Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Renee and I are on a“southwest tour” with my parents before we go hike the PCT.  For our first stop, we spent two nights backpacking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas… 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park features the highest peak in Texas, remote wilderness and an astonishingly wide diversity of plant habitats- from the Chihuahuan Desert to the mountain top forests of oak and pine.  The geology of the Guadalupe Mountains is also fascinating- they were formed from a 265-million years fossil reef. 
On top of Guadalupe Peak (8751 feet), highest point in Texas.
Since there are no springs or other backcountry water sources, we planned our two out-and-back overnight backpacking trips from the same trailhead at the campground so we could get water on the second day.  We figured that carrying all our water into the backcountry each night would be good practice for the long water-carries on the PCT.

On the first day, my parents dropped us off near the visitor's center, and while they went off for shorter dayhikes, Renee and I followed well-designed switchbacks up the 3000 foot climb to Guadalupe Peak, highest point in Texas.  Several dayhikers, but only two other backpackers, were also on this popular trail.
The water I’m carrying weights more than everything else in my pack combined.
Being out West, I couldn’t stop grinning.  Even though I've lived in the East for a long time, I still think of myself as someone from the West at heart (I grew up in Oregon).  As much as I love my familiar hiking trails in Georgia, these tall mountains with those sweeping views make me so happy. 
Spectacular views.
Marveling how these mountains were made by corals and other marine organisms.
After having dinner on Guadalupe Peak and watching the sun begin to set, we hiked back down to our campsite.  In the early hours of morning, wind gusts rocked my hammock like I’ve never experienced before, but we had a view of the sunrise.
First night at Guadalupe Campsite.  Hanging with a view.
Renee tries out cowboy camping.
The second day, we descended to the campground to resupply with water.  We didn’t expect to see them, but somehow my parents guessed exactly when we would be there.
My parents met us with delicious fresh oranges.
For the second out-and-back trip, we began with a hot climb up the more exposed Tejas Trail.  This part of the park receives few visitors and felt more remote.  We only saw two dayhikers on the climb.
Umbrellas provided needed shade.
Even though I've been living so long in the southeast, I could feel my body rapidly adjusting to the intense sun, dry air, and altitude.  My old desert hiking tricks came back to me-- soaking my shirt in water and then putting it on to provide instant 'air conditioning,' hiking 'shade to shade' and stretching out on cool shaded rocks whenever I started feeling too hot.
View across the valley of Guadalupe Peak where we'd hiked that morning.
Narrowleaf puccoon.
 Cresting the ridgetop was like walking into a completely different world- there was ponderosa pine and chirping of birds.  We followed along a ridge before descending down the valley to the lovely forested Tejas campsite.
Lots of fossils and neat rocks everywhere.  Maybe next time I'll find a trilobite.
Taller and taller trees.
Hanging from gambrel oak at Tejas Campsite.
Guadalupe was a spectacular park, and I only wish we’d been able to spend a week there because there were so many more trails to explore.  I’m definitely planning to go back!
Thank you to fellow 2014 PCT hiker and hammock hanger Mark “SlowBro” for the trail and campsite recommendation!

Also, check out Renee's trip report on her blog, Pathfinder on the PCT.

More information:

-Stop at the Pine Springs Visitors Center to pick up your backcountry permit, which are issued on a first come first served basis.  We did have a ranger check our permit on the first night.  Campsites had no water, but did have tent pads.  Winds can be severe so check the forecast.

-If you go to Guadalupe, don’t miss Carlsbad Caverns National Park, only an hour away, which is part of the same ancient reef formation.  We went during the week, and got to wander around the mile-long loop through the large cavern all on our own, enjoying the quiet and listening to occasional water drops splashing into pools.


  1. Sweet! We camped at Pine Top on our last night, just dropped by the entrance to Tejas for a snack break. If you ever go back you can easily do a loop from McKittrick Canyon staying at the McKittrick Ridge campsite, hike over to the Dog Canyon campground and get water, either camping there (we did) or go back to the trail and hit up Marcus. The only reason we ended up staying at Dog Canyon was inclement weather coming through. Then of course Pine Top the following night via Marcus and Tejas trails. Great loop! We had thought about taking the full Bush Mountain Trail but heard from one of the rangers it wasn't used all that often and the trail was not worn nearly as well as other trails and was apparently difficult to follow. Yay for hiking adventures!

    1. That McKittrick Canyon sounds like a great place, and will have to check out that loop. Really wished we'd planned another few days up there- but now we know for next time to allow more time.

  2. Sounds like you had a great time and the weather held. So glad you got to do Carlsbad Caverns, too. I love that one gets to explore the cave at their own pace. Just sitting and taking in the space and the sounds is somehow humbling and exhilarating at the same time.

    1. It was a great trip! We really lucked out with the weather- the forecast for the next day called for dangerously high winds. At Carlsbad, I really was surprised that we didn't have to be herded around in a tour- it made for quite the unique experience to explore at our own pace. Remarkable place. Thanks again!

  3. How do you attach your umbrella to your pack?

    1. Shock cords with cordlocks to two anchor points on the pack- for the top anchor point, cut a ~4 inch long piece of foam pipe insulation to wrap around the umbrella shaft, and secure the shock cord around the foam, the lower shock cord goes around the base of the umbrella. Where to attach the shock cords to the pack is dependent on the type of pack, and the angle you want the umbrella.

      Might end up posting some photos...

  4. Replies
    1. Just one cute little baby- quite adorable! :)

  5. i want those photos of the brella contraption, if I don't figure something out soon it's either get a different brella or a different pack

    1. OK will post photos soon-- though there might be some delay since there is much hiking and soaking in hot tubs going on right now. :) But the umbrellas are working well and getting much use. Just gotta take a few more shots...