Guadalupe Peak – Texas’ State High Point

Here’s a trivia question you can use on your friends:

What state High Point is a coral reef?

A: Hawaii
B: Florida
C: Utah
D: Texas

I’m sure you figured out, based on the title of this article, the somewhat tricky answer to this question is Texas. The Lone Star State is not necessarily the first one my mind conjures when I think of coral reefs. I would certainly drift toward Florida and Hawaii first. If you know Capitol Reef National Park is in Utah, perhaps you might make that guess. But the correct answer is, indeed, Texas!

Rising to a height of 8,751 feet, Guadalupe Peak is the highest natural point in the state of Texas. 

Guadalupe Peak - photo by Zereshk

The crag is the keystone and namesake of the Guadalupe Mountain Range and also lends its name to the park in which it rests, Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The mountain’s apex height ranks 14th among all High Points.

Despite the fact that the region is now part of the Chihuahuan Desert, Guadalupe Peak was once an underwater rainforest, as we sometimes call coral reefs. 250 to 300 million years ago, Texas and New Mexico were located along the edge of the supercontinent Pangea, meaning they touched the uber ocean. In this region, the Capitan Reef formed in a giant inlet. Eventually, the outlet to the sea-proper closed, which caused all the water to evaporate. About 80 million years ago, the region began to uplift thanks to tectonic forces. Then, 20 to 30 million years ago, steep faulting occurred, which raised portions of the now fossilized reef thousands of feet in the air.

The result was a floating coral reef, now known as Guadalupe Peak. If you look at the photo above, you can see it even looks like a reef in the sky!

The locations of ancient reef systems overlaid onto modern Texas - image by University of Texas

Though I have not yet summited it, much like Black Elk Peak in South Dakota, Guadalupe Peak has the reputation of providing a big-mountain feel on a doable basis. A well-maintained trail to the summit runs 4.5 miles both ways, ascending approximately 3,000 feet in the process. From all reports, it is not a walk in the park (even though it literally is; har-har), but the experience is on the achievable end.

The acme is adorned with a cool monument marking the High Point. A stainless steel pyramid sits atop the mountain like a stationary sentinel. Oddly, it was funded by American Airlines. One face sports the American logo, another a U.S. Postal Service tribute to the Pony Express, and the last a compass and the Boyscouts logo. A register rests nearby to log your visit to the highest spot in Texas.

The pyramid on Guadalupe Peak

Friends and readers Tom R. and Kim T. have summited Guadalupe Peak. They managed to produce some wonderful photography of their visit.

Until we can all climb this coral reef, we’ll have to get by with their imagery and video footage of the mountain! Have you summited Guadalupe Peak? If so, send me some photos!

Kim T. and Tom R. getting high on Guadalupe Peak
Tom R. on the way up
Kim T. on Guadalupe Peak - photo by Tom R.

Further Reading and Exploration

Guadalupe Mountains National Park – official website

Reef Formation at Guadalupe Peak – National Parks Service

Guadalupe Peak – SummitPost

Guadalupe Peak – Peakbagger

Guadalupe Peak – AllTrails

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