Hiking the Bush Mountain Trail at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Hike Name: Bush Mountain Trail
Area: Dog Canyon or Pine Springs
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
Distance: 13.2 miles round trip (Pine Springs to Bush Mountain summit)
Time Needed: 6-10 hours
Elevation Start: 5830 feet
Elevation Gain: 3600 feet
Best Time to Hike: Fall or spring

Overview

Like the Tejas Trail, the Bush Mountain Trail is a path that essentially runs from the Dog Canyon Trailhead in the far north of Guadalupe Mountains National Park all the way through the heart of the park to the Pine Springs Trailhead.

So you have the option of jumping on the trail from either Pine Springs or Dog Canyon.

At 8631 feet, Bush Mountain is the second-highest peak in all of Texas! It trails only Guadalupe Peak, which sits a couple miles away in the same park.

This is the most remote long hike in the park, as most visitors prefer the more famous Guadalupe Peak or Devil’s Hall hikes. You likely won’t find many other hikers on this trail.

bush mountain hike
A shaded section of the Bush Mountain hike. (NPS)

Hiking the Bush Mountain Trail

Starting Point

As noted, you can begin the Bush Mountain trail at either Dog Canyon or Pine Springs.

However, the hike from Dog Canyon to the Bush Mountain summit is a whopping 12.3 miles one way, or almost 25 miles round-trip. It would be incredibly difficult to do that as a single-day hike. You’d probably need to stay at the Marcus or Blue Ridge campground overnight.

And the NPS warns that this route is so infrequently taken that the trail may be overgrown with grass.

So this article instead focuses on the route to the Bush Mountain summit from Pine Springs. That’s the route most hikers will take. It can be done as a (long) day hike.

Start from the Pine Springs Trailhead. There’s no sign here for the Bush Trail. Instead, follow the Tejas Trail up the ridge for the first 3.8 miles or so, until you reach the Pine Top Junction where the Tejas, Bowl, and Bush Mountain Trails all intersect.

Then follow the Bush Mountain Trail west to the summit.

bush mountain trail map
Start the Bush Mountain hike from Pine Springs, at the southern end of the trail. (Google)

Trail Length and Difficulty

From Pine Springs to the Bush Mountain summit, you’re looking at roughly 6.6 miles each way, with about 3500 feet of elevation gain.

That’s a lot of vertical increase, but at least it’s over a longer distance, so most of the trail is not outrageously steep.

Bring loads of water. A hike this long in the desert will be very dehydrating, even for those in great shape.

This ranks up there with Guadalupe Peak as one of the most challenging hikes in the park. It’s fine for experienced hikers, but tourists or casual hikers should consider something less strenuous.

Best Time to Hike

Optimal seasons for the Bush Mountain Trail are spring and fall. Summer is tough, because the Texas heat and the lack of shade on most of this lengthy route will make for an unpleasant experience.

Winter can be doable if you get a nice day, but watch for high winds and cold temperatures.

Trail Description and Highlights

As one of the longest trails in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the Bush Mountain route offers a lot of different kinds of terrain and scenery.

There are shaded sections with tall trees. There are flat, wide-open sections exposed to the sun. There are steep uphill rocky sections. And there are amazing viewpoints from atop the cliffs on the western side of the mountain.

bush mountain summit
Looking up at Bush Mountain summit. (NPS)

Near the Pine Top Junction, the hike provides views looking down into The Bowl, the forested plateau in the middle of the park where plant life and wildlife are more prevalent.

Beyond that, you’ll see some tall pine trees on the path up to Bush Mountain Campground. The campground appears about three-fourths of a mile before the summit.

It’s a primitive campground with only 5 tent sites, so there are no water or bathrooms. But the campground does provide lots of much-needed shade.

After that, it’s not much longer to the Bush Mountain peak itself. From the summit, you’ll be able to see for miles across the desert.

You’ll also get a nice view of nearby Bartlett Peak (8508 feet). No trail leads to Bartlett, though adventurous hikers have been known to bushwhack their way over to it.

Important Things to Know

Hikers recommend taking at least 4-5 liters of water and energy drinks on this hike, because it’s so long and strenuous. The last thing you want is to run out of liquids, or to have to turn around before the summit due to a lack of water.

Parts of this trail are rocky and contain loose scree, so proceed with caution. Take plenty of breaks to catch your breath in the high altitude.

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