The team from AcadianX set out to Big Bend National Park to backpack through the Chisos Mountains. This trip consisted of a loop that would total 5,615 feet of elevation gain across 17.4 miles over the course of 3 days. The challenge of this trip was the unavailability of water so each team member was required to carry roughly 3 days worth of water. This added significant weight to the pack in the beginning that slowly lightened up as the trip progressed.
Day Hike to “The Window”
Distance: 5.47 miles Elevation Gain: 912 feet
We started the window hike from the visitors center in the Chisos Basin so this added a mile or so to our hike. From the trailhead at the parking lot it was a complete decent of 912 feet to the Window. It was a well marked and moderately populated trail. The last half mile was fun to hike and well shaded due to the deep canyons and smooth washed out rock surfaces. Steps had been carved into the rock making the trail easy to traverse. The reward was the incredible view from the window overlooking the desert below.
Chisos Basin to Laguna Meadow
Distance: 3.90 miles Elevation Gain: 1,351 feet
Now begins our backpacking journey back at the Chisos Basin parking lot. We strapped on our packs and headed to the Laguna Meadow Trailhead. The trek to the saddle that opened up into Laguna Meadow was a very rocky trail but offered lots of tree shade about a mile from the trail head. It was a smooth incline that turned to gradual switchbacks in the last mile up to the crest of the saddle. The trail however was not very scenic and did not offer many views due to the dense vegetation. From the saddle it was only 1/4 of a mile to our camp site at LM2 which offered lots of tent space and plenty of shade.
Laguna Meadow to the East Rim
Distance: 4.23 miles Elevation Gain: 875 feet
We rose with the sun, packed up, and departed Laguna Meadow heading to the southeast continuing on the Laguna Meadow trail on a steep incline. We followed this until it connected with the Colima Trail and the South Rim Trail. The trail continued to be rocky but was mostly shaded. We headed up the South Rim Trail and the incline became more gradual. The trail followed the west edge of the mountain and gave us our first views of the south desert below. The trail then turned east toward the saddle and we crossed over to the other side where we were able to see Boot Canyon below. The trail then turned south and we lost the shade of the trees. The trail continued on the ridge line of the mountain until we reached the edge of the South Rim. We decided to break for lunch here and took in the amazing views from the South Rim that overlooked the southern desert. After lunch the trail turned east and followed the Rim for a few more miles until we arrived at the East Rim and our campsite at ER6 which was close to where the East Rim Trail turns to the North. At this point was a corner of the rim that had smooth rock with some shade that made for a great place to lounge and take in the spectacular views.
East Rim to Emory Peak to Chisos Basin
Distance: 9.36 miles Elevation Gain: 975 feet
On the last day we rose before sun up to watch the sunrise. We then packed up and continued on the East Rim Trail and followed its decent until it ran into the Boot Canyon Trail. We then followed this deep canyon to the north and walked through a magical grove of trees whose leaves had turned for the fall giving us an assortment of beautiful colors that were perfectly accented with the smooth grey stone of the canyon walls. We continued on toward Boot Canyon Spring where we ran into a 300 pound bear who gave us a glance then continued on his way. After the spring the trail began to ascend again and the canyon started to open up. For the last mile up to the trailhead of Emory Peak we had little shade and the incline increased.
At this point we stopped for a break and then switched to daypacks and stored our packs in the bear boxes provided by the park. We then began our hike to summit Emory Peak. The hike up to Emory Peak is a gradual incline that snakes around the ridge with little to no shade. The last 1/4 mile is extremely rocky and uneven. In the last 100 yards you will need to scramble over boulders to reach the summit. This is the highest point in the park and the views are spectacular.
We then descended back down to the Emory Peak trailhead and put our packs back on. We then began our decent to the Chisos Basin via the Pinnacles Trail. The first mile is a series of fast declining switchbacks with high steps that can do a number on your joints. There was a lot of shade here and we could see the finish line in the distance. After the switchbacks the trail starts to level out after the Pinnacles in Boulder Meadow and you leave the shade of the trees. From here it was a slowly descending hike over 2 miles where we reached our destination at the Chisos Basin.