At 8368 ft (2552 m), Hunter Peak is the sixth highest peak in Texas. It sits on the north side of Pine Spring Canyon across from Guadalupe Peak the highest peak in Texas. From Pine Spring Campground in Guadalupe National Park, two well established trails can be followed to the summit of Hunter Peak, one from the east via Bear Canyon and the other from the west up Pine Spring Canyon (Tejas Trail). I made a loop up the steep Bear Canyon Trail and down Tejas Trail.
Trailhead Elevation: 5830 ft
Summit Elevation: 8368 ft
Loop Hike: 8.9 miles with 2800 ft of total uphill per my GPS
Left the vacation rental home in Carlsbad, New Mexico at 5:30 a.m. when it was still dark and drove 55 miles to Guadalupe Mountains National Park going to Pine Spring Campground. It was 37 degrees F. Started my hike at 6:30 a.m. when the sun was rising. Four days ago, after hiking the nearby Guadalupe Peak, my left knee had begun to hurt a lot. It was much better now but I was still worried about it.
Hunter Peak could be seen rising more than 2500 feet above. Went on Frijole Trail which headed east going slightly downhill at first then uphill skirting the slopes of Hunter Peak. Bear Canyon soon came to view. I knew that real climbing would soon begin.
After 1.55 miles, at an elevation just below 6200 ft, I left Frijole Trail and went onto Bear Canyon Trail. The map showed that in only 1.8 miles, that trail went up 1800 vertical feet. I was soon far above the plains to the south. The 5682 ft Nipple Hill could be seen to the east.
I came across many specimens of this beautiful tree today. It looked like an ornamental plant you could expect to find in someone’s living room. I later read that it was a Texas Madrone Tree.
The canyon became tight and deciduous trees appeared all over the place. It looked like a lot of work had gone into creating the trail in that area among the rocks and bushes.
Interesting rock formation.
The canyon opened up again. Looking down at the plains and up at Hunter Peak.
At 8:40 a.m., 7980 ft and 3.35 miles, I reached Bowl Trail on top of Bear Canyon. A big plateau covered with yellow grass and pine trees suddenly opened up. Headed west uphill toward Hunter Peak.
Went on a short spur trail that led me to the summit at 9:10 a.m. and 4.0 miles. Put on my coat, and began enjoying the views while having my sandwich.
Guadalupe Peak across Pine Spring canyon.
Shumard and Bartlett Peaks.
Looking east and south.
To the distant northwest, I could barely see a snowy peak. That must have been New Mexico’s 11973 ft Sierra Blanca Peak 115 aerial miles away. Zoomed view.
Looking down into Pine Spring Canyon.
Zoomed view of Mckittrick Canyon to the northeast.
Left at 9:45 a.m.. The walls below the summit.
Reached Bowl Trail again and headed west going downhill among the pine trees. At one point Guadalupe, Shumard and Bartlett Peaks (1st, 3rd and 4th highest peaks in Texas came to view).
At 10:30 a.m., 5.1 miles and 7840 ft, I reached Tejas Trail. My original plan had been to go to Bush Mountain and Blue Ridge Trail creating a 17 mile hike but I just did not want to risk reinjuring my knee so I decided to cut it short and return to trailhead by going down Tejas Trail.
Looking back at Hunter Peak from the edge of the plateau.
Tejas Trail zigzagging down.
At around 7200 ft, I saw a father and son walking up. Along with another guy further down, those were the only people I saw on the trail.
Another Texas Madrone Tree.
Point 6756 ft. Note the small arch in the second picture. Devils Hall Narrows, where I had been 4 days ago was at the bottom of that canyon.
Hunter Peak again.
Continuing down the trail.
Reached the bottom of Pine Spring Canyon and continued down the trail.
Hunter Peak and a Texas Madrone Tree. Reached the car at 12:40 p.m. It was sunny and 65 degrees F.