A Guide to Guadalupe Peak, Highest Mountain in Texas

Guadalupe Peak, Salt Flat, Texas, USA
Mark Peter Drolet / Getty Images

Guadalupe Peak is the highest mountain in Texas. It is located in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Its height makes it the 14th highest state high point in the United States.

Highest Peak in Texas

Guadalupe Peak has an elevation of 8,749 feet (2,667 meters) and is one of seven 8,000-foot-high peaks in Guadalupe Mountains National Park and one of nine 8,000-footers in Texas. It has a prominence of 3,028 feet (923 meters). The park covers over 86,000 acres out of Texas' 268,601 acres.

Isolated Peak in West Texas

Guadalupe Peak is an isolated mountain. It is located in far western Texas, 110 miles east of El Paso and 55 miles southwest of Carlsbad and Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. The nearest services including a gas station are 35 miles from the trailhead. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of the most isolated national parklands in the lower 48 states.

Geology: Ancient Barrier Reef

Guadalupe Peak and the Guadalupe Mountains are composed of ancient limestone deposited as part of the Capitan Reef, a barrier reef in a shallow inland sea, over 280 million years ago during the Permian Period. The caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park to the east are also part of this massive fossil reef structure.

How to Climb Guadalupe Peak

The first ascent of the peak was by unknown Native Americans.  The earliest human evidence here is from 12,000 years ago, so Paleo-Indian hunters undoubtedly climbed to the summit.

Guadalupe Peak is climbed by the 4.2-mile-long Guadalupe Peak Trail, which begins at Pine Springs Campground on the east side of the mountain and a half mile north of the park's visitor center. The good trail is easily followed to the summit. Allow six to eight hours to walk the 8.4-mile round-trip hike from the trailhead. The elevation gain is 3,019 feet.

Summer temperatures are hot. Start early and carry lots of water. Also, watch for rattlesnakes.

Steel Pyramid on Summit

A stainless steel pyramid was deposited on the summit by American Airlines to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the famed Butterfield Overland Mail Route which passed south of Guadalupe Peak. The stage route carried mail to southern California before the Pony Express ran in 1860 and 1861 The gaudy pyramid still adorns the summit. One side has the American Airlines logo. The second side has a U.S. Postal Service recognizing the Butterfield riders. The third side has a compass with the Boy Scouts of America logo. The summit register is at the pyramid base.

Skytram Project Squashed

Skytram, a proposed aerial tramway, was almost built on Guadalupe Peak but resistance from environmental groups including The Sierra Club squashed the project.

Extremely Windy Mountain

Guadalupe Peak and the Guadalupe Mountains are one of the windiest places in the United States. It can be particularly windy during the cooler months when it’s best to climb the mountain. The Guadalupe National Park brochure for climbing Guadalupe Peak warns, “Winds in excess of 80 miles per hour are not uncommon.”

Edward Abbey on Guadalupe Peak

Famed western writer Edward Abbey wrote in his essay, "On the High Edge of Texas," about Guadalupe Peak: “The climb by foot trail is difficult but not beyond the ability of any two-legged American, aged eight to eighty, in normal health. The wind continues to blow, unceasing, unrelenting. When I asked a local woman about the wind she said that it always blows in West Texas, from January to December. Must be hard to get used to, I suggested. We never get used to it, she said, we just put up with it.”

Ancient Relict Forests

Near Guadalupe Peak is The Bowl, a high basin that harbors a relict forest from moister Pleistocene Epoch times after the northern ice sheets had receded. Here are yellow pine, white fir, limber pine, Douglas fir, and Populus tremuloides, more commonly known as quaking aspen. This stand of aspen, along with another relict stand in Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park, is the southernmost group of aspens in the United States. A herd of elk, reintroduced in 1926 after being exterminated by hunters, also lives in the park’s high reaches.