Friends of Big Bend National Park
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.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


Planning 3-day, 2-night backpacking trip in mid-March - a few questions

  • 7 Replies
  • 640 Views
*

Offline Backpacker41

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 3
Hi Big Bend Chat Community!

Came across this online forum and thought I'd ask some questions as I'm planning a 3-day, 2-night backpacking trip in mid-March with my sister. I'd be hiking in on a Thursday morning and out on a Saturday afternoon. I realize it'll be peak season, so grateful for any thoughts or recommendations!

First, some logistical questions:

- In terms of obtaining backcountry permits, how hard is it going to be to get backcountry permits for a Thursday and Friday night if I'm at the backcountry office ahead of opening hours on Thursday morning (thinking about getting there around 6/630 a.m.)?
- I'm going to be staying Wednesday night in nearby Terlingua and plan to arrive at the Chisos Basin Visitor Center early in the morning. Assume that's the best backcountry office to reach from Terlingua with chances of getting a permit? Also, assume you line up outside of the main door, unless there is a separate backcountry office door?
- There used to be an online worksheet platform? Or just come with filled out worksheets and hand those over when you arrive?

Then in terms of itineraries, I see the Northeast and Southeast Rim sites will be closed due to falcons this time of year. Bummer. Ideally, looking for some sites with great night photography views --- any thoughts or input on the following itineraries for my backcountry worksheet (e.g., weighing chances of getting a permit and thinking about what order to prioritize routes and campsites): 

Itinerary 1 - probably my first preference 
---------------
- Start Thursday morning at Chisos Trailhead
- Thursday night: SW4, SW3, or SW2 [Southwest Rim]
- Friday night: Blue Creek Zone
- End Saturday mid-day at Chisos Trailhead

Itinerary 2
---------------
- Start Thursday morning at Chisos Trailhead
- Thursday night: Blue Creek Zone, or Laguna West [LW1, LW2, or LW3], Laguna Meadow [LW1], or Blue Creek [BL1 or BL2] sites
- Friday night: SW4, SW3, or SW2 [Southwest Rim]
- End Saturday mid-day at Chisos Trailhead

Itinerary 3
---------------
- Start Thursday morning at Chisos Trailhead
- Thursday night: SW4, SW3, or SW2 [Southwest Rim]
- Friday night: Down Juniper Canyon Trail where zone camping begins (I believe Hayes Ridge Zone?)
- End Saturday mid-day at Chisos Trailhead

Itinerary 4 - or just do the classic Outer Mountain Loop
---------------
After caching water at Homer Wilson Ranch - don't think high clearance is needed, right? ----
- Start Thursday morning at Chisos Trailhead going clockwise
- Thursday night: About 1/4 or 1/3 along the way on the Dodson Trail (after coming down Juniper Canyon)
- Friday night: About 1/4 or 1/3 of the way up Blue Creek Canyon (after finishing Dodson Trail and replenishing water at Homer Wilson)
- End Saturday at Chisos Trailhead

Can't wait to visit Big Bend, even if it's peak season. Been on my bucket list for a long time! And thank you again for any/all of your recommendations.

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2346
Re: Planning 3-day, 2-night backpacking trip in mid-March - a few questions
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2019, 02:18:22 PM »
I'll make this perfectly contradictory observation (with one hopeful addition).

The past few years, BBNP has been thoroughly overwhelmed in March due to spring break crowds and the increasing popularity of the Park (that, and many have embraced the OML as a college right of passage).  I have seen every single campsite filled.  I have seen the Basin closed to traffic.  I have seen very long lines at the two entrance kiosks. I have remained in LONG lines (hours) to get backcountry permits only to be told a trail had been closed (they closed the OML due to cache box overload).  I have sworn to myself that I would never go back during March.

Never say never.

I will go back in a couple of weeks because my oldest son is able to get off at that time.  I will get him on the OML by hookor by crook.

On the possibility side - the spring break crowds seem to drift away toward the end of weeks.  It is possible that Thursday or Friday lines will be shorter.

You do not mention your level of ability or backpacking experience. If you are less experienced, you ought not try the OML.  Instead, stay in the High Chisos - it is awesome up there.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline Backpacker41

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 3
Re: Planning 3-day, 2-night backpacking trip in mid-March - a few questions
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2019, 03:14:41 PM »
I'll make this perfectly contradictory observation (with one hopeful addition).

