Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located where the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert meets the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains. The park is home to six of the seven named peaks in the Lone Star State that rise above 8,000 feet － including Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.
I solo-hiked to the top of Texas for the first time on December 2, 2014. The day was cold, the hike was strenuous, and the views were amazing. I spent half an hour in silence at the summit before heading back down to the Pine Springs Campground. In the years that followed, I returned three more times to the top of Texas.
After summiting Guadalupe Peak I knew I had to at least try to summit the remaining six named peaks higher than 8,000 feet. My buddy Doyle Lowry agreed to join me in pursuing this bucket list. Thus began our adventure to stand atop the highest peaks in Texas.
Earlier this month, Doyle and I returned to the Guadalupe Mountains to check two more peaks off the list — Bush Mountain and Bartlett Peak. In addition to Guadalupe Peak, we have summited El Capitan, the signature peak at the park, and Hunter Peak, our favorite overlook.
We secured our backcountry camping permit at the park headquarters and hiked up the Tejas Trail toward Bush Mountain. The Tejas Trail is a strenuous trail that starts at the Pine Springs Campground and leads to the Pine Top primitive camping area. The trail gains lots of elevation over this five mile section.
The Tejas Trail intersects with the trail that leads to the Bush Mountain primitive campsite located about two miles to the west of Pine Top primitive campground. This section is also strenuous with lots of ups and downs. Having to carry our water for three days on the mountain made the hike up even more challenging.
The primitive campsite on Bush Mountain is perfectly situated for a day hike to the top of Bush and a bushwhacking trek to neighboring Bartlett Peak. Once we set up camp we settled in for the night and rested for an early morning departure to Bartlett. We started with Bartlett because we knew it would take the most time.
At daybreak, we made our way to the southern edge of Bush to scout out the best bushwhacking route to the top of Bartlett. Once we agreed on our route, we started our descent into a valley that would then lead us to the ridge line we had chosen to take us to the summit. Make no mistake about it, bushwhacking is hard, especially on steep slopes with loose rock and some boulder scrambling mixed in.
The reward was worth the effort. As Doyle reached the top he discovered that our line had taken us directly to the ammo box containing the summit register. The views from Bartlett Peak are amazing. The summit overlooks Salt Flat to the West, New Mexico to the North, and Shumard and Guadalupe Peaks to the South.
We spent a little time at the top and then selected our route back to Bush Mountain. We decided on a different route back, one that took us down into to a beautiful ravine between the peaks. And then, we started the trek back up to Bush and our campsite. Once at our campsite we rested for twenty-minutes and then started up the trail that leads to the top of Bush Mountain.
This hike was a bit easier because we were on a trail and there was not a lot of elevation gain from our campsite the summit. The summit is carpeted in flowing grasses with stands of Ponderosa and Douglas Fir. Bush offers its own distinctive vistas from the summit — absolutely beautiful views of Pine Spring Canyon to the East and rugged formations to the North, looking toward New Mexico.
We were happy that we ticked off two more summits on our bucket list of seven. We only have Shumard remaining in this park and Mount Livermore in the Davis Mountains. We will have to bushwhack our way up these two remaining peaks on our list.
The following morning we were up early and started our trek down the mountain using our headlamps. The sunrise was breathtaking. It took us about five hours to descend the 8-plus miles from our primitive campsite to the Pine Springs Campground. We wasted no time in stowing our gear and getting a sponge bath. Even a humble sponge bath was amazing after three days in the same clothes. We felt like new men!
We drove to Van Horn for Mexican Food at Chuy’s and then decided to drive the ten hours back to Katy instead of stopping at a motel along the way for a proper shower. We are happy to have shared this adventure and look forward to the next summit on our list of seven Lone Star summits.
✓ Guadalupe Peak | 8,749 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
✓ Bush Mountain | 8,631 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
• Shumard Peak | 8,615 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
✓ Bartlett Peak | 8,508 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
• Mount Livermore | 8,378 feet | Davis Mountains
✓ Hunter Peak | 8,368 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
✓ El Capitan | 8,085 feet | Guadalupe Mountains