After the beautiful sunset the night before, we were treated to a similar splash of color upon waking. Just one of the many reasons I love the wide open spaces and big skies of the west.
On our second day in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, we explored the Pine Springs area. Quite a few trails depart from here, including one to the top of Guadalupe Peak. We didn’t know at the time that this is the highest point in Texas. If we had, we definitely would have climbed it. Instead, we opted to hike to Devil’s Hall.
Devil’s Hall is a 3.8 mile (6.1 km) round-trip hike that departs from the Pine Springs parking area and travels up a wash and then over a lot of rocks to its namesake feature. I’m not really sure if there’s a specific name for this type of feature. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to describe it with words, I’ve decided to just let my photos do the explaining.
The entire trail to Devil’s Halls was very neat as well. One of my favorite aspects to hiking back into the mountains is that they always look so different up close than they do from far away. From a distance it’s kind of just “oh, yep, there’s some mountains” but when you get back into them, you realize that each mountain is unique. Each had its own shape and geology and color and, in this case, desert plants and rock features.
Upon our arrival at Devil’s Hall, we took a break in the shade to rehydrate, eat a snack, and just generally relax. Our relaxing was abruptly interrupted, however, when my mom looked at my sister and me, pointed about 7 feet (2 m) to our right, and said, “What’s that?”
Well that was a giant rattlesnake.
He couldn’t have cared less about us; he was just coiled up in his little nook, soaking up the sunshine. We, however, were a bit more concerned and promptly found a new place to sit. And this time, we checked for snakes before we sat down.
Lucky for us, this is the extent of our rattlesnake encounters, both at Guadalupe Mountains and, thus far, ever. Personally, I’d be okay if it stayed that way. It was cool to see a snake in the wild and I’m thankful no one got bitten. But I don’t particularly feel the need to see another one. Been there, done that.
Anyway, we spent the rest of the day relaxing at our campsite, playing games and trying to avoid skunks, giant centipedes, rattlesnakes, and any other desert creatures. The next morning, on our way out of the park, we drove by the most iconic of the Guadalupe Mountains – El Capitan (this is not to be confused with the El Capitan in Yosemite National Park). They’re very different. Well, I guess there are some similarities. Tall, prominent, made of rock. But in very different locations.
All in all, we enjoyed our time in the Guadalupe Mountains. Before planning this vacation, we’d never even heard of them. We also hadn’t spent any time in a desert so we didn’t know what to expect, but we enjoyed experiencing this ecosystem first hand. If you ever happen to be driving by, this is definitely a place worth stopping!
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: located off of US Highway 62/180 in the northwest corner of Texas
- Fees & passes: $5 per person for a 7-day pass; Interagency Annual Pass accepted
- Camping: Pine Springs campground, 20 tent sites and 20 RV sites, $8 per night, primitive (running water but no showers); reservations not accepted and campfires are not allowed
- Hiking: there are 80 miles (128 km) of trails in the park. We hiked to Devils Hall (3.8 miles/6.1 km round-trip, easy)
- Other: Watch out for snakes! When in snake country, it’s always good to wear long pants and sturdy shoes, and to look and listen for snakes, especially when walking through tall grass and rocks. The Mayo Clinic has a good summary of what to do (and what not to do) if someone gets bitten.