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Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

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First Trip Advice

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Offline CapMorgan

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First Trip Advice
« on: December 23, 2019, 02:05:07 PM »
Hello! This will be my first trip to Big Bend. Iíve backpacked plenty before, but thereís a possibility this will be my first solo trip. I think I have a pretty good handle on what I want to do, but thought it would be a good idea to get some tips or thoughts on someone whoís actually been there. Iím wanting to spend a few days in the mountains and set up a base camp and do the South Rim and Emory Peak. I have a few questions that Iím having a difficult time settling. As far as basecamp options, I canít decide between either pinnacles, toll mountain or boot canyon, any recommendations? Outside of hiking the south rim and Emory, I think I would want to spend a day relaxing at camp, so it would be nice to have some views and just enjoy/soak in being there. Also, any other hikes I should do while Iím out there? Also having a hard time deciding between going either April or November, any thoughts or recommendations there? Iím open to any and all suggestions, just want to get any thoughts from Big Bend vets like you guys! Thank you!

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Offline Lissa

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Re: First Trip Advice
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2019, 02:23:04 PM »
Why not base camp up on the Rim? SW3 has views from camp but is the group site so you need to know to ask for it.  SW4 is directly across from the point with amazing views, so a very short walk from camp to views. 

As for timing, my vote is Nov.  Usually great camping weather, and just after rainy season so better chance of water availability.  By April itís already well on its way to *hot*.

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Offline Imre

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Re: First Trip Advice
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2019, 03:28:17 PM »
Do you want to see the Colima warbler? By November they're gone. By April they're arriving and singing on territory. If you want to see one in the United States, you have to go the high Chisos, where they nest around 7000' elevation.
For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.
- H.L. Mencken

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Online mule ears

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Re: First Trip Advice
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2019, 03:35:31 PM »
CapMorgan welcome to BBC!  Where are you coming from to the Bend so we can get a feel for your experience in the desert?  How long do you plan to be in the park and what will you be driving?  What else are you thinking of doing?

Lissa is right about base camping on the Rim where you will have a view.  The big issue is water for an extended stay.  The rainy season is basicially June-October so Nov. does have a better chance for water in Boot Canyon for resupply.  Here is a thing to know about the High Chisos that many new folks don't quite understand at first- it's not very big, there are only 18 miles of trails total from the Basin up into the high area and all around the Rims including Emory Peak but not including Blue Creek and Juniper Canyon trails that lead back down into the desert.  Doesn't take very long to walk them all.  And the entirety of the Chisos is also not that big, really and is only a fraction of the whole park, lots else to see.

November is better weather across the whole park (you can go anywhere and do most anything), more water availability, generally better air quality=views and depending on when in Nov. not so many people.  April is hotter, but the cactus and wild flowers are generally starting to hit bloom and the bird migration is strong with a lot of birders in the park, especially in Boot canyon looking for the Colima warbler.  Lower desert activities begin to be limited due to heat, need to get it done by noon if you can.

If it was me, I would want to spend both time in the mountains and the lower desert to get a real feel for the ecosystem.  Maybe camp a night or two in the Chisos and then a night or two (or more) in the desert, somewhere like Mule Ears and then maybe a night at RGV or Cottonwood along the river.  If you felt comfortable, an overnight on the Marufo Vega trail would be a good choice, at least in Nov.  If April then you might want to camp mostly in the Basin and then take day hikes down into the lower desert in the mornings and driving around to check things out in the afternoon or some of the Chisos day hikes like Lost Mine and the Window.

There are a ton of possibilities so give us an idea of what you have been thinking about.

temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline CapMorgan

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Re: First Trip Advice
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2019, 04:00:45 PM »
CapMorgan welcome to BBC!  Where are you coming from to the Bend so we can get a feel for your experience in the desert?  How long do you plan to be in the park and what will you be driving?  What else are you thinking of doing?

Lissa is right about base camping on the Rim where you will have a view.  The big issue is water for an extended stay.  The rainy season is basicially June-October so Nov. does have a better chance for water in Boot Canyon for resupply.  Here is a thing to know about the High Chisos that many new folks don't quite understand at first- it's not very big, there are only 18 miles of trails total from the Basin up into the high area and all around the Rims including Emory Peak but not including Blue Creek and Juniper Canyon trails that lead back down into the desert.  Doesn't take very long to walk them all.  And the entirety of the Chisos is also not that big, really and is only a fraction of the whole park, lots else to see.

November is better weather across the whole park (you can go anywhere and do most anything), more water availability, generally better air quality=views and depending on when in Nov. not so many people.  April is hotter, but the cactus and wild flowers are generally starting to hit bloom and the bird migration is strong with a lot of birders in the park, especially in Boot canyon looking for the Colima warbler.  Lower desert activities begin to be limited due to heat, need to get it done by noon if you can.

If it was me, I would want to spend both time in the mountains and the lower desert to get a real feel for the ecosystem.  Maybe camp a night or two in the Chisos and then a night or two (or more) in the desert, somewhere like Mule Ears and then maybe a night at RGV or Cottonwood along the river.  If you felt comfortable, an overnight on the Marufo Vega trail would be a good choice, at least in Nov.  If April then you might want to camp mostly in the Basin and then take day hikes down into the lower desert in the mornings and driving around to check things out in the afternoon or some of the Chisos day hikes like Lost Mine and the Window.

There are a ton of possibilities so give us an idea of what you have been thinking about.



Thanks for the reply! Iím coming from Houston! I would say the only other time Iíve been in an environment somewhat similar to Big Bend would be Caprock Canyon. I camped out there in the backcountry for two nights and was run off early but some pretty heavy thunderstorms and tornado warnings. Iíll probably be in Big Bend for about a week or a week and a half. Want to see as much as I can since Iím making the long drive out there. Iím definitely open to exploring more of the park. I drive an Audi, but Iím considering renting something with four wheel drive to give me some more options. Iím thinking November sounds like the better option. The Lost Mine trail and the Window Trail are also on my list. Where would you recommend camping in the desert if I decide not to rent a different vehicle?

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Offline CapMorgan

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Re: First Trip Advice
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2019, 04:07:22 PM »
Why not base camp up on the Rim? SW3 has views from camp but is the group site so you need to know to ask for it.  SW4 is directly across from the point with amazing views, so a very short walk from camp to views. 

As for timing, my vote is Nov.  Usually great camping weather, and just after rainy season so better chance of water availability.  By April itís already well on its way to *hot*.


Thank you! I think Iím gonna go with November, seems like the safer bet all around for more preferable weather and water availability. Camping on the rim would be great also, youíre right! Why not go where the best views are? Thanks again!

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Online mule ears

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Re: First Trip Advice
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2019, 04:17:32 PM »
With the Audi, short of Zone/Wilderness backpack camping where you can just park on the side of the paved road at a pullout and go anywhere, the backcountry roadside sites you can get to would be Croton springs, Paint gap 1, maybe Grapevine hills 1 and 2, Nine Point draw, Hannold draw , Govt. spring, K-bar, maybe Nuggent mtn.  Here is the Park page on those sites.  With a high clearance vehicle you can go just about anywhere.  The Fresno site at Mariscal Mine is a favorite around here with huge views, been reported some folks have taken Corollas in there.  Most of the roadside sites have big views all around.  Check out the Backcountry site review page here on BBC.

If you want to backpack in for an overnight there are lots of options.  Even more for dayhikes.  You might want to get a copy of Hiking Big Bend by Parent.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

 


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