Looking for the tallest mountains in Texas? You can find them at Guadalupe Mountains National Park! This rugged, outdoor recreational haven is home to some of the best hiking in the entire Southwest! What is the best way to get to know Texas’s OTHER National Park? By exploring the best hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park with your own two feet!
The 8 Best Hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
- The Guadalupe Peak Trail
- The Devils Hall Trail
- The McKittrick Canyon Trail
- The Smith Spring and Manzanita Spring Loop Trail
- The El Capitan Trail
- The Pinery Nature Trail
- The Salt Basin Dunes Trail
- The Bowl and Hunter Peak
Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used! Enjoy this guide to the 8 best hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park!
Table of Contents
Guide to the 8 Best Hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
This diverse park is home to multiple environments and ecosystems, all seamlessly woven together by trails that highlight unique characteristics about this National Park. The best hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park contain trails through forests, high desert, canyons, natural rock “hallways” and “stairs”, sand dunes, plateaus and ridges, and of course, mountain summits!
This guide to the best hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park includes:
- What to Know Before You Go
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park Trail Map
- Tips for Hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- The Best Time to Hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Which Hiking Trails are Right For You?
- The 8 Best Hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Gear Recommendations
- Personal Recommendations
Know Before You Go
GOOGLE LOCATION: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
HOURS: open 24 hours a day every day (Visitor Centers have specific hours throughout the year)
FEES: $10 per person (payable at the Visitor Center or at self pay stations located at all trailheads)
CLOSEST AIRPORT: El Paso International Airport (approx. 2 hour drive)
PET POLICY: Pets are not allowed on hiking trails in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park Trail Map
Use the map below to locate all 8 of the best hiking trails in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Use this Guadalupe Mountains National Park trail map to locate all 8 hikes!
CHECK OUT: Did you know that there are actually 2 National Parks that are part of the same mountain chain? Guadalupe Mountains National Park and neighboring Carlsbad Caverns National Park both reside in the Guadalupe Mountains! These parks are only an hour away, making for a perfect road trip!
Tips for Hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Before you take on any of Guadalupe Mountains National Park hiking trails, be sure to:
- Familiarize yourself with the trail beforehand
- Have a trail map ( I recommend AllTrails for downloadable maps)
- Have the right gear, accessories, and plenty of water
- Let someone know your plans (use a Hiking Safety Contact Form like this one)
- Assess your fitness level
- Leave the pets at home
- Understand hiking in the different seasons
- Check the weather forecast, especially higher altitude forecasts
- Take care of business before entering the park! The closest gas stations, grocery stores, etc. are in Dell City or Carlsbad!
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park sits right on the timezone change! The park recognizes Mountain Time.
Best Time to Hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Spring and Fall are the most ideal seasons to hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Temperatures are moderate, and weather patterns are more stable.
- It is doable to hike in winter, but be aware that west Texas can get occasional snow storms and ice storms, even more so in the higher altitudes of the Guadalupe Mountains. Also, the winds are stronger and more bitter, and the temperatures are much colder.
- Summer is the least favorable time of year to hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Daytime temperatures can become excessively hot, and there are many trails without reliable water sources, minimal shade, and full exposure. If you do plan to hike in the summer, plan to start early and finish early, and always wear the right fabrics, and carry plenty of water and snacks, in addition to the rest of your hiking essentials.
Which Guadalupe Mountains National Park Hiking Trails are Right for Me?
There is a wide range of hiking trails in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, so before starting any of them, assess your fitness level and preparedness level to determine which of these best hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park are right for you!
And now for the list of the best hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park!
#1: The Guadalupe Peak Trail
Length: 8 miles roundtrip out and back
Elevation Gain: 2,949 feet
Estimated Time to Complete: 6 – 7 hours
The Guadalupe Peak Trail is the “top” hiking trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, literally and figuratively. It is the highest point in the state of Texas at 8,751 feet! This is a challenging but surprising trail that towers over the surrounding Chihuahuan desert and contains plenty of switchbacks, pine forests, and rocky summits. You need to be ready for this one, as it is a consistent uphill climb, but the reward is worth the effort!
