When most people think of Texas they probably think of the Second Amendment, gun laws, Chuck Norris, very large trucks, and maybe the assassination of President Kennedy. But there’s far more to the Lone Star State than these stereotypical aspects of it. Texas is also one of the richest states in the Union when it comes to natural beauty, great open spaces, and wildlife- and not all of it is forbidding, humid desert- but most, admittedly- is. But much of the Texan wild-lands are quite beautiful and friendly.
Here, we will list and discuss 10 of the most beautiful mountains in Texas for climbing, hiking, and simply enjoying the great outdoors.
10. Fresno Peak
If you’re up for a serious climb far from the comforts of civilization, then Fresno Peak might be the spot for you. This remote and forboding Texan mountain is located within the Chihuahuan Desert inside Big Bend Ranch State Park.
It is 5,131 feet and 1563 meters high at its peak and contains some of the most demanding stretches of hiking trail in the United States. If that’s not forbidding enough, it is also 15 miles distant from Highway 67, the nearest highway to the park. The nearest town is Marfa, which is about 60 miles distant as the crow flies and is more than 80 miles away by road (plus the 15-mile hike out of Big Bend.
Big Bend Park is cuddled right up against the Mexican border at the Mexican state of Chihuahua, so if you were in dire need- that might be your shortest walk to civilization.
There are no established trails from the plain to the 5,131 ft high peak. So, you will likely find yourself using trails made by the hikers who came before you. Most of the climbing surfaces in this area are rated at class-two. That means, even experienced, non-professional climbers should be wary of these rocks as they are notoriously steep and prone to crumbling.
At the end of the day, Fresno Peak is not for the faint at heart. This is a serious climb for serious climbers. If you’re looking for a challenge, and you think you’re up to it, take the time to prepare properly. Get in shape, bring useful supplies, and do not come alone.
9. El Capitan
El Capitan is the 10th highest peak in the state of Texas. El Capitan is unique for many reasons. It is located near the ghost town, and popular photo-spot, known as Salt Flat. The Nearest local town is Dell City, about ten miles to the west. It’s 8,085 feet or 2464 meters in height. The stunning view from its limestone peak attracts many hikers and its medium level of difficulty makes it appealing to a wider range of hiking enthusiasts than Fresno Peak.
Located in the Guadalupe Mountains of the Guadalupe National Park, making it all the way to the top of this dramatic looking peak offers hikers a panoramic view of this particularly dry and rocky mountain range.
The trail is 4.5 miles in length and the mountain is protected by cliffs on three sides. It should be noted that there is no trail to the summit. Once hikers reach the first plateau, if they want to reach the top, they will have to climb down southward to the Peak-El Capitan saddle and hike up the backside of El Capitan in order to ascend to the final summit.
There is a fee area located on Highway 62/180 before you can reach the park, but it’s well worth it. The terrain is vast and picturesque. But, as stated, it is dry and hot. While it may not be as foreboding at Fresno Peak, it is not an excursion to be taken lightly. Hikers are advised to pack food, water, and a moderate amount of first aid and emergency supplies.
This is not a hike for those who crave a short, simple, and pretty stroll through the wilderness. It is a convoluted path to the top which will only appeal to the most adventurous hikers.
8. Eagle Peak
The most outstanding mountain peak in the Eagle Mountains of west Texas, Eagle Peak is 3,114 feet high or 949 meters and it is located on private land. This likely keeps a lot of the potential hiking traffic away, but it is not always off-limits. It is accessible via a long line of dirt backcountry roads and can be seen from the I-10 at the midway point between the towns of Sierra Blanca and Van Horn.
That alone makes getting there feel like a real adventure. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains a radar facility along the foot of the peak which is accessible via a paved road, but it is off-limits to the public. To learn what times the peak is open to hikers and climbers, you’ll have to contact the owners of Hayter Ranch and get permission to make the hike.
Getting into the property requires about a 20-mile drive southeast of the towns mentioned above. There is no information about the length of any trails from the base to the peak. You can expect at least a three-hour hike- and you’re likely to encounter some border patrol while you’re out there. What’s more, this is hot, dry terrain, which means you’ll need to be well prepared with water and first aid supplies.
7. Chinati Peak
The highest peak in both the Chinati Mountains and Presidio County, Chinati Peak is 7,728 feet and 2355 meters tall. For those who prefer to sight-see from an air-conditioned vehicle, Chinati Peak does not disappoint with its arid surroundings, chaparral-rich landscape, and dramatic peak which can be seen from Highway 90 between the towns of Marfa and Van Horn. Getting in to climb Chinati is a bit more involved, however.
Located within Texas State Park, the mountain is not always open to the public (something you’ll notice is common to most of the mountains in south-west Texas. It is surrounded by jagged peaks and rugged canyon deserts. Driving in close enough to hike the mountain is no small task. Drivers are advised to use 4-wheel drive enabled vehicles- the more rugged, the better.
You can expect at least a three-mile hike, though only seven successful attempts have been recorded. This is a very isolated stretch of canyon side and is rich in desert atmosphere. As usual, it is advised to be well prepared with food, water, and emergency supplies. Given that you should be equipped with at least an SUV, you should have plenty of camping and safety gear with you just in case you find yourself stranded in this remote and rugged location- which is a possibility that hikers of rugged and remote locations should always be ready for.
