Our Austin hosts suggested we visit Fredericksburg, so we added the small town to our itinerary en route to Big Bend National Park.
Founded in 1846 by a German family, Fredericksburg is a unique mix of German and western Texas culture. It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
Driving into Big Bend National Park was like entering a different country. I’ve never seen such rocky geography and sparse vegetation.
Fun fact, Big Bend National Park is the only national park containing an entire mountain range. The place is huge!
The first night we slept in the Rio Grande Basin campground. That was a mistake as there were way too many trailers – not quite the peaceful camping experience we expected. First thing in the morning, we moved to the Chisos Basin Campground. With Casa Grande peak in full view and mountains surrounding us, we knew we could make this campsite home for a few days.
First Day in Big Bend National Park
Emory Peak Trail
We were eager to hike and quickly started the Emory Peak Trail. From the Chisos Basin Trailhead, the Pinnacles Trail (3.5 miles round trip) connects to the Emory Peak Trail (3.2 miles round trip). At 7,832 feet, Emory Peak is the highest point in Big Bend National Park.
The trail is a steady incline with switchbacks, but nothing too strenuous with a light pack. At a brisk pace, the 9.7 mile round trip trek took us just more than four hours.
At the end of the trail, there is a fairly easy rock scramble. If you are daring, you could climb a rock face, but I wouldn’t suggest it.
With the very romantic idea of a sunset picnic, we set out on Window Trail (around 3.4 miles round trip). In theory, it was a great idea. In reality, we had no desire to picnic at the trail’s end after dusk. This was a recipe for becoming some creature’s dinner.
Despite our quick, precautionary pace, I really enjoyed the scenery. The path sends you deep into the Chisos Basin, across a creek bed, and to a beautiful view through the “window.” In stark contrast to the morning’s hike, the mountains towered over us.
Second Day in Big Bend National Park
We bounced around sites and short hikes off the Ross Memorial Scenic Drive.
The trail itself doesn’t offer variety, but I read in the springtime it’s great for wildflowers. Our destination was American Indian petroglyphs and pictographs on the southernmost chimney, roughly 1.7 miles down the trail. The hike continues, but we turned around.
The canyon is formed by white volcanic ash and a short trail led us down to the canyon floor. We huddled in a shady spot for a quick lunch.
Call me a nerd, but I loved gawking at the huge boulders lodged into the canyon walls. This is our world’s history, people!
This historic site contains the remains of buildings that were part of the Grand Canyon Farms. The Dorgan family settled here in the early 1900s. I can only imagine the hardships and loneliness they faced.
Santa Elena Canyon
Absolutely stunning! To get to the canyon, we crossed the Terlingua Creek, up concrete steps and down to the edge of the Rio Grande. A huge boulder became our riverside seat as we admired the Canyon Walls.
On the opposite side of Big Bend National Park are hot springs and a historical site. Logistically, it meant about 45 minutes in the car. Therapeutically, it was incredible.
The hot springs are inside the foundation of an old bathhouse. We soaked in the water as the sun set behind the mountains.
Big Bend National Park is not on the way to anything and being the middle of winter we expected the campground to be empty. Surprisingly, this was not the case. One night, the campground was full!
With how often we hear about people hibernating in their homes, I loved seeing people in the great outdoors. To sound hippie-ish, I believe the more people get outside, the more they will feel connected to their surroundings. This connection will hopefully inspire them to become caretakers.