 828-3251.

The Way

From El Paso, drive east 110 miles on US 62/180 to the Pine Springs Visitor Center.