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Once submerged under a vast saltwater sea (along with the rest of West Texas), the Guadalupe Mountains were in fact a massive fossil reef that paralleled the coast for hundreds of miles. When the waters of the Delaware Sea receded some 200 million years ago, the reef was not only exposed but expanded by the precipitation of minerals left behind by the quickly evaporating waters. Pushed skyward again by geological upheaval about 26 million years ago, the Capitan Reef now dominates the otherwise flat terrain in the area. The most notable formations of the range are the sheer monolith El Capitan and 8,749-foot Guadalupe Peak, the highest ...

Once submerged under a vast saltwater sea (along with the rest of West Texas), the Guadalupe Mountains were in fact a massive fossil reef that paralleled the coast for hundreds of miles. When the waters of the Delaware Sea receded some 200 million years ago, the reef was not only exposed but expanded by the precipitation of minerals left behind by the quickly evaporating waters. Pushed skyward again by geological upheaval about 26 million years ago, the Capitan Reef now dominates the otherwise flat terrain in the area. The most notable formations of the range are the sheer monolith El Capitan and 8,749-foot Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.

The park is in the midst of a vast and arid desert, but its canyons are cool and wet, fed by springs and shaded by leafy trees. McKittrick Canyon has been called the prettiest place in the Lone Star State by many a visitor, and it's easy to see why. Popular recreational activities include hiking, backpacking, and camping, and the mild weather allows for year-round access.

Wildlife watching is also excellent, with almost 300 species of birds — including 8 varieties of hummingbirds — and distinct populations suited to the forested riparian canyons (including sunfish, skunks, and Rio Grande leopard frogs) and the surrounding desert (rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and javelina). The park is very remote, with little in the way of facilities, so stop in Van Horn or Carlsbad for supplies.

Eric Peterson
About the Expert

Eric Peterson has written and contributed to numerous Frommer’s guidebooks covering the American West, including Montana & Wyoming, Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, and Texas.

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Eric Peterson for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas and contains Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Fall and spring; summers are extremely hot.