(6 days, 5 nights; Sat - Thur)
Assembly Point: Big Bend N.P.
Meeting time: hotel 8 am Drop - off time: 6 pm
Tour Cost: $2,295
Additional Single Occupancy Lodging Cost: $375
Nestled in the southwest corner of Texas, Big Bend is situated along a 107-mile stretch of the Rio Grande, including the point where the river turns sharply to the north (hence, its name, “Big Bend”). This section of the Rio Grande is protected as a Wild and Scenic River and the spectacular limestone gorges through which the river flows are among the astonishing, varied natural features contained within the park’s boundaries. The vast Chihuahan Desert, extending northward from Mexico, dominates a considerable expanse of the park, but standing in stark contrast to the desert lowlands are the rugged, forested Chisos Mountains, whose peaks reach an elevation of 8,000'. Without a doubt, Big Bend offers some of the wildest and unspoiled land remaining in the “lower 48”. This is the setting for our Big Bend National Park Hiking Tour.
We’ve planned our Big Bend program for early spring—the absolute best time to visit this park. With an estimated 1,100 plant species, 430 species of birds and a wide range of other wildlife, including gray fox, pronghorn antelope, mountain lion, and mule deer, spring is an exciting season in this desert environment.
We’ve structured this hiking trip in a manner that will provide the varied experiences that are the essence of Big Bend National Park. We’ll hike the high country of the Chisos, explore the erosional landscapes of the Window, the Chihuahan Desert environment, and the breathtaking gorges carved by the Rio Grande. A full-day’s raft journey on the Rio Grande in spectacular Santa Elena Canyon is another dramatic feature of this program.
We’ll assemble mid-afternoon of Day 1 at the Chisos Mountain Lodge, our home for the next five nights (we’ll provide a van shuttle from Midland to the park earlier that day). We’ll arrive early enough to hike leisurely along the Windows Trail to the spectacular Window, a pour-off that offers a magnificent view of the desert lowlands (4 miles). Early the following morning, we’ll hike from the lodge into the Chisos as we head for the South Rim on what generally is recognized as the quintessential hike in Texas. The views along the trail of much of the Big Bend country extending into Mexico are unsurpassed (13 miles).
We’ll head south from the Chisos Basin to the Mule Ears Trail head. Our hike to the base of Mule Ears Peaks will showcase the incredible beauty of the Chihuahan Desert at a time when the Chihuahan well may be in full spring bloom. The variety of cacti, yucca, ocotillo and other desert plants along the trail is truly amazing (7 miles). Following our Mule Ears hike, we’ll drive to the end of the Ross Maxwell Road and hike along the Rio Grande into the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon (2 miles).
We’ve planned a relatively moderate hike to Lost Mine for Day 4, our final trek in the Chisos highlands (7 miles). Later that afternoon, we’ll van shuttle to Terlingua with time to explore this old mining camp before an awesome dinner at the Starlight Theater.
On Day 5, we’ll join Big Bend River Tours for a full-day rafting (or canoeing, depending on river flow) adventure on the Rio Grande as it twists through the Santa Elena Gorge. The sheer limestone walls that line the gorge soar 1,500 feet above the river. We’ll spend a final evening at the Chisos Lodge and then hike leisurely through the narrowing canyon atop Burro Mesa the following morning to the spectacular pour-off at the mesa’s southern edge (4 miles). We’ll then shuttle back to Midland later in the day where our Big Bend National Park Hiking Tour concludes.
|Day 1||The Windows Trail. ( approx 500 ft elevation gain); overnight at Chisos Mountain Lodge||5.5 miles|
|Day 2||The South Rim Loop: Pinnacles, Boot Canyon, Northeast/Southeast Rims, South Rim, Laguna Meadow (approx 2,000-ft elevation gain); overnight at Chisos Mountain Lodge||14 miles|
|Day 3||Mule Ears Peaks; Santa Elena Canyon; overnight at Chisos Mountain Lodge||9 miles|
|Day 4||(morning) - Lost Mine (6 miles - 1,100-foot elevation gain); (afternoon) - Big Bend State Park - Closed Canyon (3 miles)||9 miles|
|Day 5||Raft Trip (or canoe in low-water conditions) - Santa Elena Canyon|
|Day 6||Burro Mesa Pour-off ( approx 500-foot elevation differential)||4 miles|
Total hiking mileage: 41.5 miles
Routes, mileage and accommodations are subject to change due to safety, road/trail conditions, weather and availability.