6. Cerro Castellan
Located in the southwestern corner of Big Bend National Park, Cerro Castellan is a remotely located butte standing in the Santa Elena Canyon. It is 3,293 feet or 1004 meters in height. While it does look imposing from below, you do not need to be an elite climber to ascend this blunt, massive peak. There is a steep scramble route for the more aggressive climber, but a more round-about route also exists for everyone else. Taking the long way, you can expect at least a three-mile hike from the base to the peak.
Hiking this location during the peak summer months is not advisable since this mountain stands in one of the hottest regions in Texas. Unless, you’re in top shape and/or well prepared with water, shade, salt, and food- only the fittest and most experienced climbers are advised to try this mountain during high summer. Aside from that, spring and fall are much more amenable times of year to climb Cerro Castellan.
5. Capitol Mesa
Located in the Palo Duro Canyon, also known as “the Grand Canyon of Texas” Capital Mesa is on the southern-most rim of Palo Duro.
With its large amounts of exposed red rock, horizontal strata, and intermittent peaks and flats, the area surrounding Capital Mesa is noticeably romantic. This is especially true around sunset when the whole area seems to glow with a warm, red light.
Capital Mesa itself stands 3,345 feet or 989 meters tall. As such, it is not an excessively difficult climb. The route suggested for most hikers is just half a mile in length. During your hike, you’ll see spectacular standing white boulders along the string of peaks and pinnacles. These are colloquially referred to as “hoodoos.”
4. Bush Mountain
Bush Mountain is, again, located in the Guadalupe Mountains in Culbertson County. It is recommended for climbing all year long, but the standard seasonal precautions still apply, especially in this hot and humid part of the country. Its peak elevation is 8631 feet or 2631 meters.
Bush Mountain is known for being one of the more forgiving and pleasant mountainous locations in Texas. It is the second-highest peak in the Guadalupe mountain range and is populated with ponderosa pines and Douglas firs- that means there are ample opportunities to take shade.
There is a trail that passes near the peak, which is about 2.5 miles from the base of the canyon and an additional 1.3-mile climb to the peak, taking the most circuitous route. Of course, more aggressive climbers can scramble up the side, but that is not recommended for everyone.
If you’ve seen more than one Texan mountain, you’ll notice that this one is particularly verdant and green. As such, it looks a lot like climbing spots you can find all over the country. Therefore, it’s less appealing to those who are bent on hiking the classic Texan wilderness. But it is beautiful, if out of place in the high desert.
3. Anthony’s Nose
Located in the Franklin Mountains, in Franklin County, Texas. Anthony’s Nose earned its name due to its resemblance to a human nose. At 6927 feet or 2111 meters in height, it is the second tallest peak in the Franklin Mountains. The noticeably human proboscis-like peak can be seen along the I-10 highway between the towns of Las Cruces, New Mexico and El Paso Texas.
Filled with vegetation native to the Chihuahuan Desert, you’ll encounter yucca, ocotillo, agave, prickly pear, sotol, and lechugilla. It is a markedly rugged environment and the north face of Anthony’s Nose is sometimes called the “Half Dome of the Franklins.” The total length of the trail from the basin to the rocky peak is roughly six to seven and a half miles.
Hikers who hope to stand on Anthony’s Nose must camp in Franklin Mountain State Park. There is a $5 fee for parking, which can be avoided by parking along any of the surrounding dirt roads. Just be aware that this is private land, and you are subject to the decrees of the owner. Still, camping space is limited within the park, so parking along the road may be unavoidable if you are determined to hike in.
2. Amon-Carter Peak
Located in the Chisos Mountain Range within Big Bend National Park, Amon-Carter Peak – AKA “Carter peak” – is one of the region’s most popular hiking and camping destinations. Standing at 5.688 feet or 1734 meters tall, hiking here is recommended only during the spring, fall, and winter due to the excessively high temperatures of the summer months.
Well known as one of the most photogenic of the Texan mountains open to hikers, many people bring their cameras to Carter Peak to record the many red peaks and the extraordinary views. Contributing to its popularity is the fact that the trail to the top of Carter Peak is rather short and just under a mile. You can easily make a day of hiking the trail to the top, enjoy the red, rocky, and variably green terrain.
To get there, just follow the signs leading to “Window Trail.” If you’re able to get a parking spot in the available camping accommodations, you’ll have the shortest hike- one of the main reasons this spot is so well-traveled.
1. Guadalupe Peak
Among the many hiking spots in Texas, Guadalupe Peak is a rare mixture of convenience and ruggedness. The relatively short 4.3-mile long hiking trail is very well maintained. The peak itself reaches 8749 feet or 2667 meters in height. At the top, hikers will find a strange stainless steel cap at the top of the mountain. It was placed there in the 1950s by American Airlines as an aid to navigation. It also serves as a monument to the Butterfield Overland Mail stage line, the latter-day stage drivers, and the pilots who shuttle mail by air.
Guadalupe Peak has the distinction of being the highest peak in Texas, making it one of the most popular as well. Its trail is well maintained due to the marked historicity of the location. The trail and the nearby camping amenities are maintained by Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The nearest metropolitan area is El Paso, which also contains the largest airport near to the park.
The entrance to the park can be found by following Highway 62/180, which leads right up to the park entrance. There is a $5 per-person fee for visitors aged 16 and older, which is a small price to pay for the privilege of touching the steel cap at the peak. If you plan on staying a while, your pass will be good for a full seven days after purchase.