BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK
310 ALSATE DR, BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TX 79834Park Website • Park Map • Chisos Mountains Map
LOST MINE TRAIL
One of the most popular trails in Big Bend National Park is popular for a reason: big time views! From the top of the Lost Mine Trail, you can view westwardly into the Chisos Basin, gaze at the fortified Casa Grande and mighty Emory Peak directly in front of you, and out to the east lie splendid views of the Sierra del Carmens and mighty Rio Grande. This hike has it all — including the occasional black bear and winter snowfall!
The trail head can be found at mile 5 of the Basin Road and parking is available in designated spaces along the shoulder. If you cannot find parking near the trail head, you can find more in designated spots along Basin Road but please do not park in a way that obstructs traffic. Read the posted signage at the trail head for reminders on etiquette, warnings about wildlife and any posted park language concerning trail closure and conditions.
This hike is a constant climb once you leave the parking lot, so be physically prepared for steep grades and and an elevated heart rate. As you begin your hike towards the saddle between Lost Mine Peak (up the trail, hikers left) and Casa Grande (hikers right), notice the incredible display of desert flora. At the saddle, peer down into Pine Canyon as it sprawls out beneath you and runs towards the desert.
Continue trekking up the mountain and enjoy the views as you begin traversing the switchbacks. As you climb, look out towards the Chisos Basin for postcard views of the Window — a V shaped notch in the mountains that you’ll see on many actual postcards later in the gift shop! As you begin to reach the top of the Lost Mine Trail, it will flatten out and you eventually will come to rest at the peak where the cliff sides drop into Pine Canyon and the Chisos Mountain range is on full display. From right to left you can see: Casa Grande, Emory Peak, the North East Rim of the Chisos, and far out to the left, the Sierra del Carmen mountain range which towers high above the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. When ready, descend and exit via the same trail.
SOUTH RIM LOOP
A hike not to be taken lightly, this loop is for experienced and physically fit hikers who can handle lots of elevation change, heavy packs, and exposure. If you’re qualified, you will certainly not leave empty handed — the hike has some of the best views, terrain, and trails in the state. You can hike this in one long (miserable) day but we recommend backpacking and staying overnight at one of the primitive campsites that you can reserve a permit for at the Panther Junction office.
Your starting point is the paved sidewalk beneath the Chisos lodging area in the direction towards the Window. Follow the signage to Laguna Meadows, a very steep inclined section with a mixture of shade and sun that will definitely get your heart rate going. At the top you will find flatter ground in the juniper meadow and near the intersection of Laguna Meadows and Blue Creek trails is a bathroom. Pass this area and turn left away from Blue Creek to head towards the Colima and Southwest Rim Trails.
Where the Colima and Southwest Rim Trails converge, follow the Southwest Rim Trail to the right. This is where the views really start to get incredible as you look south over the desert and into Mexico. Follow the 1.7 mile trail until you reach the intersection of the Southwest Trail, Boot Canyon and South East Trails. At this intersection, turn right and walk towards the South Rim for a truly breathtaking view that is unrivaled anywhere in the state. The sheer cliff drop and the mountains beneath span out into Mexico while the Rio Grande carves and twists through the landscape. If backpacking overnight, try to get a campsite along the Southwest or Southeast Rim for easy access to this location for an epic sunset!
Follow the Southeast Rim Trail as the path snakes along the Chisos spine. To your right will be views of Juniper Canyon and the Sierra del Carmens. You will connect with the Northeast Rim Trail which will provide views of Lost Mine Peak and Pine Canyon and connects you to the bottom section of Boot Canyon Trail. The Southeast Rim section is closed seasonally February-May for peregrine falcon roosting, so if it is closed change your route and travel the Boot Canyon Trail.
At the end of the Boot Canyon Trail, follow signage and hike up Boot Springs Trail until you reach where Emory Peak and Pinnacles Trail collide. From here, those with endurance can take a side trip up to Emory Peak (2.5 miles round trip) to summit the tallest peak in the park. Those looking to return to the basin can descend and follow the Pinnacles Trail all the way back to the starting location at the Chisos Basin parking lot.
GRAPEVINE HILLS TRAIL
The name of the trail is Grapevine Hills, but make no mistake — at the end of this adventure is where the Balanced Rock resides. To get to this trailhead, drive 3.5 miles west of Panther Junction on the main park road and turn right onto Grapevine Hills Road. Four wheel drive is not necessary but a high-clearance vehicle is recommended. Cars comparable to a Subaru Outback will be able to handle the 6.5 mile drive to the trailhead with ease.
After 6.5 miles, you will see the trailhead on the right hand side of the road. Park in the small lot and begin your hike through the wash that quickly turns into a small canyon. This hike is one of the most unique in the park as you will be transported into a seemingly otherworldly landscape of red walls and giant granite boulders that have been weathered smooth and round. The trail is easy going, meandering its way through the boulder fields on a smooth flat surface. Near the end, you will climb your way up and through the incline filled with boulders as you work your way up to the right side of the canyon.
Standing tall and defying the laws of gravity, Balanced Rock is a testament to erosion, time and Mother Nature’s power. Marvel at the sheer size of this precariously perched behemoth and test your courage by physically put yourself between a rock and a hard place while standing underneath it! After you have fully explored every corner of this treasured destination, return via the same trail to the parking lot.
