With no scenic drives or roads through the park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is considered a rugged wilderness park. This means there also aren’t lots of easy or short trails and hikes available for families. In fact, as I was researching things to do in the park, I found that most trails were longer than we wanted to tackle. But I did find one that was an absolute must — The Devil’s Hall Trail.
Visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park was at the end of our nine-day road trip. It was also the fourth national park we visited after Saguaro, Big Bend, and Carlsbad Caverns, which meant by the time we reached the park, our bodies were tired. Plus, Brian and Carter were sick and I woke up not feeling well that morning, so we were moving quite a bit slower than normal.
After loading up on cold medicine, stopping in the Headquarters Visitor Center at Pine Springs, and walking the Pinery Trail, we hopped back in the car to drive over to the Pine Springs Trailhead to hike the Devil’s Hall Trail. Unfortunately the small parking lot was full and our only option was to head back to the Visitor Center parking lot and walk from there, adding another 2/3 mile each way to our hike.
When we got back to the Visitor Center parking lot, we all sat in the car debating about whether or not we should do the hike. Three of us were sick and honestly, we weren’t sure we had it in us. But I desperately wanted to do the hike to see the incredible Hiker’s Staircase and towering Devil’s Hall first hand, so we rallied, packed up our adventure packs, and started walking.
Hiking Devil’s Hall Trail
Devil’s Hall Trail is a moderate, 2.1 mile out and back hike into Pine Spring Canyon that totals 4.2 miles. It leads to the Hiker’s Staircase, an amazing three-tier natural rock staircase that leads to Devil’s Hall, a narrow pathway through 100 foot limestone walls.
Devil’s Hall Trail departs from the Pine Springs Trailhead and while there isn’t much elevation gain (600 feet), throughout the entire hike, we were hiking up and down hills, navigating rocky terrain, and climbing up big boulders and rock ledges — 4.2 miles isn’t a long hike, but this one kicked our butts. It’s also slow-going through the rocks, as there isn’t really a defined trail, so this hike took us longer than we expected… about 4.5 hours.
Luckily, while hiking, we were surrounded by colorful maple trees, ponderosa pines, cactus, and other native desert plants, bright white boulders, and steep mountain cliffs, including Guadalupe Peak.
The First Mile
The first mile of the well-maintained, single-track trail heads northwest along the edges of a wide dry wash. It is rocky and uneven at times, but even on an overcast day, provides gorgeous views of Pine Spring Canyon. While hiking, we traveled through desert brush and passed native plants like cacti, yucca, oak, and juniper, and were surrounded by the impressive Guadalupe Mountains.
For about the first 0.75 mile, the Devil’s Hall Trail also provides access to the Guadalupe Peak Trail. This means the first part of the trail is also used by horseback riders who want to skip the steep switchbacks at the start of that trail. Just a little bit after the Guadalupe Peak Trail junction, Devil’s Hall Trail drops down into the bottom of the canyon.
The Second Mile
The second mile of Devil’s Hall Trail traverses a rocky wash, big boulders, and natural stone ledges — and there isn’t a maintained trail to follow. Instead, you’re just following the snaking wash and some rock cairns into the beautiful, narrow canyon.
The first 0.75 mile of the this trail section alternates between walking on a bed of small rocks and climbing up, over, and around big boulders or piles of boulders — and some are really slippery or very wobbly, so we had be to careful.
Most of the time, we sent Carter up ahead to find the best way up the rocks, then we followed him!
Hiking through the wash was was harder than it looks because it’s not flat ground. But with the bright white polished rocks contrasting against the dark mountains, green brush, and red-leafed trees, it was also so much more beautiful than the first mile of the hike. We also saw a group of four deer along the this part of trail!
Just as we were reaching the point of being over the rocky hiking and ready to be done, the trail made a sharp turn to the right and presented a spectacular layered rock staircase.
Hiker’s Staircase and Devil’s Hall
The last 0.35 mile of the Devil’s Hall Trail includes the two most spectacular features of the entire hike: the Hiker’s Staircase and Devil’s Hall.
Hiker’s Staircase at Devil’s Gate is a 50 foot, multi-tier, pour-off that has created a natural rock staircase made from thin layers of eroding limestone.
The stone steps at Hiker’s Staircase are small, so only your toes fit on the ledges, and the rock is polished, so the entire thing is super slippery too! Carter climbed it first with no problem. Natalie followed, figuring out that if you stay to the left, the rock isn’t as slippery and the rock ledges are just big enough for your foot to fit sideways. Brian and I climbed up after the kids to find a pool of water behind the first staircase, and more winding canyon after the second staircase.
As we hiked through the narrow canyon a bit further, we marveled at the steep layered limestone walls, climbed over and around fallen boulders, and took in the beautiful views around us.
Soon, just ahead, we could see that the trail turns sharply to the right. This is the entrance to Devil’s Hall.
Devil’s Hall is a 150 foot long, narrow slot canyon with 100 foot tall, parallel, vertical limestone walls that are just 15 feet apart.
Walking through Devil’s Hall is quite an experience — you really feel the significance of Mother Nature and the amazing forces that sculpt and carve rocks to incredible create places like this. Depending on the time of day, about halfway into Devil’s Hall, it also gets dark because the sun is blocked by the cliffs.
