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Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Sightseeing at Guadalupe Mountains National Park
©2006 National Park ServicesChallenging hiking trails in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park pay off with stunning vistas.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park includes more than 80 miles of rugged and scenic trails that wind in and out of canyons, ascend rocky crags, and wander through quiet forests, where hummingbirds dart by and mule deer graze. Some side canyons within the park shelter exceptional fragments of original ecosystems, as well as exposed sections of the formidable Capitan Reef and its associated rock segments.

The park is also well known for its mountain and desert bird life. It was to the Guadalupe Mountains that landscape photographer Ansel Adams came in the summer of 1947. While in the park, he made his celebrated image of majestic El Capitan (Spanish for "The Chief"), which rises to 8,085 feet in a squarelike mass from the desert floor. The Guadalupe Mountains today are much as Adams found them half a century ago -- a little-visited desert mountain range that is pure inspiration at certain times of the day and year.

Guadalupe Mountains Photo Opportunities

The Guadalupe Mountains offer countless views and vistas for that perfect photo. Here are some ideas:

  • El Capitan: This massive limestone formation can be seen from as far away as 50 miles. It rises almost straight up out of the desert wasteland that surrounds it.
  • Guadalupe Peak: The "Top of Texas," Guadalupe Peak is the highest peak in the state at 8,749 feet. If you're up for the strenuous 8.4-mile hike, the view from the top is breathtaking.
  • McKittrick Canyon: Compared to the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert, McKittrick Canyon is a lush oasis. It is at its most photogenic in October and November, when the plants put on their fall colors.
  • The Bowl: A coniferous forest covers this high plateau in the Guadalupe Mountains. Meadows in The Bowl are dotted with the skeletons of downed trees, casualties of past forest fires.

Exploring the Guadalupe Mountains The special wonders of this national park are found in the steep contoured canyons that cut deeply into the Guadalupe Mountains.

The canyons hold forested glens of deciduous trees and alligator juniper alongside meadows of hip-high grasses and creosote plants. In Dog Canyon, among stands of Gambel oak, Douglas fir, and limber pine, you can still see Apache mescal-roasting pits.

Five miles long and thousands of feet deep, McKittrick Canyon contains an array of life and geological history unique to our planet. Amid forests of oak, juniper, maple, and the lovely Texas madrone with its oddly twisted red bark, you can find the remnants of the floor of a sea that covered the area more than 200 million years ago. Above you, inlaid in the canyon walls, are millions of years of geological history told by layers of ancient fossils and startling rock formations.

Now that you've gotten a taste of the sights you'll see when you visit the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, let's learn a little about the park's history. On the next page, we'll talk about the geologic processes that created this natural wonder, and we'll take a look early human habitation of the area.