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.

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1st time Visitors from NL

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Offline catz

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #30 on: October 03, 2013, 11:06:20 AM »
this has happened in the past, the gov. closes for a couple of days. outrage ensues, media  field day, the world looks at America and scratches it's head. odds are good that the gov. will reopen within a couple of days to a week. you should make a plan to visit to see the state park for insurance . in addition to closed canyon, rancherias canyon is also off 170, as is rancherias loop. you have to stop at the ranger station to get a permit, it's also right off 170, ask the rangers which hike might be best for you. i've always found the rangers in both parks very helpful.

You cannot do the Rancherias Loop in a day.  It is typically done as a two night, three day backpack.

I am not optimistic that this particular shutdown will be over in a week or even two.
Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline jim2

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #31 on: October 03, 2013, 02:41:37 PM »
while doing the rancherias loop is a multiple day trip, they could go out until it's time to turn back and make a day hike out of it.

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Offline Maurits

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #32 on: October 03, 2013, 06:30:44 PM »
A really big thank you for all your input&advices. I'm spending as much time as possible to consider all the options I've been given.

I called the Sauceda HQ and there is still plenty of room available for our dates. But we do only have 2 full days to spend...and the drive from Del Rio to Sauceda would just take too long. As much as we would like to stay there I don't think it's a wise option. That's a shame because a lot of the day hikes seem to be/start in the middle of the State Park.

I've been looking into the Rancherias Loop (3 day hike), we could indeed try to make a day trip out of it by turning back.

When I called they warned me that the road conditions in the State Park are in a very bad condition. We are renting a HC SUV but really don't want to push it and end up in damaging the car.

The 170 won't be a problem, but correct me if I'm wrong, this part can be seen (with stops) in a full day. Any suggestions for a desert hike around Terlingua?


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Offline trtlrock

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #33 on: October 03, 2013, 07:21:42 PM »
I've been looking into the Rancherias Loop (3 day hike), we could indeed try to make a day trip out of it by turning back.

I don't know if you've brought gear to camp out overnight? If so, get a 1-night permit for BBRSP zone-camping (get it from Barton Warnock Center), then hike in from the western trailhead of Rancherias Loop. You'll make a stiff climb up onto Guale mesa, then enjoy views of upper Guale mesa in front of you as you hike towards it, with La Guitarra on your right. You can angle left (west) and look down into Tapado Canyon, or ascend up onto upper Guale, or even hike farther NE to Rancherias Spring. Then out the same way the next day. The lighting and views will be completely different than on the inbound leg, and this portion of the loop is very scenic.

If you can't camp overnight, then do Closed Canyon (trailhead within a few minutes drive of W-Rancherias trailhead), then do as much of above as you can with the rest of the daylight.




When I called they warned me that the road conditions in the State Park are in a very bad condition. We are renting a HC SUV but really don't want to push it and end up in damaging the car.

BBRSP roads make River Road look like a parking lot.


The 170 won't be a problem, but correct me if I'm wrong, this part can be seen (with stops) in a full day.

A leisurely day. You could knock it out (Lajitas -> Presidio -> Lajitas) in half a day.
John & Tess

"...and I'll face each day with a smile, for the time that I've been given's such a little while..." - Arthur Lee

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Offline Maurits

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #34 on: October 04, 2013, 03:55:48 AM »
I've been looking into the Rancherias Loop (3 day hike), we could indeed try to make a day trip out of it by turning back.

I don't know if you've brought gear to camp out overnight?

No, we don't. We're not planning to camp this time.


When I called they warned me that the road conditions in the State Park are in a very bad condition. We are renting a HC SUV but really don't want to push it and end up in damaging the car.

BBRSP roads make River Road look like a parking lot.

Exactly...that's one of my biggest concerns having a rental car


The 170 won't be a problem, but correct me if I'm wrong, this part can be seen (with stops) in a full day.

