Leaving early on a Saturday morning from our homes in South Texas, we headed West on Interstate 10 in the fog that seems to show up every third day or so here. Our destination in about 9 hours is Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The park is in and named for the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas and is home to the highest point in Texas at 8,749 Feet (2,667m) in elevation.
A few words about Interstate 10. Between San Antonio and Fort Stockton it is pretty bare. The vistas are impressive, but other than open land, some wind turbines and oil wells, there is just not much to look at. The speed limits reflect that fact. For long stretches speed limits are 80mph. Even being able to travel that fast, it takes hours to get anywhere.
Along the road to Pecos, TX I was amazed. I always head of the oil in Texas. Out here, you get to see it firsthand. Not only the pumps, those classic pieces of equipment that look like the drinking birds we all bought at least once at a Stucky’s off of an interstate highway. Also, the drilling rigs and what amount to camps that support each one. These really are small towns out in the middle of nowhere. It is no wonder Roughnecks and wildcatters have such a wild reputation.
The approach to Guadalupe Mountains National Park is scenic no matter what direction you come from. The flat land of cattle and oil country gives way to rolling hill and the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains. The roads are curvy as it winds it’s way up to 5,700 ft. in elevation.
Arriving at the park, we checked in at the Visitors Center and headed to our camp sites. The visitor center is about a mile from the Pine Springs camp ground where we camped. The other is Dog Canyon. Both camp grounds have restrooms and water. At Pine Springs the water is located at the bath house. Pine Springs has sites for both tent camping and Recreational Vehicles, but there are no hook up for the RV sites. It is pretty good walk from the water point to the tent sites.
Our original goal for this trip had been to hike to Guadalupe peak, the highest spot in Texas, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Over the course of the weekend we experience all 4 seasons of weather. Saturday ended very calmly and in fact I was in my tent and asleep by 9:00pm. The next morning we were treated to spectacular formations of clouds wrapping around El Capitan and even though it was cloudy it was a beautiful day for hiking. And at that point that was about as far as we got. Over the next few hours, we had rain, thunder, lighting, hail, sleet, snow and wind. It was amassing. I have camped in all kinds of weather over the last 35 years, but I have never had this diversity in such a short period of time. The weather did break for a little while that after noon and we did get some hiking in along the Devils Hall Trail. We did not reach the 8,751 foot peak we intended to, but the hike we did get was great. Trails in this part of the park are well marked and well maintained.
The Devil’s Hall Trail is a well maintained trail for one mile. It then enters a rocky wash, which requires the hiker to scramble over large boulders. The trail offers spectacular views of geologic formations, steep canyon walls, tall trees, and mountaintops.
The Pinery Trail offers visitors an opportunity to take a quick walk on a paved trail. The trail features signage identifying common local plants. The trail also features ruins of the Old Butterfield Stagecoach Route Pinery Station built in 1858.
The Guadalupe peak trails climbs to the “Top of Texas” with this 8.5 mile round-trip hike that climbs 3,000 feet and travels through a conifer forest to reach the top of Guadalupe Peak. The long climb is awarded with amazing views to the West and to the South. Make sure to allow 6-8 hours for the hike and be prepared with plenty of water, sun protection and food.
Really I want to plan another trip out to Guadalupe Mountains so I can get to the top of Texas before I leave here. The views both day and night from the Piney Springs Camp Ground are simply spectacular especially at sunrise and sunset. This is a unique environment and really makes me glad people had the foresight to preserve it as a National Park in 1972 and even before that with private citizens buying the land to preserve it.