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.
- Distance: 22.3
Location: 29.27008, -103.301373
Location: 29.269196, -103.303579
Hike S behind Chisos Mtn. Lodge, then bear R onto Laguna Meadows Trail.
Location: 29.266773, -103.304628
R @ T
Location: 29.244643, -103.312792
Laguna Meadows. Primitive campsites to W; permit required
Location: 29.241231, -103.309915
Hike through old forest of juniper, madrone, and Arizona cypress; L @ Y with Blue Creek Canyon Trail
Location: 29.241469, -103.305169
Right at intersection with Colima Trail
Location: 29.238366, -103.305261
Views down Blue Creek Canyon
Location: 29.225795, -103.303009
Sweeping views of Chihuahuan Desert and Mexico from S. Rim.
Location: 29.228517, -103.29706
Stay R at intersection with Boot Canyon Trail
Location: 29.236078, -103.299897
Turn R onto Boot Canyon Trail
Location: 29.243144, -103.297116
Location: 29.249266, -103.293866
Great views down Boot Canyon behind you
Location: 29.251909, -103.297331
Sidetrip: Put gear in bear box; climb .8 mi. SW up 7,825-ft. Emory Peak.
Serious switchbacks descend ahead.
Location: 29.260003, -103.295921
Spur trail descends to Boulder Meadow, a primitive campsite
Location: 29.265629, -103.299769
Continue downhill to parking area; Mexican jays jump branch to branch under dappled shade