February 8, 2021

The Ultimate 5 Day Big Bend Itinerary | Sisters Trip | Travel

Let's talk about Big Bend because I am in love! I've officially lived in Texas for 25 years now and am appalled to say that I just made my first trip to Big Bend National Park in 2019. I loved the park and experience so much that I vowed to myself and to my bestie Stephanie who was with me on that trip that I would be coming back and that I wanted to conquer Emory Peak (which is the highest peak in Big Bend National Park). So, as the big 5-0 was upon me :0 in 2020 I planned an ah-MAZING girls trip back there and was going to have 12 of my closest friends conquer the 11 mile hike with me and celebrate at the top of the mountain. Can't you see it now? Poppin' bottles at the top of the peak with champagne sprays in the sparkling sun! Um, no. That went to hell in a hand basket because of our lovely Covid-19 pandemic and everything closed down. My beautiful friends did surprise me by decorating my front yard with a gazillion signs, balloons, streamers and a HUGE birthday parade that came by my house! There must've been 30 or 40 cars which was crazy!!! I digress. Eventually, the big birthday hike DID happen in the fall and I had my sister by my side. It was perfect. Let me share with you what we did so that you can have a great experience in Big Bend, too. We did Thursday - Monday but if you love to hike, explore and be in nature then you could easily spend a week here.

First things first, when should you go to Big Bend National Park? I recommend spring and fall! I've gone March 29-April 2nd and it was perrrrrrrfect weather and the plants had gorgeous blooms and this most recent trip was the 3rd week in October and it was HOT! We hit 100 degrees while we were there and the nights cooled down to the mid-50's. I'd recommend last week in October and November for even cooler temperatures.

GETTING TO BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK...DAY 1...ROADTRIP!!!!!!!

From Austin it's a 6.5 hour road trip...easy peasy. I crack up when people think that's a long drive. Just open the sun roof, crank up the tunes and hit the open road and enjoy the views. If you don't have the luxury of driving there in a day then you can fly but a car rental is a must also. The nearest airports are Midland/Odessa which is approximately 200 miles away from Big Bend or El Paso which is approximately 300 miles away. Marfa, Texas is about 1.5 hours away so if you can make a side trip or have an additional day I highly recommend squeezing in a visit to Marfa. We rolled into Basecamp Terlingua in the late afternoon and I felt giddy with excitement to share this place with my sister.
Basecamp Terlingua has different options to stay in from camping, casitas, bubbles, rv trailer and tipis (our choice). We stayed in Javalina tipi and it's quite cozy and nice! The base of the tipi has been dug down in the ground and has about a 4 ft. concrete wall as it's base so that when you walk into the tipi you go down about 5 steps to get into it. I think this must help keep it cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. That being said, they do have a water cooler which we used in October b/c it was warm during the daytime and it has space heaters and heating blankets for when the temps dip down. It's so quiet out there at night that you can hear the coyotes howling AND the rooster next door who's internal clock must be outta whack because he crows ALL. NIGHT. LONG. I actually liked it though. I thought it added to the ambience. My sister on the other hand was a little frazzled after the first night. Let's just say she's more accustomed to The Westin hotels with big fuzzy robes, slippers and room service. That first morning we woke up all cozy in bed (the mattresses are divine!) we quietly discussed all the live creature sounds that we had heard through the night. Where I found them adding to the ambience and making the experience authentic, her mind was running wild with envisioning people unzipping our zipper to our tipi, hearing giant bugs crawling through the tipi and forcing herself to hold her bladder b/c she was too afraid to go to the bathroom during the night! I asked her what her plan of action was when she thought someone was unzipping our tipi (which they weren't!) and she said that she was going to say ever so sweetly, "Excuse me...I believe you must have the wrong tipi." Haha! As she was telling me this, I'm crying b/c I'm laughing so hard. This is where we're so different. If I found someone breaking into our tipi, I'm going full out Rambo on them. My head would spin backwards like the Exorcist and I'm coming after them full on in survival of the fittest mode but not my sister she's like..."excuse me...I believe that you have the wrong tipi." So Day 1 was roadtripping to Terlingua, getting settled into our tipi, snacks and wine in our adirondack chairs, stargazing and hitting the hay early to prepare for our hikes the next day.

DAY 2-THE WINDOW HIKE-SAN ELENA CANYON HIKE- HIGH SIERRA RESTAURANT

Big Bend is HUGE people! There is about a 20 minute drive from Terlingua to the entrance of Big Bend National Park and then there's lots of driving inside the park depending on where you're going. The drives are absolutely gorgeous but because the park is so massive be prepared that it's going to take some time to get there. My sis and I would get up at the crack of dawn to get a jump on the day b/c it does take a while to get to where you're going. We had to start our days with some coffee outside in the morning and drink in that desert view!
We ended up arriving at the park a little later than we wanted so didn't get on the trail until about 9:30am. We opted to do The Window Trail which is a 5.6 mile out and back and is considered moderate in difficulty. You begin at the Chisos Basin Trailhead. There's a little bit of climbing over some rocks at the end but it is not hard.
After completing The Window Trail, we were up for one more short hike so we chose the San Elena Canyon hike. This is a 1.7 mile moderate difficulty hike and you walk across the river! We didn't get that memo when we started so our 1.7 mile hike turned into about a 3 mile hike. We took the "scenic" route. LOL! The canyon is beautiful! I would love to go back and do a river rafting trip through the canyon. Once we reached the canyon, we climbed up on a big rock and just chilled for a bit drinking it all in. Listen to me carefully, you've got to go up before you come down. It was pushing 100 degrees at about 4pm in the afternoon so it was HOT! It was nice and shady once we got inside the canyon though.
To finish off the full day of hiking we opted for @High Sierra back in Terlingua close to Basecamp and scarfed down a taco plate and a few beers while listening to some great live music on the top deck! Total hole in the wall with a great atmosphere. I couldn't find a website for them so have attached their fb page. My photo doesn't do the place justice either!
Back to camp for some serious sleep to prepare for my big birthday hike happening on Day 3! Woot! Woot!