MESA DE ANGUILA TRAIL
The Mesa de Anguila, upon first glance, may look like another famous postcard bend in a scenic canyon river that resides up in Page, Arizona (Horseshoe Bend). However, Texas has a mightier and more dramatic version nestled in the western border of Big Bend National Park where the Rio winds its way in a grand “U” shape fashion around a tall mesa on the Mexican side of the river. Sparsely traveled with serious elevation, route finding and all kinds of thorny vegetation, this trail should not be attempted by those who are unfit or inexperienced in the wilderness. For those that are capable, you will be rewarded with a wonderful and quiet scene that lays out before you as wide as you can turn your head left to right. We recommend a gps and to try this earlier in the day so you don’t hike back in the dark after sundown.
Start your hike at the Mesa de Anguila trailhead behind the Lajitas resort located on Comanche Mesa Rd. There is a large dirt parking lot with signage freestanding in the middle of the lot. From the signs, the trail starts near the right corner of the parking lot where a bronze NPS sign reads “Mesa de Anguila Trail”. From this point on, keep your eyes peeled for the cairns, stacks of rocks, that mark and lead the way through the golf course and across the desert river bed. It’s about one mile until you reach the foot of the incline section that leads up to the mesa.
Follow the trail up the mountain, it’s about 0.75 miles in length and around 800 ft of vertical gain. Once you reach the top and you’re in the saddle of the two ridge lines, you need to hang a right at the small fork in the trail. From here, it’s all off trail navigation. Make your way down the hill side through the brush for about 0.5 miles and eventually you will begin to see the mesa. Continue further and you will find you run out of hill side as it turns into a shelf where there’s a roughly 200 ft drop to the valley below. From here, enjoy the view and then return the same way you came.
EMORY PEAK TRAIL
As the tallest peak in the Chisos range, Emory is a must do for peak baggers and thrill seekers. From the top you can see just about all of Big Bend National Park — Santa Elena Canyon and all the way over to the Sierra del Carmens. The panoramic views will surely make you glad you spent the time and energy trekking up to this exposed rocky peak high above the desert.
Leave the Chisos Basin and follow trail markings to the Pinnacles Trail (8 miles roundtrip). Climb this winding switchback trail as it meanders through tall pines and shady cliffs, eventually topping out at a saddle with a very decent overlook of the Basin and on the other side of the saddle Boot Canyon. From here, you should see a rest area with a bear box and signage for the Emory Peak Trail. It’s 1.5 miles (3 miles round trip) from this point with about 2,500 ft of elevation change. The trail is scenic, it wraps around the back side of the mountain with great views into Boot Canyon as you make your way up towards the peak.
You may feel like you’ve reached a dead end when you arrive at the faces of small boulder scrambles. To access Emory, you will want to scramble up the right face. Ascending and descending this section is the hardest part of the entire hike and should only be attempted if you are confident in your abilities. Continue your scramble upwards passing a weather station and antennas. Courageously make you way towards the farther right hand side of the peak and you will see the geo marker for the highest point of elevation. Tap it, grab a photo and pause to enjoy the amazing views and likely strong breeze — you’ve made it! After enjoying yourself, descend and retrace your journey back to the basin.
The Window is the feature that everyone has to see from the Chisos Basin. It’s simply iconic and is the inspiration for our main logo — we just love the view! For those who want a more intimate view of the Window, you can hike down to the bottom of the V shaped notch where a seasonal pour off has varying levels of water that cascades down and out to the canyons below. The scale and size of this feature is breathtaking — as well as the hike — and surely is a must for those with the energy to attempt!
Start your hike at the Chisos Basin parking lot and look for the trailhead signs that point towards the Window Trail (near the Chisos Basin Convenient Store). This out and back trail is unique because it is almost all downhill on the way out and almost entirely uphill on the way back. So try to save more of your water for the return hike, you’ll be feeling the burn of climbing the 950 ft of elevation change by the time you get halfway back.
The Window is a really fun hike and is extra special when there is water flowing in Oak Creek. As you are well aware, water is a scarce resource and feature in the Big Bend and being able to enjoy a hike with flowing water is a treat. Make sure to spend some time soaking your feet and cooling off in the shade of the tall canyon walls. As a warning, the pour off at the end of the hike (seen in our photo) is fairly smooth and slippery — don’t venture too far out to the edge! When ready, return back to the basin via the same trail.
RIO GRANDE VILLAGE NATURE TRAIL
This may be one of the easiest (and very scenic) trails in the entire park. Find the trailhead across from campsite 18 in the Rio Grande Village Campground. Since parking is limited at the trailhead, park near the registration sign (and not in a vacant camp site) for the campground and walk to site 18.
The trail first takes you across a boardwalk over a wetland fed by a warm spring. Follow the trail from the boardwalk as it rises toward the bluff. The trail forks before climbing, but you can take either direction up to the top. As you reach the top, look to the west and you can see the Rio Grande slicing through Hot Springs Canyon, and the entire range of the Chisos Mountains just beyond. Below you, the Rio Grande wraps around the bluff. Looking east, you’ll see the towering walls of Boquillas Canyon looming just beyond the small Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen, both of which are dwarfed by the towering Sierra del Carmens.
For the photographers and romantics, this location is a fantastic sunset shot. Our recommendation: bring a small picnic and blanket, find a spot on the bluff and enjoy day fading into night right before you in one of the most beautiful locations in the state!