The past few years, BBNP has been thoroughly overwhelmed in March due to spring break crowds and the increasing popularity of the Park (that, and many have embraced the OML as a college right of passage).  I have seen every single campsite filled.  I have seen the Basin closed to traffic.  I have seen very long lines at the two entrance kiosks. I have remained in LONG lines (hours) to get backcountry permits only to be told a trail had been closed (they closed the OML due to cache box overload).  I have sworn to myself that I would never go back during March.

Never say never.

I will go back in a couple of weeks because my oldest son is able to get off at that time.  I will get him on the OML by hookor by crook.

On the possibility side - the spring break crowds seem to drift away toward the end of weeks.  It is possible that Thursday or Friday lines will be shorter.

You do not mention your level of ability or backpacking experience. If you are less experienced, you ought not try the OML.  Instead, stay in the High Chisos - it is awesome up there.

Thanks for the input. Yeah, unfortunately, I didn't have much flexibility with dates. I'm a seasoned backpacker though, with a number of week-long trips in both alpine and desert terrain. Hoping arriving before opening on that Thursday morning helps.

*

Offline mule ears

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4174
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Planning 3-day, 2-night backpacking trip in mid-March - a few questions
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2019, 04:13:10 PM »
If you want to do the Chisos then try your first itinerary but don't drop down into the Blue Creek zone, either stay at the same site for two nights and day  hike around the Chisos or change sites to either the Blue Creek campsites or Laguna sites (most folks like the Laguna West sites better (or reverse if the Southwest rim sites are taken the first night).  If you want to do Blue Creek then I would start at Homer Wilson, camp the first night pretty far up the canyon near the base of the big climb then second night on the rim then go back down Blue Creek to your car.  It is always easier to get a Rim site on your second night as most folks only go up for one night and then they open up the second day.  Also don't discount the still open NE2 and 3 sites or even NE1.

If you are there at Spring Break then they will have the big backcountry permit office open at the Panther Junction visitor center and I believe it is open at 8:30, that is the one to go to and be in line early for.  It does help to have filled out the paper backcountry permit worksheet, they will still have to transcribe it to their computer but it makes it faster for them.

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

*

Offline RichardM

  • Admin/Moderator
  • Global Moderator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 7592
It does help to have filled out the paper backcountry permit worksheet, they will still have to transcribe it to their computer but it makes it faster for them.
Are those worksheets available online to be printed or are they only available at the park?

*

Offline mule ears

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4174
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
It does help to have filled out the paper backcountry permit worksheet, they will still have to transcribe it to their computer but it makes it faster for them.
Are those worksheets available online to be printed or are they only available at the park?

I printed mine off of the NPS website and then filled it out.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline RichardM

  • Admin/Moderator
  • Global Moderator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 7592
It does help to have filled out the paper backcountry permit worksheet, they will still have to transcribe it to their computer but it makes it faster for them.
Are those worksheets available online to be printed or are they only available at the park?

I printed mine off of the NPS website and then filled it out.


https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/upload/BC_worksheet.png

*

Offline Backpacker41

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 3
If you want to do the Chisos then try your first itinerary but don't drop down into the Blue Creek zone, either stay at the same site for two nights and day  hike around the Chisos or change sites to either the Blue Creek campsites or Laguna sites (most folks like the Laguna West sites better (or reverse if the Southwest rim sites are taken the first night).  If you want to do Blue Creek then I would start at Homer Wilson, camp the first night pretty far up the canyon near the base of the big climb then second night on the rim then go back down Blue Creek to your car.  It is always easier to get a Rim site on your second night as most folks only go up for one night and then they open up the second day.  Also don't discount the still open NE2 and 3 sites or even NE1.

If you are there at Spring Break then they will have the big backcountry permit office open at the Panther Junction visitor center and I believe it is open at 8:30, that is the one to go to and be in line early for.  It does help to have filled out the paper backcountry permit worksheet, they will still have to transcribe it to their computer but it makes it faster for them.

Welcome to BBC!

Fantastic recs, thank you. Will modify as you suggested. (Given that it'll be a busy time of year, I may also have as a back-up itinerary the Marufo Vega trail, outside of the Chisos, but looked pretty sweet, too...)

 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments