25 of the Most Beautiful Mountains in Texas
- Guadalupe Peak, Photo: Courtesy of toroverde - Fotolia.com
- Amon-Carter Peak, Photo: Courtesy of romaset - Fotolia.com
- Anthonys Nose, Photo: Courtesy of ricktravel - Fotolia.com
- Bush Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Hunta - Fotolia.com
- Capitol Mesa, Photo: Courtesy of Irina K. - Fotolia.com
- Cerro Castellan, Photo: Courtesy of fredlyfish4 - Fotolia.com
- Chinati Peak, Photo: Courtesy of Anthony - Fotolia.com
- Eagle Peak, Photo: Courtesy of olcayduzgun - Fotolia.com
- El Capitan, Photo: Courtesy of Teressa L. Jackson - Fotolia.com
- Fresno Peak, Photo: Courtesy of cuttsnaturephoto - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Patrick - Fotolia.com
Nestled in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park, Goat Mountain is geologist’s dream. The ancient river valley filled with 35-million-year-old lava flows left behind the many unique minerals of Goat Mountain. There are two primary peaks on Goat Mountain, one summit at 4,540 feet and the other one at 4,625 feet. There are no developed trails here, so hikers can bushwhack either peak’s sloping backside or opt to hike straight up the gully that separates the two peaks and continue to whichever peak they want to climb. Either way, climbers should plan on multi-hour hikes. The reward is a vista few people will ever see.
Hunter Peak is the sixth highest peak in Texas at 8,368 feet, although only 381 feet separate it from Guadalupe Peak, the highest peak in Texas. This peak and all the Guadalupe Mountains are ancient fossilized coral. There are a number of loop trails on the mountain as well as great trails that lead to the summit. Probably due to its proximity to the wildly popular Guadalupe Peak, this one doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The south side of Hunter Peak is a steep, rugged desert landscape, and the north side is a gently sloping pine-forested landscape. The trailhead for Hunter Peak is the same as for Guadalupe Peak.
Indian Peak in the Castner Mountain Range belongs to the U.S. Army. The trailhead is in the northern part of Franklin Mountains State Park at the Tom Mays Unit. The peak, once used as an artillery range, is in a bit of a tug-of-war between the U.S. Army and the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, which believes it should be gifted to Franklin Mountain State Park for recreational use. Since the peak is outside the park, there is no maintained trail to its summit. Hikers can bushwhack the rocky slope to the 6,544-foot summit. Besides the incredible views, there is a geocache hidden on the summit.
Lost Peak is the climbing destination for those who require a gentle trek. It can be easily accessed at the northern end of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The benefit to its remote location is that it is shielded from the sometimes brutal winds. Trails are established and well maintained. At the summit, hikers can go off trail for a short walk over rocky terrain to a large cairn that marks the summit. From here the views are expansive and the quiet desert stretches out in all directions. Tread carefully as the summit is host to a variety of cacti. Front and backcountry camping is available.
Mescalero Mountain is part of the scenic Davis Mountains. It has three main summits – Arrowhead at 8,060 feet, Apache Peak at 8,045 feet, and Point at 7,990 feet. The peaks are owned by The Nature Conservancy, which restricts access to a few days and weekends each year in an effort to preserve the wilderness. Mescalero Mountain was named for the Mescalero Apaches, who used the Guadalupe Mountains as a base in its war with the Comanches. Surrounded by the Chihuahuan Desert, the mountains form a protected habitat where plants and animals above 5,000 feet are isolated, making them ecological islands.
Mitre Peak, a conical mass between Alpine, Texas, and Fort Davis, offers panoramic views of three counties from its summit. The maximum elevation is 6,190 feet, and it’s one of the highest peaks in the area, but is not listed as a highpointer. Climbing Mitre Peak is problematic. It is located on private land, and therefore not open to the public. According to some hikers, access is generally denied. Those who don’t mind joining a guided hike may be able to summit the peak via the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center. They occasionally lead all-day climbs up Mitre Peak from the nature center. The hike is challenging and requires excellent fitness. Guided hikes are limited to 15 participants.
At less than 1,000 feet, Mount Bonnell is an easy hike with an urban feel. Just outside Austin, Texas, this limestone peak offers hikers views of a dammed section of the Colorado River, also known as Lake Austin, the downtown Austin skyline, and the affluent neighborhoods between downtown and the riverfront. More accurately described as a stroll than a hike, it provides locals with breezy views and respite from the summer humidity, and offers visitors a taste of Texas Hill Country. The gentle climb is suitable for all levels of hikers. Views of the city are to the south and views of hill country are to the north. There is a grand viewing pavilion at the summit.
The Davis Mountains are the second highest range in Texas, and Mount Livermore is the range’s highest peak. It is an igneous rock intrusion from the ancient Buckhorn Caldera. The northern part of Mount Livermore is under the ownership of The Nature Conservancy, which is only open a few days and weekends each year to protect the integrity of the mountain, so impromptu hiking is out of the question. Their website provides dates for open hiking days and open weekend camping. The southern part of the peak belongs to the Livermore Ranch. They offer information for Mount Livermore access on their ranch’s website.
As the name suggests, Pine Peak’s slopes are covered with pine trees, making it a good home for mountain lions and black bears, among other animals. At 7,710 feet, it is the 15th highest point in Texas, and fifth highest in the Davis Mountains. Pine Peak, as part of the Davis Mountains Preserve, is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. As such, it is only accessible a few times per year as the mission of the conservancy is to keep the area truly wild and protect the indigenous wildlife of “sky island.” Hikers who make it to the top will find Pine Peak Lake, the highest lake in Texas.
South Franklin Mountain
South Franklin Mountain, at 6,971 feet, is the shorter and lesser known sister to North Franklin Mountain, both of which are in Franklin Mountains State Park. The sole route to the summit is the Ron Coleman Trail, with its trailhead at McKelligon Canyon and its end at Trans-Mountain Road. A hike to the summit offers climbers views of El Paso, Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. Purists may be disappointed that the summit is home to a number of FAA towers, which mar the natural landscape. With 302 days of sunshine each year, any day is a good day for hiking South Franklin Mountain, although summers can be particularly hot during the day.
Sugarloaf Mountain is part of the Franklin Mountain Range outside El Paso, Texas. It is the last peak of the range and is connected to South Franklin Mountain via a shared ridgeline. Although it’s part of the mountain range, it isn’t part of Franklin Mountains State Park, which has both pros and cons. Since it’s outside the park, there is complete free public access for climbing; on the flip side, there is no entity to mark trailheads, maintain trails, or regulate use. This minor summit is 5,226 feet in elevation with only a faintly discernible trail to the top. Some scrambling will be necessary, as may some bushwhacking for those who lose sight of the trail. On the descent, it is easier to follow the faint trail.
Toll Mountain, along with Emory Peak and Casa Grande, form the eastern edge of the Chisos Basin. It stands tall at 7,415 feet, making it the third highest point in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park. There are no maintained trails on Toll Mountain, which means hikers will have to bushwhack their ways to the top. The best route is to take Pinnacles trailhead near the visitor center up to the Toll Mountain campsite near the Emory Peak trailhead. From there, hikers can bushwhack straight north to the summit. Altogether, it’s about 8 miles from the visitor center to the summit, with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet.
Bartlett Peak is the fourth highest peak in Texas, and is part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The Guadalupe peaks line up like soldiers from El Capitan, the southernmost peak, to Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, on to Shumard and Bartlett Peaks, and finishing at the northernmost end with Bush Mountain, Texas’s second highest peak. Because there are no defined trails on Bartlett Peak and its northern sheer wall makes that approach impassable, this peak doesn’t see a lot of action. Throw in the scrubby landscape riddled with flesh-tearing cacti and agave, and it makes for a lonely summit. For the determined, the best route is to drop down from Bush Mountain Trail, cross Pine Spring Canyon, and ascend on the northeastern side.
Shumard Peak is part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park and is the third highest peak in Texas at 8,615 feet. It has a sheer western face that catches the evening sun, and an easterly side with defined ridges and rocky terrain covered with prickly desert brush like agave and cacti. With no defined trails, the best route is dropping down from Bush Mountain Trail, crossing Pine Spring Canyon, and ascending the eastern side of the mountain. Front country and backcountry camping are available. Fall brings the most pleasant climbing weather of the year. Spring can be dangerously windy for climbers.
Mount Pratt in Guadalupe Mountains National Park is the seventh highest peak in Texas at 8,342 feet. In fact, eight of Texas’s highest peaks call this mountain range home. The Guadalupes, an ancient fossilized coral reef, has an intricate cave system beneath it. Hikes in the range are often hot, dry, and windy. The high elevation peaks covered with pine trees and provide a quiet home to mountain lions and black bears. One of the best routes is to ascend up Bear Canyon Trail, catch Bowl Trail, and cross to South Pratt Ridge, and then hike on to the summit. Hikers should expect dense, scrubby cacti along the way.