El Capitan Trail is a 9.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Carlsbad, Texas that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and camping and is best used from September until March.
Trail was not as long as it was posted on the maps. The 11 mile out and back trail soon turned into 13. The trail is very overgrown and nearly gone at some points. Not that fun of a trail, would be better if you could peak El Capitan.
The first time we visit this trail was during the autumn season several years ago, nice weather, foggy in several parts but It was a very pleasant experience. This time we were there the first week of May, strong wind the most part of the trail but it helped us to mitigate the hot day. While you hike, you see and enjoy the view of El Capitan most of the trail. When you are at the top and you see it in front of you, you feel a great pleasure, the view from the west side is amazing. From that side you also enjoy a fascinating view of the Salt Basin. We wanted to return by the Salt Basin Overlook Trail, but we decided to return by the same route, maybe the next time. We hiked 11.1 miles, and we enjoyed a lot, we really love this trail.
Drive up to Williams Ranch is a must, especially if you've hike Guadalupe Peak. It really puts into perspective how where you were.
So you can borrow a key to a gate for Williams Ranch road from the Pine Springs tourist office. You need 4WD high clearance for this road though. It takes about an hour or so to get to the ranch nestled at the bottom of the range. It's pretty amazing that someone lived there at one point. Funny thing is guy bought it for his wife and she left him one day after living there.
Anyway, from the ranch you can hit the El Capitan Trailhead which walks along the cliffs below the range up to El Capitan. Not too difficult. Was perfect for my last day in the park after for some more difficult hikes the days before. Only bummer is that you can't camp out there.
This trail is 11.3 miles out and back. Make sure you have plenty of food and water to last you about 8-10 hours. The trail on the Westside of the mountain is very loose in several sections. I'd say this trail is about an intermediate level. The scenery on the other hand is fantastic! Once you get to the Westside of Capitan you'll have an awesome view of the Salt Flats. There is a camp site at the end of the trail for those of you who might want to camp out.