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Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park: South Rim, Chisos Mountains

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

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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;
-Hike provided by David Elkowitz, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services, Big Bend National Park. Mapping by Melissa Gaskill.

Trail Facts

  • 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

Stay R


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

How to Pack for Backcountry Skiing

Get to know the winter safety gear you need in your pack.