The Great Plains may be relatively flat in places, but it is not a lowland. It is high country. If you were to start at, say, the Mississippi River and work your way westward, you would be on a gradually upward trending slope, although you would never really notice it due to locally rolling terrain as well as the distance it takes to gain a modest rise. On average, which is only useful in the very broadest sense, the land rises about 500 feet for every 100 miles you travel west. In fact, the land is high enough in places to incorporate the highest points of several states.
The next few blog entries (perhaps occasionally interrupted) will involve U.S. state high points that are within the Great Plains. We will begin with the highest of the Great Plains high points: Guadalupe Peak in Texas.
I’ll start with a disclaimer: Guadalupe Peak is not technically in the Great Plains; it is part of the Chihuahuan Desert, but it lies very close the edge of the Great Plains and is very important to the Great Plains Trail because it will serve as the southern terminus of the trail. Guadalupe Peak stands tall at 8,749 feet above sea level, and is also the highest point in Guadalupe Mountains National park. It’s an impressive mountain. The eastern face presents a series of escarpments that together rise steeply more than 3,000 feet above the nearby valley floor.
There are several trails that eventually lead to the main summit trail. Eventually, the Great Plains Trail will hook up with one of the trails that connects the northern border of the park to the summit trail for a grand finale trek that will end with a sweeping vista of the Great Plains just to the north and east. It’s a wonderful reward at any time, but it will be an especially meaningful and fitting end for a GPT thru hiker who ends their 1,500 mile journey with such an experience!