Guadalupe Mountains National Park draws peak baggers and fall-season color seekers to it's most popular trails. Though it follows one of the main trails out of Pine Valley, this trek that tops out at Texas' 6th highest peak--Hunter Peak--is lesser traveled, even though the rewarding views from the 8,368-foot summit are worth the climb.
Begin at the main, Pine Springs campground parking lot and follow the Tejas Trail across a rocky wash before turning northeast toward the head of the valley. The climb begins slowly, but the open, exposed trail begins switchbacking up the side of the mountain, eventually crossing a saddle and giving preview glimpses of the push toward Pine Top. At mile 3.5, you'll have a brief at a pine-shaded four-way junction where this route turns right. Continue less dramatically uphill as the trail loosly traces the edge of the mountin heading east. Stay right at the Y-junction where the Bowl Trail splits.
There are a few short, steep steps as the trail approaches a saddle just before the summit. At the saddle, just before mile 4.5, branch right on the well-worn summit trail and stair-step the last several hundred yards (about 150 vertical feet) to the flat, rocky peak. Plan to spend some time admiring the 360-degree views and refreshing canyon winds.
There is no water in the Guadalupe Mountains high country and this route has little tree cover. Bring plenty of water for the long trek.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland
- Distance: 14.8
Location: 31.896633, -104.828196
The fully-equipped trailhead is the only place on this route that you'll encounter water. Park in the large lot (or at overflow parking near the visitors center) and self-register at the map kiosk before taking off toward the Tejas Trail.
Location: 31.898287, -104.827558
After crossing the wash at the base of the valley, turn left on the Tejas Trail. The climb begins gradually as the trail winds through yucca and typical desert vegetation. Look for deer and skunks in the brush.
Location: 31.90613, -104.837071
Most of the trail's lower section is desert-like and lined with grasses and cacti, but as you dip into this wash you'll see larger trees. Look ahead and you'll see the trail climbing and rounding the hillside.
Location: 31.904303, -104.844074
As the trail crosses the ridge you'll have dead center views of the valley and birds-eye views of Devils Hall. Look for aoudad--a type of big-game sheep--on the rugged hillsides across the canyon and, if it's fall, look for bright-colored trees in the slot canyons below.
Location: 31.915778, -104.844933
You'll climb into trees on the last few switchbacks leading to this 4-way junction. This route turns right on the Bowl Trail that traces below the edge of the hillside heading east, toward Hunter Peak. There are several backcountry campsites up the hill to the left. They are windy, but popular. If you want to camp and make this an overnight trip, be sure to make reservations.
As you reach the top of the hill, you'll cruise straight through this 4-way junction, bypassing the Bush Mountain, Pine Top Campsite, and Bowl trails.
Location: 31.915746, -104.837056
Bear right at this Y-junction where the Bowl Trail splits. The right-leading trail that this route follows continues winding along the edge of the mountain. The left-leading trail heads back toward a meadow-y depression known as The Bowl.
Location: 31.914732, -104.831818
Atop this small saddle, the trail splits again. Reach the summit by turning right at stair-stepping up limestone blocks. It's just a few minutes to the rocky summit and you'll find lots of nooks, crannies, and slotted viewpoints on the way. If it's really windy at the top, consider admiring the view from these more protected vantages instead.
Location: 31.899275, -104.831929
Look for deer and other animals as the trail leaves the relative development of the valley and begins climbing.
Location: 31.906671, -104.845426
The sheer edge of the trail drops toward Spring Canyon.
Location: 31.907181, -104.845726
Looking downhill, in the fall you'll see the bright colors of turning leaves.
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You'll see the trail cutting across the hillside up ahead.
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The flat four-way junction at mile 3.5 is a nice, shady spot to rest before taking the righthand trail and continuing toward Hunter Peak.
Location: 31.915705, -104.837047
This tricky junction's left branch leads toward the Bowl and the right branch toward Hunter Peak.
Location: 31.914348, -104.831623
The limestone that makes up this old reef system, now more than 8,000 feet above sea level, show remnants of marine animals and sedimentary deposits.
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Slotted views of the valley on the final push toward the summit.
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Looking west, the rugged rocks below the summit resemble hoodoos.
Location: 31.913866, -104.830631
El Capitan and Guadalupe Peaks dominate the southern view from the summit--and from much of the park.
Location: 31.913775, -104.830422
Admire the valley view and the profiles of El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak stretching south from the peak. There aren't any trees, so the rocky outcropping offers 360-degree views.