This gallery contains images from Guadalupe Mountains National Park, one of two national parks in Texas. This rugged area in west Texas rises 3,000’ feet above the Chihuahuan Desert and is made up almost entirely of limestone. The mountains were formed by the ancient Capitan Reef that surrounded the Delaware Sea and Basin, a shallow body of water that stretched into present day New Mexico nearly 290 million years ago. With limestone now being predominant in the region, very little water exists. The only area of any accumulation is McKittrick Creek that runs through McKittrick Canyon. This canyon area is well known today, at least in Texas, as the home to remnant big-toothed maple tree colony. Each fall, usually at the end of October and early November, maples along the creek turn bright orange and red, creating a winding swath of color in the arid region. The McKittrick Canyon trail takes hikers through the heart of this area, and eventually climbs up to MicKittrick Ridge where mountain views stretch out in all directions.
Four of the tallest peaks in the Lone Star State are contained in the Guadalupe Mountains, including the tallest – Guadalupe Peak – which rises 8,749’ into the west Texas sky. The 8+ mile round trip hike to reach this peak’s summit is one of the premier treks in Texas, rivaled only by a few routes in Big Bend National Park several hours to the south. From the top of Guadalupe Peak, mountains rise to the north and the plains stretch out to the south. The summertime Milky Way from this vantage point is especially amazing. In its shadow is El Capitan, the iconic peak that makes its claim as the 10th tallest peak at 8,085’. El Capitan has long served as a waypoint and landmark for those traveling in the area dating back to ancient times, and evidence of human presence dates back at least 10,000 years. In more recent times, the Butterfield Overland Mail Stagecoach line (1857-1861) carried passengers and mail along this path from points east such as Tennessee and Missouri, through Indian country, Texas, and the west, eventually terminating in San Francisco.
To the southwest of Guadalupe Peak, in the plains of the Pecos River Valley, are the Salt Basin Dunes. While access to these dunes is restricted to day use and the drive and hike to reach these dunes is long, the rolling waves of sand do provide a nice foreground to the distant mountains. The fine white sand is made up of gypsum and salt, and the area has slowly grown over the last 26 million years.
West Texas is full of beauty. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is just part of this rugged and diverse landscape waiting to be explored. I hope you enjoy these images from remote area.