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.
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! 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. 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.@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!
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! :))))@Starlight Theatre for a steak dinner.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.
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? :)
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