A leisurely day. You could knock it out (Lajitas -> Presidio -> Lajitas) in half a day.

That's what I figured as well...a leisurely day. We have to seriously think in cutting down our stay in the BB area with one day. The extra day will give us more time elsewhere in our trip.

Such a shame really, BB was supposed to be the highlight of our trip.

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Offline chris

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #35 on: October 04, 2013, 11:13:49 AM »
I think going through the Terlingua area and driving 170 will alone still be a Texas trip highlight without a doubt, despite the lack of access to the NP.  Especially if you traverse the whole length of 170 and stop at the DOM rock-great photo opportunities for the two minute effort!  But nobody needs to know those pictures were taken just off the side of the road, right?  Best of luck!

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Offline Cliff

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #36 on: October 04, 2013, 04:06:47 PM »
I encourage you to keep your plans for visiting the Big Bend area.  The shutdown will likely be resolved by then, and if not, there are more than enough activities outside the National Park to occupy your 2 days.  It is a fantastic area of Texas, and infinitely better than spending more time in Houston (which even Houstonites/onians? will admit).

If the park is open, I highly recommend a day float, or longer if possible, through Santa Elena Canyon.  The river level is up now, which should allow them to use rafts.  The view is much more spectacular from the bottom looking up, than the top looking down.  If the park is closed, you can still do a float in Colorado Canyon, though it's nowhere near as impressive as Santa Elena.  I prefer Desert Sports for river trip guides, but all the local outfitters are reliable.

As others have said, River Road is not very scenic.  The Ross Maxwell is much better, as is a drive into the Chisos Basin.  Doing a sunrise hike on one of the basin rim hikes in the Chisos is at the top of many people's list.  The mountains below light up in the morning.  I feel the best sunset in the park is at the pullout just past the tunnel on the road to Rio Grande Village.  The white limestone of the Sierra Del Carmen light up with many colors at sunset.  Ernst Tinaja is a favorite hike of mine, especially if it's hot out.  The pools/tinajas should be full and clean with the recent rains.

If the park is closed, you can combine the previously mentioned Colorado Canyon float with a evening in Terlingua.  Watching the sunset while drinking beer on the deck next to the Starlight cafe with all the locals (and seemingly every dog in town) is a great way to experience the local people- something you Euros tell us gringos to do instead of the whirlwind tours of Europe.  Buy a 12 pack of beer from the store, it's right there, and share some.  If you buy long neck bottles, you can go see the mayor, a goat named Clay Henry II, and feed him as many as you can afford.  Although, his enthusiasm for beer has diminished since some college kids castrated him- ask a local for the story.  If you stay in Terlingua that night, you can continue the evening at the La Kiva bar just up the road.

Another option for a day, if you are interested in modern art, is the town of Marfa, TX.  It's close enough to detour a little bit on the way there, or back from Houston.

If you scrap the long drive west altogether, Austin is a much better town to spend some time in than Houston.  You can do the central TX BBQ tour, or just the Austin BBQ tour, but at the very least eat at Franklin BBQ.  Eating beef brisket from Franklin BBQ is life changing.  The wait is ~3 hours, but well worth it.  Get there before 9:00 am, 8:00am is even better, and the total wait won't be any longer, since you will get served much sooner.  Don't even bother with the pulled pork.  Just a mix of lean brisket, a little fatty brisket, some burnt ends, pork ribs, and a sausage link to share.  That goes for all the BBQ joints in the Austin area- J Mueller, La Barbecue, Snow's, Louie Mueller, etc., except the ones that have beef short ribs on the menu, get one of those, too.  Just remember- no sauce, at least until you've tried the meat without it first.  I only put it on bread.

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Offline Geezer

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #37 on: October 04, 2013, 10:25:49 PM »
Far out!

