Solo Hiking Guadalupe Peak
Today, I stood atop the highest point in Texas — and it was an awe-inspiring experience.
Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, is located where the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert meets the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains. Rising a modest 8,750 feet above sea level, it is not high compared to other peaks in the world. And, it’s not even considered the signature peak of the Guadalupe Mountain range. That designation belongs to the massive 8,085-foot high limestone bulwark known as El Capitan. However, Guadalupe Peak is the highest place you can go in the Lone Star State — and that alone makes the strenuous hike to the top worthwhile.
I started my journey to the Guadalupe Mountains months ago when I started doing research on the highest point in Texas. I read everything I could find and watched a dozen YouTube videos posted by hikers who had made the trek to the top of Guadalupe Peak. I also studied trail maps to get a better understanding of the trail and its many switchbacks. I shared bits and pieces about my adventure-in-planning with my wife, Cheryl. After lots of conversations, she finally agreed to let me go and do this trek to the highest point in Texas even though I would do it alone.
I packed for my trip on Saturday night after a week of being out-of-town and headed for the Guadalupe Mountains National Park after church on Sunday. The drive to the park is almost ten hours so I spent the night in Sonora, one of those really small towns located along the portion of I-10 that has an 80 mph speed limit. The following morning I drove the remaining 5 hours to the park, registered, and pitched my tent. I met and talked to a nice couple from Munich, Germany who had just completed the hike. After talking to them I could not wait to get started.
After a very cold night in my tent with temperatures hovering around 36 degrees, I was up and ready to go before sunrise. I filled my hydration pack, tossed some Cliff Bars into my pack, grabbed my trekking pole and headed for the trailhead. The trail to the top of Guadalupe Peak is just over four miles, but it’s all uphill. The National Park Service has rated this hike as strenuous because the trail steadily rises 3,000 vertical feet along the way. They are not kidding when they say strenuous. It was very strenuous.
The first mile and a half of the hike is the toughest because of a drastic elevation gain. The guy from Germany had warned me that this section of the hike was the toughest. He wasn’t kidding. It was like climbing uneven stairs for a mile and a half. After that point, the trail has lots of switchbacks that steadily take you higher and higher into these mountains that were once the stronghold of Mescalero Apaches. The really cool thing is that every step of the way has views that absolutely take your breath away. Beautiful vistas.
After 2 hours and 50 minutes, I hiked the final switchback to the top and shouted for joy when I saw the marker at the top of the peak. Words can’t describe what I felt. I was a kid again. I spent about 30 minutes at the summit — enjoying the views, reading Scripture, praying, and signing the log book that is kept in an old ammo box. Like Peter when he was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, I did not want to come down. But, alas, the time came for me to start the trek down the mountain.
On the way down I met a guy named Chet, the only other person who hiked to the summit today. We had a nice conversation and thought it was cool that on this day he and I were the only two human beings on the face of the earth who stood on the highest point in Texas. I smiled all the way down the mountain and logged a round-trip time of 5 hours and 40 minutes. Not bad for a 58 year-old guy who is still wild at heart. Standing on the highest point in Texas today was an experience I will never forget.