Sunday, October 5, 2014

Best trails to see Guadalupe N.P.'s wonders

Wilderness Ridge as seen from the crest of the Permian Reef Geology Trail.
Photo courtesy of Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Among the best ways to see Guadalupe Mountains National Park’s top sights is via a day hike. Just four short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – the highest point in Texas, a maple-filled canyon in the middle of the desert, gypsum sand dunes, and a fossilized coral reef.

The Top of Texas
At 8,749 feet, Guadalupe Peak rises above all of the national park and Texas. The Guadalupe Peak Trail heads to the summit after winding through pinyon pine and Douglas-fir. The trail does climb 3,000 feet in an 8.4-mile round trip, but the views of El Capitan and the Chihuahuan Desert below are worth the workout. Because of the altitude, plan 6-8 hours for the hike.

Scenic McKittrick Canyon
Filled with bigtooth maple trees, the canyon and its intermittent stream are beautiful in fall when the leaves blaze orange to red. The McKittrick Canyon Trail runs 4.8 miles round-trip through the canyon to Pratt Lodge.

Gypsum sand dunes
On the west side of the national park near Dell City, bright-white gypsum sand dunes cover more than 2000 acres and rise up to 60 feet high. From the end of Williams Road, follow the unnamed trail in a 1.2-mile round trip walk across desert to the dunes.

Fossilized coral reef
Some 251 to 299 million years ago, this section of the world sat under a sea. As the plants and animals died, their remains formed an erosion-resistant limestone reef that now makes up the Guadalupe Mountains. The Permian Reef Trail rambles 8.4-miles round trip past many of the reef’s geological wonders. The trail does gain 2,000 feet of elevation.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.