On the other side of Devil’s Hall, the canyon widens again and there are wider, flat layered rocks perfect for a picnic. In the afternoon they were shady, so the kids and I enjoyed water and snack break, while Brian hiked further down the canyon to see what was ahead. He only found an “end of trail” sign, so that meant it was time to turn around.
The Hike Back
Okay folks. Remember how I said this hike feels a lot harder than you’d think because of the rocky terrain? Well, going back was worse because by then, our feet hurt from stepping on rocks for hours. This really is a hike that you want good, solid, sturdy hiking shoes for, and not regular tennis shoes like the kids and I wore. Also, on the way back, we had to climb down all those boulders and rocks we climbed up and over, and trust me, going down is harder than going up, especially at the Hiker’s Staircase.
OMG. Going down the Hiker’s Staircase wasn’t fun. It’s so steep that it’s almost vertical, so standing at the top and looking down at the thin, slippery, small steps gave me some anxiety. Carter did fine because he can navigate rocks like a goat. Brian went next and really slow so he could help Natalie. I went last and I’m not going to lie, going down was scary and so slippery, I ended up jumping after a few steps and crossing my fingers I didn’t hurt myself.
Luckily, the hike back was faster because we didn’t stop for all the photos we did on the way there, it was downhill in the wash, and we already knew the trail.
I’m SO HAPPY that even though we were battling head colds and didn’t feel good (and I puked on the trail), we rallied and did this awesome hike. It was so worth it to see the Hiker’s Staircase and Devil’s Hall!
Know Before You Go
About the Devil’s Hall Trail:
- Devil’s Hall Trail is a moderate, 4.2 mile, round-trip, out and back trail that leads to a stunning and slippery natural rock staircase and a hallway formed by steep canyon walls.
- The Devil’s Hall Trail is accessed from the Pine Springs Trailhead at the Pine Springs Campground near the Visitor Center.
- There are flush restrooms with running water at the trailhead.
- There are only a small number of parking spaces at the trailhead and it fills up early in the day. If the parking lot is full, you’ll need to park at the Visitor Center and walk 2/3 mile to the trailhead.
- The Headquarters Visitor Center at Pine Springs is located at 400 Pine Canyon Drive, Salt Flat, Texas 79847.
- If hiking Devil’s Hall Trail, bring 1-2 quarts of water per person, food and snacks, and the trail map. Wear comfortable hiking shoes (do not wear flips flops or sandals) and bring a lightweight rain jacket. In the summer, wear sunscreen and a hat. In the winder, wear warm layered clothing, including a hat, and gloves.
In addition to the Devil’s Hall Trail, there are several other trails that leave from the Pine Springs Trailhead, including:
- Guadalupe Peak Trail:
Guadalupe Peak, also called the Top of Texas, reaches 8,751 feet elevation. Guadalupe Peak Trail is very steep, but well established. It is a strenuous, 8.4 mile hike with 3,000 feet of elevation gain, that generally takes 6-8 hours.
- The Bowl:
The Bowl is a strenuous, 8.5 mile round-trip hike with 2,500 feet of elevation gain, that takes roughly 8 hours. For this hike, you follow the Frijole Trail and Bear Canyon Trail to the top, then turn left on the Bowl Trail, and finally descend via the Tejas Trail. You can also make a small side trip to Hunter Peak if you have time.
- El Capitan/Salt Basin Overlook Trails:
This is a moderate to strenuous, 11.3 mile round-trip hike that takes 6-8 hours. It follows the El Capitan Trail and the Salt Basin Overlook Trail, then follows the El Capitan Trail back to the Pine Springs Campground. Beyond Salt Basin Overlook, the trail continues to the historic Williams Ranch site, an additional 4.7 miles one-way.
- Frijole/Foothills Trails:
This is a moderate, 5.5 mile round-trip hike that takes 3-4 hours. The Frijole and Foothills trail make a loop connecting the Pine Springs Campground and the Frijole Ranch and you can start at either end.
About Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park is in the vast Chihuahuan Desert of western Texas in both Culberson County and Hudspeth County on US Highway 62/180. It is 110 miles east of El Paso, Texas and 56 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
- The entrance fee is $5.00 per person for adults 16 years of age and older. This fee is good for seven days. The park also offers free admission days on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a wilderness park and one of the least visited of the country’s 59 national parks, with just 225,257 visitors in 2017.
- Download the Guadalupe Mountains Park map.
- There are 80 miles of hiking trails in the park and many day hikes to choose from.
- Facilities and services within and near Guadalupe Mountains National Park are extremely limited. The nearest gas stations are 43 miles west in Dell City, 35 miles east in White’s City, or 65 miles south in Van Horn. There is no campstore and no food available in the park. There is also no public transportation or shuttle service available. Bring everything you need with you, including plenty of water.
- Pets are permitted in the park, but not on most trails or in the backcountry. They are allowed only in areas accessed by vehicles, including roadsides, parking areas, picnic areas and campgrounds and must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet. You must always clean up after your pet.
- All park features are protected. Do not deface or remove any natural or historical objects. Do not pick wildflowers or other plants or feed or molest wildlife.