Do not expect to find any water on this loop, or any other you plan in Guadalupe Mountains NP. Bring all you need.
As is typical of west Texas, there is a lot of plant life that has put much of its limited resources into creating scratchy and pokey things. Many of the trails are encroached by such plants. Shorts will inevitably lead to scratched up legs. Weigh scratches vs heat release as you see fit.
This loop starts at the Pine Springs Trailhead. Sign in at the sign (it helps the park with trail maintenance and funding) and head up the trail. There is no signage for Tejas Trail
or Bush Mountain Trail
but head up that way anyway and there will be a quick trail (1/10th of a mile) off to the right. Most of the early signage is for the Bowl Trail
or Bowl loop. Follow that signage until you see signage for Tejas Trail
and follow that.
The trail begins to climb after crossing a wash and continues to climb until you reach the ridgeline. This comes after about 3.6 miles when you'll reach a trail junction. The bowl trail will go off sharply to the right, the Tejas gently to the right, and Bush Mountain Trail
to the left. Take a left to follow Bush Mountain Trail
along the ridge as it continues to gently ascend to the summit.
Just below the ridgeline you'll cross over from lower mountain desert terrain and plantlife into a more typical higher altitude southwester landscape with Juniper trees and the occasional Ponderosa and other evergreens. When I was there (later March) the clouds had poured across the mountains the previous night and deposited ice on all of the trees, leaving white evergreens against a blue sky. It was pretty spectacular and the only way I was able to get water on this loop.
Follow Bush Mountain Trail
to the Blue Ridge Trail
. All of the trails are well marked and the trail junctions are obvious, so you'll be challenged to miss this, or any other, junction. This junction provides a wonderful respite to sit and enjoy the trees, mountains, grass, and meadow.
Take the Blue Ridge Trail
, which will travel over the least interesting part of this loop but still provide for nice scenery. This trail continues for 2.3 miles until it intersects with the Tejas Trail
. At this intersection the loop really begins to take on a northern NM or AZ feel with denser western style evergreen forests.
The trail transitions from crumbly rock to western mountain style pine needle coated singletrack. Follow the Tejas Trail
for about 1.5 miles until it intersects with the Juniper Trail
. If you want to keep the loop shorter you can just follow the Tejas Trail
back to shave a couple of miles off the total, but you'll miss out on the fun ahead. This stretch of trail follows a (typically) dry creek bed. Keep an eye out for an absolutely massive tree along the bank to your left. Definitely not something one expects to find in West Texas.
Take a left to follow the Juniper Trail
. The dense evergreen forest continues with occasional views of the surrounding mountains covered in trees (I felt like I was in the foothills of Colorado). Juniper Trail
will connect with the Bowl Trail
after 2 miles. Stay to the right to pick up the bowl trail and follow this, continuing for about a mile to the ridge that overlooks the valley you came up from.
At this point, take the Bear Canyon Trail
, which descends precipitously back to the valley. You're back in typical western terrain here. Some juniper, but mostly a mix of scrub oak, yucca, and other plant life with sheer walls and giant boulders.
The trail is impeccably built and maintained but still was a bit too steep for my legs to handle for any length of time. After about 2 miles this will reach the outlet of the canyon and you'll take a right on the Frijole Trail
. This will lead you to back to the wash you had to cross to go up the Tejas Trail
in the beginning. Just retrace the obvious path back to the trailhead.