Southwestern US, Travels, US National Parks

Close Encounters of the Rattlesnake Kind – Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas (part II)

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.

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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.

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Devil’s Hall

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.

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The flaky red bark of a madrone tree (aka my favorite kind of tree)

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.

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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.

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El Capitan – Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX

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.

18 thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Rattlesnake Kind – Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas (part II)”

  1. Yikes! That would have been so scary seeing that rattlesnake. As we get further west in our travels that’s one thing I hope we don’t see. Actually my kids did see one last year in Utah when they accidentally got too close to one that started rattling. They ran yelling and screaming, and I was so thankful the he only rattled and didn’t strike.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m not generally freaked out by snakes… (as opposed to spiders which turn me into a giant wuss). But what scares me about snakes is I don’t know a poisonous one from a harmless one. The rattle obviously helps with these guys. It’s the rest of them that concern me… I wish there was an easy way to tell. Anyway, nice photos. El Capitan looks pretty impressive, even if it is ‘the other one.’

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks!

      I actually learned a rhyme recently for poisonous snakes… red on black is a friend of Jack, black on yellow will kill a fellow

      Thankfully I haven’t ever had to apply it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This looks like a seriously spectacular national park – I love that last shot of El Capitan! I had the heebie jeebies when I came across small ones on a woodland path in Canada – I’m not sure how I’d have fared face to face with this chunky rattlesnake!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! It was pretty cool to experience a desert of sorts. And I think because the snake was just sitting there rather than slithering around (or slithering by my feet as I walked by and scaring the crap out of me, which is what usually happens), it really wasn’t so bad. I was more scared of getting bitten than creeped out.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s definitely more reassuring when snakes (or other potentially dangerous wildlife for that matter) are just sitting around showing no inclination of moving!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. We happened to see it while we were on our way to Carlsbad Caverns and decided to stop and look around. We went to the visitor center, hiked the little trail that starts from there, then went to the Frijole Ranch Museum and hiked one of the trails in that part of the park. That was all we had time for unfortunately because we had already made other plans for the day. I would love to go back and spend more time exploring it someday. It’s a hidden gem!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It was…adequate. Haha. I didn’t have a very good camera back when I took this photo, but it surprisingly turned out pretty well.

      And aren’t those just the coolest trees? I’d only seen them in much wetter areas before so I was really surprised to see one in the desert!

      Liked by 1 person

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