Thinking of mountains usually creates an image of Colorado’s towering Rockies or maybe the east’s Appalachian Mountains–but while they’re generally far from snow-peaked, we do indeed have mountains in Texas!
For most of Texas’s population living in cities along the coast or in the plains, it can be surprising to learn that there are at least a dozen mountain ranges in Texas.
Most of these ranges found in West Texas take serious planning to visit due to their remoteness, though a few are only a short drive from accessible cities.
Getting out into nature and hiking amongst the Texas mountains is a fantastic way to appreciate the rugged beauty of the state.
Here are the best mountain ranges in Texas to visit, plus where to visit them!
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The only TX mountain range wholly contained within a national park, the Chisos Mountains of the high desert, provides some of Texas’s best hiking trails.
Running along the southern Texas border with Mexico, the Chisos has the designation as the southernmost mountain range in the United States.
Covering forty square miles, the range is not extensive compared to others, but that does not mean it doesn’t allow for hours of fun for those who venture here. Those who choose to hike the trails of the Chisos experience jagged mountains, deep gorges, and views of the famous Rio Grande.
With over twenty miles of hiking trails and plenty of camping opportunities, the Chisos Mountains are worth a visit.
Where To Visit The Chisos Mountains
Since the entire mountain range of the Chisos is found within Big Bend National Park in West Texas, a visit to this famous park is the only thing required for spending time in the Chisos Mountains.
Texas’ largest mountain range just happens to be surrounded by the second largest desert in the North American continent.
Home to Texas’s most well-known stargazing site, the McDonald Observatory, the Davis Mountains stand out as an oasis of desert life.
Distributing its rainfall down and into the valleys below help to sustain life in the surrounding area and has allowed communities to thrive in their presence.
The Davis Mountains are home to several parks and nature areas greeting visitors each year. Hiking trails are common to find, and mountain bike trails that were not as prevalent in the past have recently picked up in popularity in the area.
The summers in Texas can be hot, but the Davis Mountains are known as the coolest place in Texas due to the altitude the mountains provide, with temps as much as ten degrees cooler than in the surrounding desert.
Where To Visit the Davis Mountains
When taking a trip to West Texas, stop by the many access points to the Davis Mountains.
These include places like the Fort Davis National Historic Park (and the town of Fort Davis, which is located right next door), Davis Mountains State Park, the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, and more.
Shared by both the state of New Mexico and Texas, the Guadalupe Mountains have supported life for thousands of years.
With the highest peak in Texas, hikers will find El Capitan in the Guadalupe Mountains a challenging experience at almost 9,000ft in elevation. One can undoubtedly say they are standing on top of Texas once reaching the summit.
The history of these mountains includes one of the last refuges for the Mescalero Apache people, and are also the place the Buffalo Soldiers were sent to clear the area for the railroad.
Only in the 20th century when infrastructure began being built in the Guadalupe Mountains and visitors from outside the region began visiting.
Several well-known trails are ready for hikers of all ages to visit in the area, with easy to difficult ratings available for the adventure.
Where To Visit The Guadalupe Mountains
To get the most out of your visit to the area, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is the place to go.
Although a well-maintained park, the Guadalupe Mountains still offer a chance to see nature in its wild state.
Know that this is not your typical urban park where civilization is just around the corner. Visiting the Guadalupe Mountains for a few days takes planning and the resources needed for your safety.
Home to the oldest rock formations discovered in Texas, the Franklin Mountains have been the victim of geological deformation for over a billion years. These upheavals have created a perfect mountain range and foothills to build the city of El Paso, Texas, around.
Shared by Texas and New Mexico, the Texas side of the range can be considered the largest urban mountain range in Texas.
While other mountain ranges in Texas have small towns dotted around them or are part of an open desert, the Franklin Mountains can be reached by a drive of just a few minutes from El Paso.
At over 23 miles long, the Franklin Mountain range offers well over one hundred miles of hiking and biking trails to choose from.
This close distance allows for those who stay in a hotel in El Paso to make a trip to the mountains and be back eating at a 5-star restaurant by dinner. For the more adventurous, the Franklin Mountains have plenty of places to stay in the wild while camping.
Where To Visit The Franklin Mountains
All trails in this mountain range lead to Franklin Mountains State Park.
Only a few minutes’ drive from El Paso, the park has tons of beautiful vistas to hike and enjoy nature outside of the city.
Situated next door to Big Bend National Park, we find the Christmas Mountains.
Donated to the State of Texas from a private foundation in the 1990s, the Christmas Mountains were passed onto the Texas State University System around 2011, making it one of the newest mountain ranges in TX open to the public.
A permit to hike, mountain bike, ride horses, or drive around on an ATV can be obtained on a 1-day at a time basis, with the pass expiring at 5:00 pm each day.
The state gave up these mountains over the cost of keeping up the area as a park. This means that the Christmas Mountains are some of the most remote and wild mountain areas of the state.
Although most will not visit these mountains on their own for a day pass due to their remoteness, those visiting the Big Bend area will find them a pleasant diversion for the day.
Where To Visit The Christmas Mountains
Accessing the Christmas Mountains is as easy as picking up your permit at the Terlingua Ranch Lodge offices.
Itself a resort, the lodge offers over 400 acres of its own to explore.
In Spanish, the name means gap or hole, which makes sense since a pass lies between the Hueco and Franklin Mountains ranges outside El Paso.
Another shared mountain range with New Mexico, these Texas mountains are known for their access to hiking and rock climbing, but mainly for their historical value.
For thousands of years, native peoples carved out a home in the low mountain areas. The area is home to some of the most culturally significant rock paintings in Texas.
Where To Visit The Hueco Mountains
The best place organized to spend time near the Hueco Mountains is at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Area.
There are guided tours available each day and self-guided hikes allowed, but only with 70 people at a time.
Even though the Chihuahuan desert brings to mind a barren wasteland, this area gives so much in natural resources back to nature lovers.
One of the most gorgeous places to visit in the high desert is the Chinati Mountains. Located west of Big Bend and near Presidio, TX, the Chinati Mountains are a great day trip if spending some time in the area.
These mountains are known for their tall grasses and desert plants, such as several cacti types, and for their views of the surrounding area’s rolling lands. In fact, artists have long traveled to the Chinati range to use as a backdrop for their paintings.
Although close to other regions like Big Bend and others, the Chinati area is unique as it was home to the largest volcanic eruption in the area millions of years ago. This creates an environment different from much of the surrounding desert area.
Where To Visit The Chinati Mountains
The Chinati Mountains State Natural Area is where to travel to spend time in these lovely mountains in Texas.
If you find yourself in the Big Bend area, be sure to take a day and visit the Chinati Mountains.
Palo Pinto Mountains
For the rest of the country, the Palo Pinto Mountains range would probably be considered at best foothills.
At around 1,500 feet of elevation and outside of the West Texas mountains, the Palo Pinto range definitely meets Texas standards as mountains.
The range is made up of three prominent peaks: Crawford Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Antelope Mountain.
Located less than one hundred miles west of Fort Worth, the Palo Pinto Mountains make for a perfect day or weekend hiking trip in North Texas… or it will when it is opened, that is.
With the land only purchased a few years ago, public access to this Texas mountain range is still in the planning stage.
But for those who love nature and want to volunteer their time, you can make yourself available to help build trails for future use.
Where To Visit The Palo Pinto Mountains
Once complete, Palo Pinto Mountains State Park will be open with full hiking trails and camping available.
Sadly, the only way to enjoy the mountains at this time is to volunteer to help. Contact the park to give your time in the making of this state park.