Geezer

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Offline catz

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #38 on: October 05, 2013, 11:16:10 AM »
If the park is still closed, I second the Colorado Canyon float option.  The float itself takes about half a day, maybe a little more.  It's a nice trip and they will fix you lunch.   If the park is open, I disagree with spending a day and a half going through Santa Elena, especially since you only have two days for everything. 
Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline Cliff

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #39 on: October 06, 2013, 07:15:10 PM »
If the park is still closed, I second the Colorado Canyon float option.  The float itself takes about half a day, maybe a little more.
At the current river levels, you would likely have to paddle upstream to make the shortest of the Colorado Canyon trips last more than 1 hour.  The shuttle will take longer.

If the park is open, I disagree with spending a day and a half going through Santa Elena, especially since you only have two days for everything.
Sadly, the odds of the park being open by the dates of their trip look very remote.

If it does re-open though, the river is up, and is virtually guaranteed to have plenty of flow for the next 2 weeks at the very least.  Usually, even when it isn't at high levels, but "high enough", outfitters offer a one day guided (oared, no paddling) raft floats of Santa Elena.  The float can take anywhere from 8 hours at minimum levels, to less than 3 hours at current levels.

RE: burning 1.5 days in Santa Elena- I assume you were referring to my suggestion to do an overnight river trip.   Given the OP mentioned wanting a "solitude experience", a Santa Elena overnight is a perfect fit.  I, and many others, consider an overnight float to be the single best way for a visitor to spend 2 days in the park, even if that's all the time they will spend in the park.  The biggest drawback is the cost, if that's an issue.

Having said that, I think most everyone would agree that going on at least a 1 day Santa Elena is a must do, if the park is open, and the river is up.  A planned river trip hasn't even been an option for a couple of years, at least.  The one day float would still allow another full day to do a scenic drive, half-day hike, visit to the Chisos, etc. on the second day.

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Offline Maurits

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #40 on: October 09, 2013, 06:57:40 AM »
Thanks for all the feedback! It's been super helpful in rescheduling our trip! Our plan is now to arrive in Terlingua on the 13th (late afternoon). The 14th we'll drive via the 170 to Sauceda and on the way we'll check out Closed Canyon and sights on the way.

Our original plan was to stay 2 full days in Terlingua and leave the 17th early for Carlsbad. Since we're staying at Sauceda instead it would be a really long (too long) drive to Carlsbad. Instead of staying 2 nights at Sauceda, we're staying for 1 night and stay at Fort Davis (Indian Lodge) the next night before heading to Carlsbad. 

Our preference would be to stay at Sauceda for 2 nights..but I think we would have to rush too much.

I've made reservations to stay at Sauceda for the 14th (1 night). We would like to see/hike Ojito Adentro and Cinco Tinajas. Could anyone give me some info on how long those hikes would take?

Thanks again!

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Offline RichardM

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #41 on: October 09, 2013, 09:46:56 AM »
I've made reservations to stay at Sauceda for the 14th (1 night). We would like to see/hike Ojito Adentro and Cinco Tinajas. Could anyone give me some info on how long those hikes would take?
Ojito Adentro is a fairly short hike, maybe 2km round trip. How long it takes depends on how long you want to spend at the spring. Keep an eye out for Poison Oak.  :icon_wink:
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php?ll=29.486815,-104.065617&z=15&t=t2

For Cinco Tinajas, plan on at least 2 hours. There are a lot of things to see around there, so don't just stick to the trail. I have yet to get there, but I hear it's a great place to explore.
Cinco Tinajas is probably one of the most visited areas of BBRSP.  This is partly due to very easy access from the main park road - one of a limited number of features you can get to by car.  It is very pretty and definitely worth a stop.

From the parking area there is a short trail that will take you about 0.5 miles to an overlook of the tinajas.  From there you can follow a very faint route that will take you down to the upper tinaja, or you can backtrack to the main trail that will take you down to the lower portion.

My favorite time to visit is right at sunset.  I suggest parking and following the road just about 100 feet or so to the stream bed and following it down to the tinajas.  The glow off the surrounding canyon walls and reflections off the pools are very mystical.

