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Big Bend National Park: South Rim, Chisos Mountains

Stay cool on a high-elevation hike with long-distance desert views.

Rating

June brings broiling temps to the Chihuahuan Desert at Big Bend—but the 7,400-foot Chisos Mountains in the park’s center are a welcome escape. From high in these “ghost” peaks, you’ll get hundred-mile views into Mexico, huge rock towers, unique vegetation such as Texas madrone and pinyon pine, and abundant wildlife like javelina, mountain lions, and Mexican black bear. Make a weekend of it on this difficult 13.9-mile loop from the Chisos Basin, a natural rock bowl at 5,400 feet, to the sheer ridge along the South Rim.
Begin climbing on the steep Laguna Meadows Trail, then stay left at the junction to reach the Southwest Rim Trail. Follow the path 1.7 miles along the ridge’s contour, where the vistas—peaks, mesas, and arroyos—are as big as the 2,000-foot drop to the desert floor. Spend the night at one of the rim’s backcountry campsites—Southwest 1-4 are closest to the edge, but the Northeast sites are most secluded. Descend on the rocky, wooded Boot Canyon Trail, catching a glimpse of the “Boot” pinnacle formation as you go. Time on your hands? Hike the 1-mile spur to Emory Peak, the Chisos Mountains’ highest at 7,832 feet. Take the Pinnacles Trail back down to close the loop.
Info: Backcountry permit required. Map: Trails Illustrated Big Bend National Park #225; NPS Chisos Mountains Trail Map. (432) 477-2251; nps.gov.bibe
-Hike provided by David Elkowitz, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services, Big Bend National Park. Mapping by Melissa Gaskill.

To Trailhead

From Alpine, TX, go 99 miles on TX 118 S. Turn right on Basin Rd. and go 6.4 miles to the Chisos Basin trailhead, next to the ranger station.

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