We really enjoyed this short, one mile easy walking trail. Walking through a narrow box canyon, you will end at a cliff with a rounded half chute like formation that was cut into the cliff by rainwater. This run off channel descends vertically to the canyon floor. During the rainy season this dry chute turns into a waterfall as the water from above pours over it. While in the canyon we heard a very loud high pitched chirping noise that went over and over again, after scanning the canyon walls we saw a rock squirrel that wasn’t happy with our presence at all.
This is a one third of a mile, paved wheel chair accessible trail. The trail is level, and a pleasant short walk with nice mountain views. This would be a great little trail to walk at sunset, as our waitress at the nearby restaurant told us that the sunset views from this trail are sometimes really gorgeous. Unfortunately our campground was a number of miles away, and we didn’t want to do the drive in the dark with all the night animals out and about.
There are a series of scenic drives to take while in the park. The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and the Basin Road (Green Gulch) are two of the more popular. The Basin road is narrow and twisty, as you ascend to a higher elevation. The Ross Maxwell drive will take you past a number of overlooks and to the Castolon Visitor center with its historic buildings, then on to the Santa Elena Canyon. The photo is of the Sotol Vista Overlook found along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.
If you are out in the middle of nowhere, you might as well continue in that direction. TX 170 from Study Butte - at the Park's western entrance - fllows the Rio Grande upriver some 60 miles to the small town of Presidio. The road offers many grand vistas of remote countryside. A glorious way to end a Big Bend adventure.
This tip is just a general comment about what you see in most of Big Bend: a harsh, flat and dry desert, cut by high plateaus called mesa, or by sheer cliffs (Sierra del Carmen, Santa Elena Canyon,...), or jagged mountains (Chisos). If you think of a desert as a see of sand or just rock, you are in for a surprise here. There are lots of plants in the Chihuahuan desert! They are all adapted to the desert and can do with no water for extended periods of time. Go see my off-the-beaten-path tips for examples of Chihuahuan desert plants.
Even if you do not like hiking, it is just wonderful to drive the paved and unpaved roads of the park. The lanscapes are fascinating!
The entrance fee for the park: $10 per vehicle valid for 7 days. They give you the classical national park brochure with a map at the entrances.
This picture was taken along the Maxwell Scenic Drive near Tuff Canyon. You can hike down Tuff Canyon, it is a less than a mile (1 km) long trail. The white color of the tuff (explosive volcano product) against the very dark color of the other volcanic rocks around makes for a haunting landscape, very inspiring for taking pictures (see my Travelogue)!
This is the hike to the highest peak of the Chisos Mountains. Emory Peak is 7825 feet (2385 m) high. The view is absolutely stunning from the top, and well worth the effort. Overall, I liked that trail less than the Lost Mine one because more than half of it is in the woods with no view. It is harder too, I'd say from medum difficulty to steep, with the end ressembling rock climbing! Round trip is 4.5 miles (7 km) and the start is near the Chisos Basin Motel and Cottages.
So far, this has been my favorite hike in the Chisos! It goes up a mountain trail with stunning views all the way through. At the beginning of the hike, you can get a little brochure with explanations at numbered stops along the trail on fauna and flora. The trail is 4.8 miles (8 km) round trip with downhill on the way back, and of medium difficulty.
When I went, we were the only ones there, and morning fog would come from the valleys beneath us, it was beautiful!
The beginning of the trail is located along the road to the Chisos Basin ('Basin Road"), before it plunges towards it.
The window is a dent, a canyon, cutting through the mountains surrounding the Chisos Basin. When you are in the Chisos Basin, the window allows for stunning views of the desert below. From the desert floor, it gives you a peek of the Chisos Basin and mountains around it.
This picture shows the window from the desert floor (Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive), looking towards the Chisos mountains to the East. The peak seen through the V-shaped window is Casa Grande.
There is a small house near the visitors center that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. It now houses a few exhibits about the park's past and present.
There is a small visitors center/general store located at Castolon. It is closed during the summer and appeared to have a limited amount of stuff anyway.
Just outside the Visitors Center there is a very short, paved, nature trail that shows some of the plants native to the area.
There is a small museum with some well done informative displays about the history of the area from the dinosaurs to more recent time, inside the visitors center.
At the trailhead of the Window Trail. A spectacular 5 mile round trip trail right to the edge of a cliff which looks out (the Window) onto the west Texas countryside.
There are a number of camping areas in Big Bend National Park. Three, Chisos Basin, Rio Grande...more
The only lodging inside the park is the Chisos Mountains Lodge located in the Chisos Basin at the...more