As you prepare for your trip to Texas, it’s hard to pick the best hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. However, whether you have only a few hours and are hiking alone, plan to hike with young children or are here for several days and are ready to conquer some challenging hikes, you are sure to find something that you’ll love!
Some plan to only spend a few hours in the park, but if you can spare a full day or even several, you are surely going to be happy with your decision. Plus, this park is one of the least crowded in the United States, meaning that once you get out on the trail, you are going to really get to experience Texas like few others to.
Yes, it can be a bit challenging to pick the right hike, but we hope that our guide here helps put you in the right direction. After all, there are quite a few to choose from!
WHAT GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS DAY HIKE IS RIGHT FOR ME?
The more you look into hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the more options you’ll find and it can be a bit intimidating to pick the best hike! To help you with your hike selection, we’ve created a few charts to make it a bit easier.
If you are looking to pick a hike that will only take about an hour and is relatively easy, this chart will give you an idea of some great hikes to pick.
For a moderately challenging hike, there are a few options listed in the chart below.
Finally, there is a decent selection of more challenging hikes that most consider to be strenuous, either due to the length, elevation gain or both.
Our Guadalupe Mountains National Park Itinerary helps you plan your trip to this amazing park. We cover the hikes from this blog in detail, as well as additional hikes, what to pack, where to stay and what to see and do in the area.
GUADALUPE PEAK TRAIL
Guadalupe Peak Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Many visitors come to Guadalupe Mountains National Park with the sole purpose of conquering Guadalupe Peak. This challenging trail is just over 8 miles long (round-trip) and climbs a total just over 3000 feet on the way up to the highest point in the state of Texas.
After leaving the RV parking area, the trail starts off with a very steep, 1.5-mile climb, aided by switchbacks. The trail passes through a forest on the way up to Guadalupe Peak. Amazingly enough, the trail is in the shade for a good part of the hike, as it’s on the north slope of the mountain, and benefits from the tall pines which help block the sunlight.
As you begin the final push to the peak, you’ll have incredible views which just keep on getting better. At the peak, you’ll be able to see for many miles, including the nearby desert as well as the mountains. Beware that the hike is challenging, and when you get to the top it’s common for there to be very high winds, which can top 80 mph. The winds are especially high in the spring.
The trailhead is located at the RV portion of the Pine Springs Campground, close to the Pine Springs Visitor Center. You can also hike from the Visitor Center, but that adds about 2 miles (round-trip) onto the hike.
DEVILS HALL TRAIL
Devils Hall Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
If you are in the mood for something challenging but with less elevation gain and a bit shorter, then the Devils Hall Trail may be the perfect one for you. This 4.2-mile (round-trip) trail only has about 680 feet elevation gain, and we promise it’ll be one of the most unique hikes that you do!
For the first mile, the trail heads along the side of a mountain before heading to a wash. The trail then follows the dry wash for the last 1.2 miles before the final climb. As you head through the wash, you’ll be climbing over a few small boulders, and honestly it won’t even feel like you are gaining in elevation. Be careful, as the boulder scrambling, while not technical, can be tricky over the smooth rocks.
The natural staircase at the end is very short but steep. After the staircase, the trail ends in the hall, which is a small crevice with high walls. On the way back, be especially careful climbing back down the staircase. Note: even if you don’t climb the staircase at the end, the trail is still worth it. This hike is really good for families, as the changing landscape and rock scrambling is fun for kids in particular.
The trailhead is located at the end of Pine Canyon drive at the RV portion of the Pine Springs Campground, close to the Pine Springs Visitor Center.
SMITH SPRING AND MANZANITA SPRING LOOP TRAIL
It’s not overly common to come across water while you are out hiking in Texas, which makes the Smith Spring and Manzanita Spring Loop so special. This 2.5-mile loop (round-trip) only climbs about 400 feet and heads to two springs.
As you leave the parking lot you’ll immediately come to a fork. If you want to head up the steepest portion of the hike (rather than coming down it), head right (counter-clockwise). The trail is flat (and wheelchair accessible) up to about the 0.3-mile point where you’ll reach the Manzanita Spring.
After the first spring, the trail heads uphill slowly and increases in incline as you approach Smith Spring. Along the trail you’ll have the opportunity to see plenty of wildflowers. You may also catch a glimpse of some wildlife (birds, deer and elk in particular). This hike combines a canyon with the desert and beautiful colors with the flowers, so it’s great to take on with the family in particular!
Keep an eye out for trail signs as you head on the western side of the loop, back down the grade to the parking area.
The trailhead starts at the Frijole Ranch Trailhead.
Hike Option: you can just hike to Manzanita Spring, which is only about 0.6 miles (round-trip). This is the most crowded part of the trail.
Smith Spring Trail, image courtesy of Fredlyfish4
MCKITTRICK CANYON TRAIL TO THE GROTTO / HUNTER LINE SHACK
Though the McKittrick Canyon isn’t as remote as Dog Canyon, it does take a bit of time to get to. Still, the hikes here are quite good, and the McKittrick Canyon Trail to the Grotto is a good choice! This moderate, 6.8-mile (round-trip) hike leaves the parking area and heads northwest through a wash.
Along the way, the trail ascends slowly but steadily with a total elevation gain of just over 500 feet. Halfway along the trail is Pratt Cabin, which is worth checking out. You’ll end the hike at the Hunter Line Shack, which is just past the Grotto. Here you can eat on the picnic tables with a great view. The views start off not terrific on the hike, but get better and better as you travel along the trail!
The trailhead starts at the McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center.
Hike option: Just head to Pratt Cabin, and this will make the trail a total of 4.8 miles round trip, with only 340 feet of elevation gain.
McKittrick Canyon Trail, image courtesy of Clinton Steeds
The Pinery Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Located near the main visitor center, the Pinery Trail is an easy, 0.7-mile (round-trip) hike that has minimal elevation gain. This trail heads due-east from the Pine Springs Visitor Center and is paved.
Along the way, you’ll get a chance to learn about the history of the area. The trail ends at the Butterfield Stage Coach station, built in 1859.
The trailhead for the Pinery Trail is just behind the Pine Springs Visitor Center.
PERMIAN REEF TRAIL
Permian Reef Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
One of the lesser used trails in the park (but still amazing) is the Permian Reef Trail. This 8.4-mile (round-trip) hike gains 2520 feet in elevation.
After departing the day-use area, the trail heads to the north and provides information about geology as you climb the bulk of the elevation gain in the first 3.0 miles of the hike. There are some rocky parts of the hike that make it challenging, and you can count on there being some cactus along the way that is going to brush up against your legs if they are exposed (so wear long pants!).
Hikers that make it the entire way will be rewarded with amazing views of McKittrick Canyon! The official park trail ends at the border with the Lincoln National Forest, but you can keep heading into the forest if desired.
The trailhead for the Permian Reef Trail starts at the McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center.
GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK HIKING PERMITS
If you plan on hiking and staying overnight in the park, then you need to obtain a permit. You can read about the Guadalupe Mountains Wilderness Use Permit here.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Before you head out on your trip, we recommend grabbing a copy of our Guadalupe Mountains National Park itinerary to help you out with your planning!
- Other blogs that we have on Guadalupe Mountains include What to See and Do in Guadalupe Mountains, Hiking the Devils Hall Trail and Camping in Guadalupe Mountains.
- After your vacation, get one of our custom, vintage-style posters that we make from you own photo!