Big Bend Chat

Big Bend or Bust! => Suggested Itineraries => Topic started by: Slyd on December 03, 2015, 10:18:55 AM

Title: First Timer New Year's Trip
Post by: Slyd on December 03, 2015, 10:18:55 AM
I have lived in Texas my whole life but for some reason never made it down to Big Bend and decided to change that this New Year's.  This trip will mostly be car camping style as I don't have my backcountry gear set up yet.  I have hiked Guadalupe Peak, Wheeler Peak in NM, and Latir Peak Wilderness in NM.  I wanted ask and see it there will be site's available during this time. This is my game plan. 

Day 1 -  Lubbock to Alpine and take the Big Bend Bewery Tour then get a hotel room in Terlingua for the night.
Day 2 -  Day Hike Emory Peak and car camp in the Basin.
Day 3-  Bouquillas and Hot Springs camp at Rio Grande Village.

I am not trying to do too much but do want to take in as much of the park as I can so I can come back and do some backcountry loops in the future.

Title: Re: First Timer New Year's Trip
Post by: mule ears on December 03, 2015, 04:34:12 PM
Welcome to the board!

It depends on when you are planning on actually arriving.  There are no online reserveable sites left in the Basin for New Years itself, the first available is not until the 4th (  But I believe that not all sites are available for reservation online, Richard I think knows for sure, so getting there early in the morning and roaming around to see if something opens up is also an option.

This is the page about campground reservations ( with links to the reservations pages.

looks like you have a few options down at RGV
Title: Re: First Timer New Year's Trip
Post by: Geezer on December 03, 2015, 08:59:58 PM
ME is correct, not all of the sites are reservable on line. In fact, many of them are not reservable, among those most of the best sites in the campground. Get there early, roam around looking for people leaving and debrief the campground host about what sites will become available that morning. At that time of year, however, you may not find one in The Basin.

Title: Re: First Timer New Year's Trip
Post by: Slyd on December 04, 2015, 09:30:57 AM
Thanks,  Sounds like I need to get up early on the 1st and see if any first-come first server spaces are open on the 1st and if not see what is open outside the Basin. 
Title: Re: First Timer New Year's Trip
Post by: Quatro on December 04, 2015, 11:11:41 PM
Another option would be to leave from Terlingua and drive the Maverick Road down to Cottonwood Campground and get a site early.  Your odds are probably best at this  campground. I think it is open all winter.  Then you can hike Santa Elena Canyon and drive back up the Ross Maxwell Highway taking whatever short hikes off it that you want.  I think this drive is the best in the park.

On Day 3 you can drive straight to the Basin to look for a site early.  If you are running late, you can just hike a portion of the Lost Mine Trail instead of Emory.  Or Emory if you start early.  Or get your campsite, hike Lost Mine and the very short Window View Trail and then go to the Hot Springs.

I'd choose the west side of the park instead of the east side if my time was short.  If visiting Boquillas is a high priority though,......your original plan is fine.
Title: Re: First Timer New Year's Trip
Post by: tandl on December 06, 2015, 03:13:03 AM
I like Emory, but if you are going up Pinnacles anyway, you might as well just try to do the the South Rim Loop instead.  If you have hiked Guadalupe Peak, you can probably manage the loop (Basin->Meadows->South Rim->Boot Canyon->Pinnacles->Basin or the reverse) as a full day-hike, assuming the weather cooperates and you start shortly after sun-up.  It is slightly less than 13 miles.  Emory is cool, but the South Rim is the showpiece vista in the park, and you definitely want to make it there if you can.  The first three to four miles are moderately strenuous, (and you have to do them anyway to get to Emory) but are less taxing than Guadalupe Peak, and the going is fairly easy for the last 3/4s of the hike no matter which direction you go.  I have done it as a day hike twice, albeit with more daylight and slightly warmer temps than you will see.  Be sure to carry enough water, it is a 6-8 hour hike, with some strenuous sections. 

Your daylight margin is thin in January; if you get off to a late start, be ready to switch to the Lost Mine Trail/Window combo (make sure to take the side trail near the Window pour-off for the best view).  Lost Mine Trail is the second best trail in the Park, with fantastic views for most of the way and a big payoff at the end.  It is definitely a cooler hike than Emory, unless you are the kind who derives a lot of satisfaction from getting to the highest point (and who isn't?)

The Ross-Maxwell Hwy. and the trails along it (Santa Elena Canyon, Mule Ears, and Upper Burro Mesa are the major ones, though there are a lot of cool shorter ones too) combine for a great full day itinerary with very scenic driving between trails, and allows you to tailor a day toward people in your party who are not be as interested/able to hike longer trails.  There are numerous overlooks, and great views of the west side of the Chisos (the Window side).  Santa Elena is cool and short, and is scary for people who are afraid of heights.  Aside from Santa Elena, the trails in this area are desert floor hiking (as compared to the cloud forests of the Chisos).  The terrain is more interesting than that suggests, with a lot of variety in landscape, but the vegetation is much sparser and thornier in this part of the park than in the mountains.  (Winter is a good time to hike on the desert floor.)     

If by Boquillas, you mean Boquillas Canyon: the hike is cool but short, and eventually just peters out rather than coming to some definite end (same with Santa Elena).  Not to say it isn't a worthwhile hike, it is a very cool canyon, but I wouldn't let it influence my decision on where to stay.  If you are at RGV already, it is worth doing and very close.  I haven't been across the river to Boquillas the town; you pass the crossing on the way to the canyon trail.

If you are going to be coming in through Alpine anyway, you could easily just stay in Terlingua/Study Butte every night.  Ross-Maxwell is convenient from that side.  The Basin is an hour and a half or more away, but if you committed a single full day there, you would only have to make the drive once.  There are hotels of varying quality (mostly medium to low) and pay camping spots with showers and other amenities in Terlingua/SB, though most of the private campsites appear to be of the graded gravel lot variety.

As long as we are talking about scenic drives and being on the Terlingua side, don't forget about 170 from Terlingua west along the river into the State Park.  Ross Maxwell is the most scenic drive in the National Park, but 170 is the best in the region (IMO, of course).  There is great access to the excellent Contrabando Dome system of trails near Lajitas, and a couple of really cool mile long hikes further upriver (Closed Canyon and the Hoodoos).  If I had to choose between doing 170 and Ross Maxwell for a day of scenic-drive-with-day-hiking, and I was already in Terlingua, I would definitely choose 170.  There are several good State Park car camping sites along the river on 170 that are probably available if you decide to spend time in the area, but they are too far away to use as a base for going to the National Park.