If you are staying at Sauceda Station you can follow the creek bed that runs past the corral for just over a mile and it will take you directly to the upper tinaja.  The route is very easy until the very end where you may have to be creative to keep your feet dry.  This is another great evening trip - you may see many critters coming down to get a drink!

Here's my recommendations for day hikes:
On your way into the park, hit Ojito Adentro trail for a short walk into a cool spring.  Continue to Cinco tinajas which is short but very cool.  You can also backtrack off of cinco tinajas trail down to the wash and continue northwest through Leyva canyon to find some other water holes and take a longer hike.

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Offline Beatrice

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #42 on: October 09, 2013, 01:48:17 PM »
I'm so happy that you'll be keeping the Chihuahuan desert on your itinerary! It really is a must-see going across the US.

If it were ME (well, if it were me, I'd go to Austin well before I went to Houston, but I'll stick to just the West Texas portion of the trip...)

So if it were me, I would leave Houston around 4:00 AM, eat chilaquiles famosas for breakfast at Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery when you arrive in San Antonio. Visit the Alamo when they open at 9 AM. (How can you drive past the Alamo on a cross-country tour of the US and not stop?!) Take a 35 minute river boat tour to see the sights and hear the history of San Antonio. It'll be about 11AM by this point, so head out to Boerne for some wine tasting and lunch. It's along the way and a great view of the Texas Hill Country. Then it's a 7+ hour drive to Terlingua where you can visit La Kiva when you arrive.

Get up in the morning, check out the Terlingua ghost town, then head out for an 8 AM float trip with Far Flung. If the national park is open by this point, opt for a full day canyon float trip. You'll see the beautiful national park and have a great story to tell about how you did so. And, bonus, this gets you starting and stopping at the west end of the park so you save several hours of driving and an extra night of hotel because it moves you closer to your target without sacrificing any experience. You'll leave from Terlingua around 5 PM.

If the national park is not open, do a half-day float on the Rio Grande, which is really about 2-2.5 hours. Once you're back about 10-10:30, drive down the River Road (one of the most scenic drives in the US), hike Closed Canyon, do whichever hikes are of interest to you at BBRSP like Ojito Adentro and/or Cinco Tinajas. You could also do a horseback or biking tour at this point. Choose whatever you most value and you won't feel at all gipped. You'll leave from Presidio around 5 PM, or earlier if you want to see the art around Marfa.

Head to Marfa for a quick dinner. It'd be a shame for you to be in that area on Tuesday the 15th (if I understood your schedule correctly) and not go to the McDonald Observatory's Tuesday night star party that starts at 8:15 PM. http://mcdonaldobservatory.org/calendar Check out the amazing clear night sky using their telescopes then go on to Indian Lodge for the night's sleep. Then it is only a short 3 hour drive to Carlsbad Caverns, which you can easily make the following morning.

That's what I'd do if it were me and I had those two days to make the best of while traveling from Houston to New Mexico without knowing if the national park would be open.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 02:07:54 PM by Beatrice »

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Offline Maurits

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #43 on: October 11, 2013, 01:21:57 PM »
I would like to thank all of you for your great support&advice! Because of this we're going to have a great experience in this part of Texas, I'm sure!

We'll have an early start tomorrow to catch our flight to Houston. When we'll be back I will write a trip report.

Again: Thanks!

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Offline kevint

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Re: 1st time Visitors from NL
« Reply #44 on: October 11, 2013, 01:57:39 PM »
I would like to thank all of you for your great support&advice! Because of this we're going to have a great experience in this part of Texas, I'm sure!

We'll have an early start tomorrow to catch our flight to Houston. When we'll be back I will write a trip report.

Again: Thanks!

We will enjoy your report thoroughly. Have fun.
-- Kevin (W5KLT)

"It's not an adventure until something goes wrong."  --Yvon Chouinard

 


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