A Complete Guide To The Best Hikes In West Texas

West Texas is often misunderstood in terms of what it offers to hikers.  There is a misconception out there that Texas is all flat and boring, but a trip to hike any of these top west Texas trails will quickly prove that to be wrong! 

West Texas is a diverse and harmonious blend of canyons, mountains, forests, rivers and even sand dunes!  All these different environments create a fascinating landscape in which to experience some of the best hikes in west Texas!

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West Texas Hiking Trails

1. The Guadalupe Peak Trail, Guadalupe Mountains NP

  • Length: 8.4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation: 8,751 feet
  • Elevation Gain: 2,952 feet
  • Rating: Difficult
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 6-7 hours
  • Best Time of Year to Hike: Late Fall – Early Spring
  • Fees: $10 per person to enter Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  • Parking: there is plenty of parking at the trailhead for the Guadalupe Peak Trail
  • Facilities: there are bathroom and water refill stations located at the trailhead
  • Pets: pets are not allowed on the Guadalupe Peak Trail

The king of all west Texas trails is the one that is literally top of the list, the Guadalupe Peak Trail.  Guadalupe Peak is the state high point of Texas, and the most popular trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park! 

Guadalupe Mountains is one of the best National Parks of the southwest. Click here to discover the rest!

Not only can hiking this trail make you the tallest thing in Texas for a day, but it also will expose you to the fascinating ecosystems that exist in this park! As you traverse the switchbacks up from the desert floor to the mountain peak on this trail, expect to see high desert shrubbery, tall Ponderosa pine forests, and craggy rock summits.  

Guadalupe Peak Trail is the best hike in west Texas
Photo by Ryuta F. on Unsplash

2. The Lighthouse Trail, Palo Duro SP

  • Length: 6 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 521 feet
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 2.5 hours
  • Best Time of Year to Hike: Late Fall – Early Spring
  • Fees: $8 per person (13 and under free)
  • Parking: there is plenty of parking at the trailhead
  • Facilities: there are no bathrooms at the trailhead
  • Pets: leashed pets are allowed on the trail

The Lighthouse Trail is the most cherished and beloved hike in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and for good reason. The hike up to this fascinating natural landmark provides visitors a chance to hike in the 2nd largest canyon in the United States, second only to the Grand Canyon in Arizona! 

The expansive red rock plateau at the base of the Lighthouse makes for a perfect photo stop and a break to soak in the striking panoramic views!

Lighthouse Rock is a well known landmark on the Lighthouse Trail in west Texas
Photo by Samuel Bauman on Unsplash

3. The El Paso Tin Mines Trail, Franklin Mountains SP

  • Length: 6.6 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,023 feet
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 2.5 hours
  • Best Time of Year to Visit: Late Fall – Early Spring
  • Fees: there are no fees to hike the El Paso Tin Mines Trail
  • Parking: there is parking at the trailhead
  • Facilities: there are bathrooms located near the trailhead
  • Pets: leashed pets are allowed on the El Paso Tin Mines Trail

If you are looking for a classic hike in some of the best mountains in Texas, with a twist of quirkiness and mystique, then the El Paso Tin Mines Trail definitely belongs on your must hike list! 

Located in the rugged Franklin Mountains range in Franklin Mountains State Park, this trail’s biggest claim to fame is that it is a hike to an abandoned tin mine, straight out of an old western film! In fact, it is the only tin mine of its kind in the United States, literally making this a one of a kind hike not only in west Texas, but in the entire country.

To top it off, you can actually go into the abandoned mine to explore, so bring along a flashlight for this hike so you can properly witness the interior walls of this old mine, glittering with specks of minerals!

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El Paso Tin Mines Trail is a classic hike in west Texas

4. The Santa Elena Canyon Trail, Big Bend NP

  • Length: 1.7 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 610 feet
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 45 minutes
  • Best Time of Year to Visit: Late Fall – Early Spring
  • Fees: $30 per vehicle to enter Big Bend National Park
  • Parking: there is plenty of parking at the trailhead
  • Facilities: there are bathroom facilities at the trailhead
  • Pets: pets are not allowed on the Santa Elena Canyon Trail

Big Bend National Park is home to several epic hikes on this list, starting with one of the most recognisable canyons in the southwest. 

The Santa Elena Canyon Trail combines impressive canyon panoramas with majestic river views!  This short, easy, and family friendly trail allows visitors a chance to see one of the major shapers of west Texas geology, the mighty Rio Grande River, from both above and below!  

From the parking lot, it is a short jaunt to the shoreline of the Rio Grande River, where you can can soak in the towering canyon mouth engulfing this waterway, or choose to continue on and up the trail as it crosses the Terlingua Creek, gains in elevation, and reaches a viewpoint higher up on the canyon wall. 

From this vantage point, you can look down on the Rio Grande River, and maybe even spot some kayakers below, venturing into Santa Elena Canyon for a boating excursion!

5. The Lost Mine Trail, Big Bend NP

  • Length: 4.8 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,131 feet
  • Rating: Hard
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 2 hours
  • Best Time of Year to Visit: Late Fall – Early Spring
  • Fees: $30 per vehicle to enter Big Bend National Park
  • Parking: there is limited parking at the trailhead, so arrive early!
  • Facilities: there are no bathrooms at the trailhead
  • Pets: pets are not allowed on the Lost Mine Trail

In stark contrast to the previous canyon hike, the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend National Park takes hikers to some of the loftiest heights of this park!  It is the perfect trio of short day hikes, just enough challenge, and breathtaking summit views!

From the Lost Mine summit, you can see miles over the horizon, taking in views of Big Bend National Park from every angle, including the Casa Grande formation nearby!

Like many hikes in west Texas, this hike is best enjoyed away from the hot summer months. The cooler temperatures of the region during Fall make Big Bend a great National Park to visit in October.

6. The Window Trail, Big Bend NP

  • Length: 5.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 948 feet
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 2 hours
  • Best Time of Year to Visit: Late Fall – Early Spring
  • Fees: $30 per vehicle to enter Big Bend National Park
  • Parking: there is parking available at the trailhead
  • Facilities: there are bathrooms located near the trailhead
  • Pets: pets are not allowed on the Window Trail

The Window Trail in Big Bend National Park gets its name from its namesake, a naturally carved window formation at the termination of its slot canyon hike. 

This hike is unique as it starts out in the high desert shrubbery amidst the jagged Chisos Mountains, follows Oak Creek as the trail descends further into the canyon, and finally terminates as the canyon walls above close in to create natural rock staircases, pools, and the Window. 

From this natural opening in the canyon wall, visitors can witness the sheer drop-off overlooking the vastness of Big Bend National Park in the distance!

You might also like: Discover the best national parks to visit during winter in this handy guide!

The Window Trail is a popular west Texas hike

 7. The Rio Grande Trail, Seminole Canyon SP

  • Length: 7.6 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 301 feet
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 2.5 hours
  • Best Time of Year to Visit: Late Fall – Early Spring
  • Fees: $4 a person (13 and under free)
  • Parking: there is plenty of parking located at the trailhead
  • Facilities: there are bathrooms located near the trailhead
  • Pets: leashed pets are allowed on the Rio Grande Trail

While Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park gets most of the attention for its eye-catching views of the Rio Grande River, there is actually another hike in another park that offers just as impressive views.

In a secluded nook of west Texas, the Rio Grande Trail is located in Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site. 

This trail starts off traversing the surrounding desert initially, before opening up to a surprisingly dizzying view of the Rio Grande River below, as it parallels along the top of the rim of this canyon.  Not only can you hike along the top of this deep river chasm, but there are other surprises in store here!  Prehistoric rock art can also be explored while hiking here, in locations such as Panther Cave.

8. Eagle Point Trail, Caprock Canyon SP

  • Length: 4.3 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 449 feet
  • Rating: Easy
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 1.5 hours
  • Best Time of Year to Visit: Late Fall – Early Spring
  • Fees: $5 per person (13 and under free)
  • Parking: there is limited parking at the trailhead
  • Facilities: there are bathrooms located near the trailhead
  • Pets: leashed pets are allowed on the Eagle Point Trail

While Big Bend National Park and Palo Duro Canyon may get most of the attention for their canyons in west Texas, there is another underdog that is a favourite among locals and out-of-towners alike!  The humble Caprock Canyon State Park is home to an intriguing hike through its own resident canyon, the Eagle Point Trail.

A few of the reasons that this trail is beloved by visitors is that you can explore fascinating geology along its path.  From shimmering gypsum deposits that dot the trail, to the natural “bridge”, to the underground cave you can meander through and explore!  Top all this off with epic red rock views of canyon walls, cliffs, and valleys, and even the chance to possibly spot a resident bison on your trek!

Author Bio

Kristen Czudak is the author and adventurer behind Yonderlust Ramblings. If you are looking for a different kind of vacation, active travel is the answer!  Discover just how far your own two feet can take you!

Louise

Louise is a Mountain Leader and Snowboard Instructor from South Wales. As a former Adventure Tour Leader she has spent the last 15 years travelling Asia, Africa and the Americas. Louise is a published photographer and is currently based in the UK.

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