Given its erratic weather-ice storms, torrential rain, brutal heat, and hat-grabbing winds-Guadalupe Mountains National Park lives up to its tag: “Land of Many Contrasts.” Thrusting 4,000 vertical feet above the vast Chihuahuan Desert, Guadalupe and her jagged companion El Capitan are part of an ancient, giant limestone reef from a long-gone sea. There are fossilized seashells embedded in the winding, dusty 4.2-mile summit trail, and a 6-foot-high, stainless steel triangular pyramid up top. The sweeping view of 8,000-foot peaks leaves you wondering if you’re still in Texas.
Contact: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, (915) 828-3251; www.nps.gov/gumo/
USGS Topo: Guadalupe Peak