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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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1st trip to Big Bend. Please critique itinerary and answer questions. Thanks.

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Offline bstump88

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Thanks in advance for helping.

Background: My girlfriend and I are going during spring break (I have read about how busy it will be). We are both fit runners, but haven't done much hiking. We are driving from houston, and plan on spending 2 days and 2 nights hiking/camping. I don't think we're ready for primitive camping yet (our functional supplies consist of a tent, sleeping bag, pillows, blankets, flashlight), so we're planning on staying at a developed campground (but I'm open to changing in mind if y'all have perspective).

Day 1: Leave Houston and stop overnight in a hotel somewhere close to Big Bend. Anyone have any suggestions on where? Is there any cool stuff to see/do for an evening/night close to Big Bend?

Day 2: (We understand it will be difficult to get a developed camping spot in the park, and we don't want to waste time waiting for one to open up.) So we were gonna go setup our tent at one of the campgrounds outside Big Bend. Any suggestions? Then we plan on going into the park and getting information and paying entrance fees. Then we were going to go hike the lost mine trail and the window trail. Then go back to campsite and relax.

Day 3: Go into the park and hike the south rim trail and emory peak. Then go back to the campground and relax.

Day 4: Drive back to Houston.

Also, we are bring plenty of water/food, bring lots of layers, and plan to hike in long pants (those are the insights I've picked up from browsing the forum). Any other general advice?

Also, it would be cool to see the range of environments (mountains, desert, etc.). Are these trails a good combination to do so (south rim, emory peak, window trail, lost mine)? We just tried to pick the most popular trails.

Also, what is there to do at night? Other than sitting in our tent?
« Last Edit: February 28, 2013, 02:34:24 PM by bstump88 »

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Offline steelfrog

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1.  Marathon Motel

2.  You shuold be able to get into the park in plenty of time to get a backcountry site reserved for yuor second night; there are some very close to the basin--like a 1 mile hike up Pinnacles trail; easy as pie; also, you could reserve this as a "backup" and then go into the Basin and see if yuo can snag a site in the developed campground, which are first-come, first served, self registration (some are reservable...)

3.  Long day but very do-able

4.  ok, if you must..

No long pants necessary unless bushwacking; however, I roll with zip offs if it gets real cold I can put legs on

To get the range of environments, you will have to get out of the Basin; suggest on first day in the park (i.e., after yuo stay the night in marathon or whreever), go to persimmon gap ranger Station (north enbtrance) secure your backcountry permit, then drive down Ross Maxwell scenic drive; down there yuo can do any number of hikes; Mule Ears spring, Tuff Canyon, tromping aruond Crro Castelon; Santa Elena Canyon; be sure to watch yuo daylight because yuo want to get into the basin in enuogh time to get something to eat and trudge to your campsite.


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Offline kevint

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-- Kevin (W5KLT)

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

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Offline madcow

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I agree with Marathon Motel - love the ambiance.  They have rooms or you can pitch your tent in their campground.  They nearly always have a fire at night in the courtyard - and rocking chairs :)
 
The Big Bend Motor Inn in Terlingua/Study Butte (west of BB) also has a campgound for tent camping.

I think your best best for camping in the park in a "developed" campground would be at Cottonwood, also on the west side of Big Bend.

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Offline trtlrock

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The Big Bend Motor Inn in Terlingua/Study Butte (west of BB) also has a campgound for tent camping.


in this case, "campground" is a euphemism for a flat nondescript patch of gravel with nothing around it. No privacy. No barrier from the wind.

Nothing.

Just FYI... :icon_smile:
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 Geezer

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Marathon Motel gets my vote too.

Steelfrog's "1 mile up the Pinnacles Trail" must be Juniper Flats, where there are multiple camp sites. A bit farther up there's Boulder Meadow with several sites. The first particularly is in easy walking distance of the restaurant, rest rooms, water hydrants and convenience store of the Basin. As you are young and runners, even Boulder Meadow would not be too far away.

