Picture Texas, and the soaring Chisos Mountains may not instantly spring to mind. But this dominating feature of Big Bend National Park is the ideal spot to head to for an adventure packed with elemental drama. This is a region — stretching from Punta de la Sierra in the south west to Panther Junction in the north east — is a must-visit for anyone really wanting to get away from it all. Here, we reveal the top five mountain adventures in this colossal region:
Camping: The mountains may be rugged, but they’re also accessible. Some choose to make a quick pit stop here, but to truly feel like a pioneer, bed down here for a night or three in the park’s campsites and camping grounds. The site at Nugent Mountain is blissfully quiet, with top-notch stargazing, but it’s the natural bounty surrounding your tent that’ll stir adventure-seekers. For dollars well spent, make tracks to the Chisos Mountain Lodge — the only hotel in the park — and wind up on its terrace with a sundowner for superb Texan views.
Emory Peak: This pristine mountain is the national park’s highest, at 7,825ft. And while a trek to its summit is no walk in the park, the payoff is the thrilling views from on high. Start out at the Chisos Basin Trailhead and climb through desert scrub and thick forest, following the scents of juniper and sage; keep a lookout for birds of prey soaring overhead on the thermals, and for the tracks of bears and mountain lions, before scrambling on all fours to the top.
Lost Mine Trail: If you’re short on time, this trail is your best bet and is just as thrilling as a climb up Emory. Over five miles, the monoliths of Casa Grande Peak, Juniper Canyon and South Rim loom into view, with knockout views in every direction. Pick up a trail guide to help pinpoint the flora and fauna; black bears, mountain lions, white-tailed deer, rock squirrels and Mexican jays can all be found here.
Sunset at the window: ‘The window’ embodies the spirit of the Chisos — gaze through this immense V-shaped groove in the mountainside and you’ll be left breathless as you stare at the enormity of your surroundings: swathes of desert, rays of sunshine strafing the landscape, and a great sweep of sky. It’s a relatively easy hike from the Chisos Basin Visitor Center: a three-mile jaunt through rolling hills and vertical rock walls that’s open throughout the day. But for the full effect, arrive just in time for sunset. The show of light on the silhouetted mountainsides puts many famed sunset spots to shame.
Cattail Falls: The national park has a whole bunch of hush-hush stuff up its sleeve — not least these enchanting falls and series of pools that are no longer marked on Big Bend National Park maps. Gushing down the western side of the Chisos mountains, the falls are at their most spectacular after the heavy spring rains, and the trail is an easy 1.5-mile hike over dusty desert hills and patches of lush vegetation blooming with wildflowers.
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