Texas has two National Parks, Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend.
Guadalupe boasts the highest peak in Texas at 8,751 feet. A landscape of ragged mountains, pine forests, deep canyons punctuated by spring fed streams. A short road leads to the visitor center and after that all that remains is to lace up your hiking boots. The park has over 80 miles of trails with 10 campgrounds. We only had one overnight here and prefer the comfort of our motor home over backcountry camping so this park landed in last place on our ratings of the parks we have visited.
Big Bend abuts 118 miles of the Rio Grande. The river, desert and mountains are home to more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles, and 75 species of mammals in it's 801,163 acres.
The Rio Grande was a tame looking border when we were there, appearing easily crossed without getting your shirt wet. But evidence of its great force after heavy rains was evident along is shores. The terrain on the Mexican side of the water looks pretty much the same and there is talk of creating park land south of the river as well.
Cactus in bloom, along roads and trails, gave the desert bursts of color. Some cacti are such a bright pink that they look to be spray painted. Seeds can lie in wait of rain, sometimes for years, yet produce wildflowers quickly after the rains come.
The mountains rise out of the desert green and lush. Receiving twice as much rain as the eastern side of the park, cactus gives way to leafy shrubs and a variety of trees. A splattering of maples, aspen, and oaks amid pine, juniper and other evergreens.
Texas gave us our first sightings of javelina, roadrunners, scorpions, and many unrecognized birds including the beautiful vermilion fly catcher.