Check out my complete guide to the Guadalupe Peak Trail HERE
#2: The Devils Hall Trail
Length: 3.8 miles roundtrip out and back
Rating: Moderate – Difficult
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Estimated Time to Complete: 1.5 – 2 hours
The Devils Hall Trail is as intriguing as the name implies. It traverses a natural slot hallway with rock steps and staircases, and involves a decent amount of scrambling over boulders. It is a moderately difficult hike, though short, and requires careful placement when navigating the rockier portions.
#3: The McKittrick Canyon Trail
Length: 21.3 miles roundtrip out and back
Elevation Gain: 4,074 feet
Estimated Time to Complete: 10 – 14 hours (recommended overnight backpacking)
The McKittrick Canyon Trail is perfect for both short day hikes or longer overnight backpacking trips, at a whopping 21 miles in length. But with all that mileage, there is so much to see along the way! Two historic cabins, the Pratt Cabin and the Hunter Line Cabin, plus fascinating formations like “the Grotto” and “the Notch”! McKittrick Canyon is a stunner in fall, when the reds, oranges, and yellows are on full display in this desert oasis.
Check out my complete guide to the McKittrick Canyon Trail HERE
#4: The Smith Spring and Manzanita Spring Loop Trail
Length: 2.5 miles roundtrip loop
Elevation Gain: 393 feet
Estimated Time to Complete: 1-2 hours
What makes this trail unique is the chance to witness not one but two desert springs, which help to feed the flora, fauna, and wildlife in the surrounding desert environment. The stunning backdrop of the Guadalupe Mountains doesn’t hurt either.
This is a great trail option for those looking for that “Goldilocks” trail – not too easy, not too hard, not too short, but not too long. Suitable for a lot of different abilities.
#5: The El Capitan Trail
Length: 9 miles roundtrip out and back
Elevation Gain: 1,656 feet
Estimated Time to Complete: 6 – 7 hours
While Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in the park, El Capitan is actually the most iconic mountain. It is the sheer rock face you first notice when driving into the park. Hiking to the summit of El Capitan is only for the most experienced hikers, and those comfortable with some amount of bushwacking and trail finding.
If you are not up for tackling El Capitan, rest assured that you can still get great views of this iconic summit from the adjacent Guadalupe Peak Trail, which looks down on the top of El Capitan.
#6: The Pinery Nature Trail
Length: 1 mile roundtrip out and back
Elevation Gain: 82 feet
Estimated Time to Complete: 30 – 45 minutes
The Pinery Nature Trail is the shortest and easiest trail on this list of the best hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Not only is it ideal for families, children, and various hiking abilities, but it also allows visitors to glimpse some historical past of the area. The remains of the historic stagecoach station ruins, part of the previous Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach route that operated through the Guadalupe Mountains in the 1850’s, are still visible.
Insider Tip: The Pinery Nature Trail is one exception to the no pets policy – leashed pets are welcome on this hike.
#7: The Salt Basin Dunes Trail
Length: 3.9 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 42 feet
Estimated Time to Complete: 2 – 2.5 hours
The Salt Basin Dunes Trail is located about 1 hour from the Pine Springs Visitor Center, in the Salt Basin Dunes Day Use Area. This particular region of the park is unlike any other. Here the miles of sand dunes are sparsely populated with fragile shrubs and desert fauna. Unlike neighboring White Sands National Park, sand sledding is not allowed on these dunes.
With the remote and secluded location of this hike, come fewer crowds and more of the trail to yourself, which is the ideal way to experience this one of a kind hiking trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Insider Tip: the road to the trailhead is not paved, and can be rough in some areas. 4WD and high clearance vehicles are recommended. Road conditions can worsen after a heavy rain. The Salt Basin Dunes Day Use Area is open dawn til dusk.
