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Dog Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains, TX
Consider this: More people hike Yosemite's Mist Trail on a Sunday in August than overnight at Guadalupe Mountains' 10 backcountry campsites in an entire year. Want the most extreme alone time? Avoid the park's "busy" season in March, during spring break, when most backcountry hikers head for 8,749-foot Guadalupe Peak, in the south of the park. It's the highest point in Texas and a peakbagger magnet.
For warm days, cool nights, and a big slice of high lonesome, ranger Michael Haynie recommends arriving in April and hiking in from the remote north side, at Dog Canyon. The route taps Guadalupe's singular attractions: deep-cut limestone canyons, lush glades frequented by elk, and ridge-top vistas that unfurl 100 miles. Haynie's 15-mile loop climbs up the forested canyon and over 7,830-foot Lost Peak to Mescalero Campground, with a return via Brush Mountain Trail and a night at Marcus Campground. (The latter site hosted only 79 campers in all of 2008.) Must-do detour: Climb 8,369-foot Hunter Mountain for the best view in Texas. Price for the solitude? You'll have to pack all of your water (a gallon per day).