El Capitan, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

#4 of 6 in Nature in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
El Capitan is a peak in Culberson County, Texas, located within Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The 10th highest peak in Texas at 8,085 ft (2464 m), El Capitan is part of the Guadalupe Mountains, an exposed portion of a Permian-era reef uplifted and exposed by tectonic activity during the late Cretaceous period. The southern terminus of the Guadalupe Mountains, El Capitan looms over U.S. 62/180, where its imposing height and stark outline have made it one of the iconic images of the Trans-Pecos to generations of travelers.
El Capitan is the southern-most peak of the Guadalupe escarpment, an ancient limestone reef that forms the present-day Guadalupe Mountains. These mountains are an exposed portion of the Capitan Reef Barrier, a 350-mile long reef constructed primarily from calcareous sponges, encrusting algae, such as stromatolites, and lime-rich mud directly from the ocean. This reef surrounded much of the Delaware Sea, an inland ocean that covered parts of modern southern New Mexico and Trans-Pecos Texas in the Permian Era (approx. 290 million years ago). Near the end of the upper Permian era, in the Ochoan epoch, the outlet that allowed sea water to enter the inland waters began to silt over, occasionally closing the inland sea from its source. Mineral-rich and cut off from replenishment, the inland sea began to evaporate into layers of alternating gray anhydrite/gypsum, brown calcite, and halite, which formed the Castile Formation. As salt concentrations increased, laminated halite, anhydrite, sylvite, and polyhalite formed the Salado Formation, which eventually covered and grew beyond the lower Castile Formation.
Our Guadalupe Mountains National Park route planner makes visiting El Capitan and other Guadalupe Mountains National Park attractions simple, and helps you make a travel plan personal to you.
Create an itinerary including El Capitan
Save Saved
© OpenMapTiles © OpenStreetMap contributors
El Capitan Reviews
Rate this attraction
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
36 reviews
  • Need a good comfortable clothes, shoes and a little physical training. Water, food. Also recommend the car to fill a full tank. be sure to take a camera and tripod, that would make beautiful pictures.
    View original
  • Went to view the meteor shower but there is just too much haze from the California wildfires and clouds. Spectacular red Sunset.  more »
  • Beautiful place to sight see
  • Didn't expect to drive past it for work but what a view. Would love to go back and hike it.

Plan your trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park

  • Get a personalized plan

    A complete day-by-day itinerary
    based on your preferences
  • Customize it

    Refine your plan. We'll find the
    best routes and schedules
  • Manage it

    Everything in one place.
    Everyone on the same page.

Popular things to do in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Duration: 3​h
Duration: 2​h 30​min
Duration: 2​h 30​min
Duration: 1​h 30​min

Side trips from Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Hidden gems in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Duration: 2​h 30​min
Duration: 2​h 30​min
Duration: 2​h 30​min
Duration: 2​h 30​min

Nearby attractions in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Duration: 1​h
Duration: 1​h

Nature in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Duration: 2​h 30​min