#8: The Bowl and Hunter Peak
Length: 12.9 miles roundtrip loop
Elevation Gain: 3,169 feet
Estimated Time to Complete: 8 – 10 hours
The Bowl and Hunter Peak are two landmarks in the park that are accessible by a couple different trail options, my preferred trails being the Tejas Trail and Juniper Trails. The Bowl is a wide open expanse with great views over the entire park, and Hunter Peak is another great mountain summit with forests and views. Like Guadalupe Peak, this is a switchback filled, uphill, challenging climb, to some of the best panoramas in the park. Unlike Guadalupe Peak, this summit is more secluded and remote, and an ideal day hike or overnight backpacking spot for those looking for less company.
Recommended Gear for Hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- FOOTWEAR – hiking boots or trail runners depending on your personal preference. I prefer trail runners like HOKA One One Speedgoats as they are lighter and keep my feet feeling “fresher” after hiking all day, without sacrificing on cushioning or grip. I’ve tackled Guadalupe Mountains National Park’s toughest hiking trails in these shoes!
- PERFORMANCE SOCKS – nothing can derail a good hike quicker than blisters! I used to be extremely blister prone until discovering the twin layers of Hilly Twin Skin socks that work to prevent the friction that causes blisters. Haven’t had a blister since discovering these socks, even on all day long hikes like the Grand Canyon’s Rim to Rim hike!
- DAYPACK – have a daypack capable of carrying all your necessary hiking essentials, plus plenty of water! My favorites are the Camelbak Helena daypack and the Osprey Daylite daypack.
- WATER – always carry plenty of water when hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I use a 3 liter Platypus hydration bladder in my daypack, or my Camelbak hydration vest with an included hydration bladder. A couple of trusty Nalgene water bottles in your daypack are also a good alternative.
- TREKKING POLES – you won’t need them on every hiking trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but they can help you with the steeper, more challenging trails, like Guadalupe Peak. I recommend these cork handled Black Diamond trekking poles.
- OUTER SHELL – always make sure to wear breathable, moisture wicking, and quick drying fabrics, with a waterproof outer shell for inclement weather, especially at higher altitudes. This Outdoor Research Helium II jacket is fully waterproof and windproof, while compressing down to the size of a fist, and weighing only a couple ounces. It is the most packing friendly waterproof shell out there!
- HIKING SNACKS – always make sure to bring plenty of the best hiking snacks to fuel your exploits on the best hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park!
Which Hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park are my Personal Favorites?
- My choice for the absolute best hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park is Guadalupe Peak! This hike is stunning and invigorating, while completely shattering the misconception that Texas is completely flat and boring. There is desert shrubbery, pine forests, and of course, rocky summits on this trail, and you can even backcountry camp just beneath the summit. Guadalupe Peak was my 1st state high point out of the 45 U.S. high points I have now completed, and it remains one of my favorites. In fact, I have come back multiple times to hike Guadalupe Peak.
- Devils Hall is a really interesting, shorter day hike, if you like natural “hallways” and fascinating rock formations. McKittrick Canyon is stunning in the fall, and the historic cabins are really neat to see in person along the trail. The Bowl and Hunter Peak are a great backcountry spot to hike and camp overnight, away from a lot of the other hikers in the park, if you are looking for more seclusion.
If I Only Have 1 Day in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which Hike(s) Should I Do?
- I would absolutely attempt Guadalupe Peak! If you feel up for it and finish early enough, the Devils Hall Trail is adjacent to the Guadalupe Peak Trail, and is shorter.
Which are the Easiest Hikes suitable for Families with Children?
- The Pinery Nature Trail is the most suitable for children on this list of best hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Smith Spring and Manzanita Springs Loop is a little longer, but still relatively easy. If you have older, experienced children, Devils Hall can be a really fun trail as well. The Salt Basin Dunes Trail is fairly short and mostly flat, which is good for children, if you have the time to drive the extra distance to the trailhead.
- The 5 Best National Parks in the Southwest
- The Best Southwest U.S. National Parks Road Trip
- The Best Things to Do in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Guide to the McKittrick Canyon Trail
- Guide to the Guadalupe Peak Trail
- Texas National Parks Itinerary
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