Big Bend Chat

Big Bend or Bust! => Suggested Itineraries => Topic started by: testpilot123 on February 12, 2013, 06:14:27 PM

Title: 3 day 2 (possibly 3) night Newby Backpacking trip
Post by: testpilot123 on February 12, 2013, 06:14:27 PM
Up front, im sorry if this is a redundant post, feel free to direct me to a post that does answer my questions :)

I have never backpacked Big bend, but i have backpacked in the same type of climate (Buffalo Trails Scout ranch). I am taking 3 of my buddies who have little experiences when it comes to backpacking, but they love to hike and are fit (they are part of the aggie Corps). Our plan however is to backpack the backcountry.

so here are my questions.

1) What are our chances to obtaining permits for the first Friday of Spring Break (march 8, 2013)

2) What trails, routes, sites, peaks etc should we see the first time going. (I ordered the Big Bend travel guide it in the mail now  :icon_smile:) it would be awesome if yall could suggest a route for us  :icon_lol:

3) we plan on getting their Friday night; should we start our trek the next day, or would it be cool to start off the weekend with a night hike (i think it would theres going to be sweet waning cresent then)

Any other suggestions would be awesome

IM so eXCITED!  :dance:

Title: Re: 3 day 2 (possibly 3) night Newby Backpacking trip
Post by: Flash on February 12, 2013, 06:44:20 PM
BTSR is a great camp. Similar climate and altitude, a bit different terrain.

1) You shouldn't have any trouble getting a zone camping permit. Car camping sites will be more competitive, but obtainable. High Chisos campsites somewhere in between.

Welcome to the site!  :great:
Title: 3 day 2 (possibly 3) night Newby Backpacking trip
Post by: Jimbow on February 12, 2013, 07:36:54 PM
BTSR's trails are somewhat steeper plus there isn't the equivalent of the notch at BBNP. But there is more room to roam at the park. Enjoy.
Title: Re: 3 day 2 (possibly 3) night Newby Backpacking trip
Post by: trtlrock on February 12, 2013, 07:47:11 PM
These two links should give you some ideas:

Title: Re: 3 day 2 (possibly 3) night Newby Backpacking trip
Post by: Geezer on February 12, 2013, 09:39:05 PM
"We plan on getting there Friday night." Maybe I'm reading this too literally, but the permitting office at Panther Junction usually closes before dark. They may have extended hours for spring break. Should be easy to find out their hours -- just make sure you get to PJ before they close.

Title: Re: 3 day 2 (possibly 3) night Newby Backpacking trip
Post by: testpilot123 on February 13, 2013, 12:03:57 PM
Thanks for the great replies!

Geezer, we plan on leaving Houston around 5 AM, so we should be there around 4 that day.

We just dont know if we should start our trek that night, sleep over and start saturday morning.

Title: Re: 3 day 2 (possibly 3) night Newby Backpacking trip
Post by: catz on February 13, 2013, 12:07:28 PM
Since you have never been to the park before, and assuming you have the time, I suggest you spend the first couple of days exploring the park by car.  It's a BIG place.
Travel the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, which parallels the west side of the Chisos Mountains.  There are many, mostly short, day hikes you can and should do, although you won't have time to do them all in one day.  I recommend these four in particular:  Cattail Falls, top of Burro Mesa pouroff, Mule Ears Spring, and Santa Elena Canyon.  Doing all four, plus the time involved in making the round trip, will take a full day.

Then, if you vehicle has even moderate high clearance, I suggest a drive along the east side of the Chisos, Glenn Springs Road.  The one must do day hike on this road is Pine Canyon.  Glenn Springs itself is worthwhile to explore.  Finish the day by returning to the pavement and going sown to Rio Grande Village and taking the short hike into Boquillas Canyon. 

As for backpacking, I think the best route for you guys will depend upon the weather.  There are many excellent desert backpacks, but remember there is zero shade on almost all of them.  If the sun and temps are bearable, then I recommend the hike along the Mule Ears Spring trail, to a very nice campsite located on the right about a mile or so beyond the spring  itself. (just before the trail drops precipitously into a wide valley, the campsite is on the right up and over a small rise--it's not visible from the trail).   This hike is relatively short (about five miles from the trailhead) and level, with only some minor ups and downs.  The trail is clear and easy to follow.  There is reliable water at the spring.  You can camp two nights, and use the intervening day to explore down in the wide valley below you and/or to go over to the Mule Ears themselves.

An alternative desert backpack could be the Marufo Vega trail.   There is no reliable water on this hike, except for the river.  If you take the right (south) fork going up, there is an outstanding campsite ('split rock") that offer dramatic views of the river, the Sierra del Carmens in Mexico, and the Deadhorse Mountains in the park.

If the sun/temps are too much for the desert, then you should hike in the Chisos to the south rim.  During spring break it may be difficult to get a rim-side campsite.  There are many opinions as to which of these sites is "the best", but they are all good.  I know many like NE4 because of its dramatic location.

Wherever you backpack, plan your water needs carefully.  Some springs are reliable, and some are only periodic.  We have received recent reports that the major springs in the Chisos are running right now, although by Spring Break they might not be.  It is frequently hard to get straight and honest answers from the park staff (they always say, "don't count on it"); your best bet is to seek out fellow hikers who have recently done the hike.  Or you could say the heck with it and just carry all you'll need.  Water is heavy, but it beats getting in trouble due to the lack of it.

Even if you backpack out in the desert, you should definitely hike to the south rim as a long day hike.  It is the premier hike in the park. 
Title: Re: 3 day 2 (possibly 3) night Newby Backpacking trip
Post by: Homer67 on February 13, 2013, 01:18:43 PM
Ooh, you could zone camp in S01, along the Mule Ears trail.  It's a great trail to see the desert and Sierra Quemada, and Mule Ears Spring is great.  There is also Trap Spring just off the trail on the way.  Mule Ears Spring is right at 2 miles down the trail.  It's not a hard trail, but there are some nice camp spots and it's not so far one cannot hike back to the car and get a couple cold ones.  It also works well as a base camp in the case you may want to do day hikes to other areas of the park in the days you are there. The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is a must!

I would also suggest making it to the Front Porch/Starlight in Terlingua right among the Ghost Town at some point as well.  Some good eats in Terlingua, too!

There are other neat spots to hit as well, such as the Hot Springs, Santa Elena, Boquillas, etc...
Title: Re: 3 day 2 (possibly 3) night Newby Backpacking trip
Post by: RichardM on February 13, 2013, 01:48:04 PM
The only way I'd recommend hitting the trail Friday night/afternoon is if you're heading up into the Chisos. Those sites fill up fast, so this would give you the best chance at securing reservations. For example, you could get one of the Juniper Flat campsites for Friday night, which are only a mile or so from the Basin, then one of the rim sites for Saturday and possibly beyond. All of the SE Rim sites as well as NE4 and NE5 are closed during Spring Break for peregrine falcon nesting, so SW4 and SW3 would be my first choices.

I'd recommend saving the cross-country hikes like Marufo Vega and the Sierra Quemadas until you're a little more familiar with the park. If you really feel the need for more of a challenge, try the Outer Mountain Loop. It will be relatively crowded that week, which means you might actually see a few people out hiking. There are some excellent topics on it here, including detailed maps. The High Chisos trails can be done without much need for maps, but the OML requires you to be able to read a map and find the proper route.