DAY 3-EMORY PEAK HIKE-STARLIGHT THEATRE

My big day was finally here!!! The earlier you start this hike the better. We made sure we were inside the park at sunrise. We stopped to snap a few photos on our way to the Chisos Lodge b/c the sunrise was spectacular in pink and orange hues. By 8am THE birthday hike was on! Emory Peak Hike is considered strenuous (well, duh) and is 10.5 miles. The last 25 feet of the hike is a rock scramble and has an antenna and equipment at the top which is part of Big Bend's 2-way radio system. This was such a great goal for me to conquer on my 50th birthday! While regular hikers might think nothing of this, I'm not a "regular" hiker. I do like hiking and have conquered some great hikes around the country but this 10.5 miles with an approximate 2500 elevation gain in my 50 year old body was hard! I am happy to report though that it can be done and I did it! I even blew my hiking shoe out by the end! Our weather forecast had initially said mid 80's but they were wrong and we reached a 100 degrees on that hike. We took our time and enjoyed the hike stopping to photograph whatever we wanted and catching my breath when needed! Whoever says they can complete this hike in 5 hours is extremely athletic. I would say 7 hours would be more realistic if you're hiking in the hot weather or with kids. It took us 8 hours but we stayed at the top for a bit and took lots of photos and breaks. About 3.5 miles up there is a spot to store your stuff if you don't want to hike the remainder of the way with it and also a stinky portable potty if needed. There's also a few benches and logs to sit and several people stop there to snack in the shade and regroup before the last 1.5 miles to the top! I couldn't wait to have my peanut butter and jelly sandwich that we had prepped the night before but the mood changed once we realized we forgot to get them out of the fridge before we left. Haha!!! No, we were fine. We had packed lots of protein snacks and nuts! :))))
Once we reached the top, we tried face timing our mom, she didn't answer (go figure). She said that her and my stepdad couldn't figure out what that "chirping" sound was! Lol. She just got her first ipad so we're teaching her! Then, we facetimed my son and he DID answer! Yay! At the top, there were SO many lady bugs! They were congregated everywhere together. I don't know why but it was really cool. We made it back to the car at 4pm and headed back to camp. Big Mama was tired after her big hike in the heat! We napped for a few hours, had wine at sunset in our Adirondack chairs and then headed to @Starlight Theatre for a steak dinner.
After dinner, we relaxed by the firepit and I played around with some night star photography. The Milky Way can be seen out there with your bare eyes and the stars are endless. I got this beauty in my Etsy shop Pink Palm Designs Shop if you love star photography.


DAY 4- EXPLORING GHOST TOWN TERLINGUA- LAJITAS
We slept in and slowed down on Day 4. We had a relaxing morning and let our bodies recoop from the 20 miles we had hiked in 2 days! We spent the day exploring the Ghost Town and having our own little photo expo. There's so many unique, artsy and random things to photograph in this little town. I just love it. This tiny community is filled with many great artists and musicians. I say it's where all the old hippies from Austin go to die. :) We hit @Espresso Y Poco Mas for an afternoon coffee pick me up and lounging. They close at 2pm but they were fine with us hanging out at our table outside even after they closed. The coffee was good. We didn't have anything to eat but it looked delicious and I would go back. After we were revived with some caffeine, we headed to Lajitas about 20 minutes away to check out that sleepy little town. I think it's mainly The Lajitas Golf Resort and RV park there but we did hit a few cute gift shops and met some friendly locals. Fun fact: The mayor of the town is Clay Henry who is a beer drinking goat! No joke. Because of the pandemic, the restaurant there at the resort was only taking reservations so we weren't able to have a drink there. The view was amazing from the restaurant though.
We finished the evening with snacks and wine by the pit and used our Girl Scout skills to make a small fire.

DAY 5- SUNRISE-CHECK OUT AND ROADTRIP HOME
We had to take advantage of that desert sunrise over the mountains one last time before checking out so we set the alarm and had coffee on our yoga mats. Notice that I didn't say yoga on our yoga mats? :)

We checked out at 10am and hit the road back to Austin. I was sad to leave but can't wait to go back. I hope this itinarary gives you some great ideas or follow this one by the book and I think you'll have a blast, too. There's still so many more hikes that I want to do but not everything is open in Big Bend National Park right now. However, everything that I have blogged about is open right nowduring the pandemic. Last but not least, I wouldn't have wanted to take this journey with anyone else other than my sister! She made the trip that much more special and pushed me to achieve my goal of climbing Emory Peak. I love ya, Brit!

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