Big Bend National Park Day Hiking Overview

Big Bend National Park Day Hiking Travel Tips

  • At 7,825 feet, Emory Peak is the highest point in the Chisos Mountains. It offers a 360-degree view of the entire park and far beyond into Texas and Mexico. A 2,500-foot climb makes this trail strenuous at times, and it requires some rock scrambling at the end to reach the top. Allow for at least six hours for the 8.5-mile hike.
  • One of the most popular hikes in the park, the Lost Mine Trail ascends gradually from the parking lot and past the base of Casa Grande Peak. After a mile the trail reaches a saddle that looks over Juniper Canyon and into Mexico. It ends at an outcropping of rocks that extends steeply over the canyon—one of the most impressive overlooks in Big Bend. Watch for high winds.
  • The Window is a large rock canyon that cuts through the Chisos Basin allowing you to look out into the desert for miles. The Window Trail heads downhill 800 feet to the very edge of this rock formation. Take a lunch and spend some time resting on the rocks for the trek back up hill.
  • The Chimneys Trail leads to a rock wall with Indian petroglyphs and small rock shelters. Attempt this hike only in cool weather, as temperatures in the desert can rise quickly. The total distance is 7.6 miles one way, but you can take a shorter 4.8-mile round-trip hike from the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

Big Bend National Park is a hiker's paradise containing the largest expanse of roadless public lands in Texas. More than 150 miles of trails offer opportunities for day hikes or backpacking trips. Elevations range from 1,800 feet at the eastern end of Boquillas Canyon to 7,825 feet atop Emory Peak in the Chisos Mountains. These elevation changes produce an exceptional variety of plants, animals, and scenic vistas.

About 30 miles of park trails are developed and heavily used. These include short nature trails and the trails in the Chisos Mountains. Here are some highlights:

The Santa Elena Canyon Trail — a .08-mile day hike into one of the three spectacular canyons cut by the Rio Grande. Although this hike is fairly easy, start out early before the scorching mid-day temperatures set in.

The Chimneys Trail — a 7.6-mile, one-way day hike past the tall ridge of outcrops known as the Chimneys. These rock walls have been landmarks for hundreds of years. Indian petroglyphs decorate one rock wall and the remains of small rock shelters are also evident. This trail is best undertaken in cool weather, because there is little shade and temperatures can be stifling.

For half-day hikes, carry at least two quarts per person.

Springs and tinajas (depressions in rock where water collects) are unreliable and may be unsafe to drink. Springs are rare in the desert and wildlife depend on them. Please carry enough water to supply your own needs.


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