Exploring Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park in Texas isn’t one of those places that instantly took my breath away, in fact it took a few days of exploration to grow on me. After a week of adventures I can’t say it’s my all time favorite national park, but I can say its well worth exploring and definitely worth another visit.
There are rock formations of all shapes and sizes, multiple climates to explore (mountains, desert…) and the sunsets are spectacular (pollution does have an upside). Not to mention that the park is HUGE! It’s bigger than the state of Rhode Island! 1,252 Square miles of Chihuahuan desert is a lot to explore and if you’re limited on time (5 days isn’t enough), you need to know where best to spend it… something we didn’t get the best advice on.
There are a handful of hikes that we felt were rewarding and worth the journey while others left us feeling like it was nothing more than a lovely stroll or worse, a heat exhaustion inducing punishment for being a tourist.
I am all about a little pain with my gain, but no gain just leaves me in pain. We visited the 2nd week in March and while the highs were never over 85 degrees in the warmest part of the park, after 2-4 hours of hiking in direct sun it started to feel more like 105 degrees. I couldn’t imagine hiking here in the summer!
Before you start thinking I am a complete whine and have no appreciation for the parks beauty, let’s move on.
There is something about ruins that always makes us wish we could time travel. So a short hike up the hill to the Dorgan House Ruins is easy and a good place to imagine what big bend was like back in the day.
Window trail was a nice interesting hike out. The actual window view offered a unique perspective and the swirling smooth rocks had the makings of a great waterslide. I found myself silently wishing for a monsoon just so I could see nature in action. Sadly, not a cloud in sight.
Tuff Canyon Loop Trail is another easy stroll. There’s no destination to reach, just a nice canyon trail with shady nooks perfect to sit and relax.
Lost Mine trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park and with good reason. The views are spectacular and there is something to gaze at in almost every direction. Rocks go from round boulders to jagged towers. It’s in the Chisos Mountain region of the park and we think the most striking and comfortable (temperature wise).
Balanced Rock was a mostly easy and pleasant hike. I say mostly easy because the description said easy yet the last 1/8th mile would be considered moderate to difficult with big rocks and steps. Fine for us but anyone with knee problems would be cursing. The hike reminded us of the Alabama Hills with its boulders surrounding us from all directions. And the balanced rock is a happy ending (pun intended if you see what I see).
Now, back to whining…
The Boquillas canyon trail is lovely (I can imagine even lovelier in April) with its green grass swaying in the wind and the Rio Grande flowing alongside. A delightful afternoon stroll…but that’s it. Which would have been fine, had I not been set up with this statement on the hike description, “ending at a massive sand slide”. It was a small sand pile at best…not that I am any sand slide expert but it was far from “massive”.
The chimneys trail was a sweltering hike out that felt longer than the 2.4 miles listed (could have something to do with the 2-4 oclock hour and no trees) and should probably be done in the early AM. The hike out looks promising and I thought we would end up at some chimneyesque rock formations and the big payoff would be “the arch” as it stated in the trail guide. Perhaps our skewed version of arches is at the fault of Utah and it’s plethora of grand scaled ones. But alas this is what we got. I felt a little swindled after such a long, hot hike.
All in all driving away from the park, it feels like another spec of the world discovered and as Texas natives we’re a little ashamed its taken this long to visit Big Bend, but never the less, we came, we saw, we perspired and now on to the next adventure.