If you pick Juniper or Boulder, your night time entertainment could be the stars. It won't be raining, so you could set up tent just in case and then sleep outside on the ground. Turn over on your back and look up. If you stay awake for twenty minutes you'll see some shooting stars. Then take a nap and wake up again for more stars. Soon you'll be sleeping like a baby! Alternatively, there's the Starlight, notorious gathering and eating spot in Terlingua with a drop-dead gorgeous view of the Chisos.

Lost Mine is a must do trail. If you hike Window Tr., be sure to do the Oak Spring Tr. side trip. There's an iron sign on the right shortly before you get to the Window pour-off itself. This trail allows you to climb up on the shoulder of the mountain and get stunning views of the desert outside the Basin. It also leads to Oak Spring which provides water for the civilized facilities in the Basin, but that's probably out for a trip so short.

Steelfroggy is again right that you need to get out of the mountains. Take one day to drive down Ross Maxwell Drive. Stops: Homer Wilson ranch house, Sotol Vista, Castolon. Hikes: Mule Ears Spring, Santa Elena Canyon. Look up Mule Ears Spring on this site.

You are runners, so maybe prepared for blisters, etc. -- but take some moleskin and surgical tape.

Geezer





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Offline mule ears

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Steelfrog's "1 mile up the Pinnacles Trail" must be Juniper Flats, where there are multiple camp sites. A bit farther up there's Boulder Meadow with several sites. The first particularly is in easy walking distance of the restaurant, rest rooms, water hydrants and convenience store of the Basin. As you are young and runners, even Boulder Meadow would not be too far away.


I think the functional thing here may be no packs to carry equipment even the short (and steep) distance to Juniper Flats.  If you get there and there are no sites available in the established camp grounds (Basin>Rio Grande Village>Cottonwood in order of amenities and generally when they fill) I would check out one of the roadside sites close to the paved road that a car can get to easy.  They are just flat spots on the ground, no table, water or anything else but way better than the "nothing else" sites at the BBMI.  A whole list of those and descriptions can be found here.

Also a fan of the Marathon Motel here, and good food in Marathon too.

As with Steelfrog and Geezer you will need to get out of the Basin/Mountains to really appreciate all the ecosystems in the park and the RSMD is the best and easiest way to get it all.

If you are going to do the South Rim and Emory, I would do the RMSD and hike Santa Elena canyon (1.5 miles RT) and Mule Ears maybe as far out as the drop into Smoky Creek (about 6 miles RT, 4 miles RT just to the spring), maybe Chimneys trail to the Chimneys and see the petroglyphs (~ 5 miles RT).  Lots of short stuff too like the Dorgan House, Tuff canyon, Burro mesa pouroff, Burro spring, Homer Wilson ranch house/lower Blue creek, Sam Nail ranch, etc.  If you wanted to and had energy do Lost Mine in the afternoon it is a great view but in some ways a similar experience to the South Rim which you are already going to do.  I would pass on the window trail unless you don't do the lower desert stuff.  Pick up Laurence Parent's Hiking Big Bend if you haven't already, you can get it at the Visitor center when you get there.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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Offline steelfrog

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You MUST eat breakfast burritos at Johnny Bs in Marathon!

I would recommend India's in Terlingua but, alas, that has gone the way of the dodo

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Offline EdB

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1) No clue.

2) Pay your entrance fee then ask first if the campgrounds are full, then ask about a primitive roadside site. For hiking, I would also say skip Windows and Lost Mine and head down Ross Maxwell to Santa Elena,then work your way back to your campsite. I think the Windows trail is kind of boring and no views until the very end, and Lost Mine is too similar to the South Rim hike.

If you can't get a campsite in the park, I'd stay in Study Butte as it's closer than Marathon and you don't want to waste a lot of time driving back and forth with only 2 days in the park. Plus, you could head back through the park on the last day and maybe stop for a quick hike before driving home.

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Offline RichardM

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You can call the park any time the Panther Junction Visitor Center is open and they'll give you the latest campground status:  432-477-2251

I usually call on the drive in after getting close to the park (and while I have a cell signal). That way I won't waste time driving up to the Basin if I know it's full.

 


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