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Is Guadalupe Mountains National Park Safe?

Millions of people visit national parks, including the Guadalupe Mountains, and expect to come home safe. However, you can never take the wilderness too seriously.

Guests often get distracted by the sights, smells, and sounds of nature and can accidentally put themselves in dangerous situations. Other times, they may show up unprepared for the elements.

Today, we’re looking at a recent Guadalupe Mountains National Park incident, and we’ll explore just how dangerous it is to visit the area.

Let’s hit the trail!

Deceased Hiker was Found in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

On New Year’s Eve 2022, hikers at the park discovered a lifeless body of a fellow visitor on Guadalupe Peak Trail. They immediately administered CPR and contacted local officials. Unfortunately, their efforts to revive the individual were unsuccessful. The rangers didn’t disclose the person’s name or cause of death.

Guadalupe Peak Trail is one of the most challenging mountain routes at the park and isn’t safe for beginners. It’s an 8.4-mile round-trip with a 3,000-foot elevation gain. The trail tops out at 9,000 feet, the highest point in the Lonestar State. It often experiences strong air currents. There was a High Wind Warning on New Year’s Eve, and staff reported gusts of up to 50 mph, which resulted in below-freezing chills.

Superintendent Eric Leonard commented on the incident and said, “Guadalupe Mountains National Park staff are saddened by this loss. Our entire park community extends sincere condolences to the hiker’s family and friends.”

Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Preparation is key to safely hike through Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

About Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park sits in far West Texas near the Lone Star State’s border with New Mexico. Despite its increasing visitor numbers, its remote location makes it one of the least visited NPS sites in the country. In 2021, they experienced a record-setting year and welcomed 243,000 visitors.

As its name implies, you’ll find incredible views of the sprawling mountains that dot this region. The area’s minimal lighting provides some of the darkest skies imaginable, and guests can see an astonishing number of stars. There’s no shortage of hiking trails, panoramic views, and wildlife to enjoy.

If you’re looking for something to do while you’re there, you’ll likely find yourself hiking. No roads pass through the trails, so a scenic drive is out of the question. But there are more than 80 miles of routes, with plenty of options for all skill levels. Plan accordingly and come prepared with sufficient water for everyone in your group.

You can stay at two developed campgrounds for tent and RV camping. These locations are primitive and offer no hookups or shower facilities, but they provide easy access to the park grounds. If you want to hike to where you’ll pitch your tent, you can find 60 wilderness sites. 

Pro Tip: Head to these 5 Cool Places in Texas after visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

What Are the Biggest Safety Concerns in the Park?

The extreme heat isn’t exactly safe for unprepared visitors to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Many guests underestimate how hot it will be and how it’ll affect them while hiking or spending time outdoors. If you’re planning to visit during the warmer months, you must bring plenty of water, dress appropriately, and familiarize yourself with the signs of heat-related illnesses.

While the heat can be intense, it’s not the only thing that should concern guests. The elevation changes throughout the area make the weather nearly unpredictable. Temperatures can vary by over ten degrees from one section to another. In addition, November through March is the windy season. Drafts over 30 mph are routine, with gusts up to 50 to 80 mph.

Finally, several types of wildlife that call the park home are potentially dangerous, too. While mountain lions and black bears usually stay out of the area, they can show up and can be potentially hazardous to visitors. You may also encounter five different types of rattlesnakes. Make sure you stay on the trail, never put your hands or feet anywhere you can’t see, and listen for the warning signs of a nearby rattler.

Hikers in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Pack lots of water to stay hydrated while hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Is the Guadalupe Peak Trail the Most Dangerous Hike in Texas?

As it’s the highest point in Texas, many hikers at Guadalupe Mountains National Park aim to conquer Guadalupe Peak Trail. If you can make it to the top, not only do you have bragging rights, but you get to enjoy a phenomenal view. However, the trail’s difficulty rating is “difficult,” which means it’s not for everyone.

The extreme weather conditions, rugged terrains, and abrupt drop-offs make this trail the most dangerous in Texas. Park officials state that it typically takes six to eight hours to complete the route under ideal circumstances. It could take much longer if you don’t have the right supplies and conditioning.

It’s very easy for someone to underestimate this hike and find themselves in a dangerous situation. The extreme heat and lack of shade in many sections of the trail can quickly take a toll on your body. Not only do you need to carry plenty of water, but you need to drink it. If you wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking, it’s too late.

Pro Tip: Before you head to the Guadalupe Mountains, make sure you know these 7 Texas Slang Terms to Learn Before Visiting.

How To Stay Safe While Hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains 

Whether hiking to the top of Guadalupe Peak or not, preparing yourself is essential. Having the right equipment and supplies during your trip can help you have a smooth hiking experience and protect yourself.

You need to have a plan for how you’ll handle navigation. If you plan to go low-tech and use a compass and map, make sure you know how to use it. You don’t want to try to figure out how to work a compass for the first time when you’re lost in the park. In addition, if you plan to use a GPS unit, ensure you’ll have plenty of battery to last for your hike to avoid getting lost.

How you dress can also help keep you safe while hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains. Keeping the sun off of you can help you avoid exposure to the sun and experiencing painful sunburns. Don’t forget that weather conditions can change quickly, so packing an additional layer is always a good idea.

Depending on the length of your hike, you’ll need a handful of camping supplies. It’s wise to carry a first aid kit, a fire-starting kit, essential tools, and a shelter. These supplies may weigh your pack down, but you’ll be glad you have them if you need to use them.

Prioritize Safety and Enjoy Your Visit

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is safe if you take the proper precautions. In fact, according to NPS data, car accidents were the most common cause of death from 2010-2020. Still, it’s important to bring what you need, and remember that weather conditions can change, and things can head south quickly if you try to endure them.

Mother Nature can be a beast and overwhelm even the most experienced hikers. Don’t put yourself or others in a dangerous situation by attempting a route that’s out of your abilities or one that you’re not prepared to finish. Trust us. It’s not worth it!

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