Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A Slice of the Rockies in Texas? Exploring Guadalupe Mountains National Park

September 17, 2010, 6:43 am

Guadalupe Mountains National Park sits in a remote corner of Texas, abutting the New Mexico border, with the closest major city being El Paso. Its little visited 86,000 acres protect pristine desert, scorching salt flats, rugged peaks and lush canyons.

Just getting there is half a road trip. From Houston, it is a straight shot west for about 10 soporific hours. But you must take care not to fall asleep passing through San Antonio — the highways are just weird there.

The tiny, dusty town of Van Horn marks the turn north onto Highway 54, and the last chance for restaurants and an actual bed. I find Van Horn’s aesthetic value and interest factor to be zero.

After another hour of driving, the dramatic prow of El Capitan — a cliff face rising to more than 8,000 feet — becomes visible.

For fans of geology, these mountains were formed as a reef beneath an ancient inland sea, before uplifting formed jagged summits flanked by vertical cliffs. The exposed peaks and escarpments are now recognized as some of the most well-preserved fossil reefs in the world.