Big Bend is an underrated national park, in my opinion. It wasn’t even in the top 40 most visited U.S. national parks in 2015, but it quickly made its way into my top ten! I hope I can share some of that love with you over a series of four posts about my experiences in & across the Rio Grande from Big Bend National Park starting with the mountains in Big Bend.
The drive into Big Bend follows a winding road through the dessert filled with beautiful mountains. I love the sensation of following rolling hills and getting totally caught up saying, ‘Wow!’ every fifty feet or so. I can’t say thank you enough to Theodor Roosevelt for these amazing gifts.
Even the views just driving through the park were spectacular, but wait until you see what we got ourselves into on the trails!
⋙ A Few Things to Know About Hiking in the Mountains of Big Bend:
» Big Bend is home to black bears & mountain lions. Be aware of what precautions to take when hiking in these areas. As of now there has never been a reported bear attack in Big Bend, but they will come looking for food so be sure to keep food and other scented items in bear boxes if hiking in the backcountry and know about bear safety. Mountain lion attacks in Big Bend are extremely rare, I only found two instances, but NPS recommends hiking in numbers (especially around dawn and dusk) and keep a very close eye on small children. Ask your park rangers for any other tips.
» Dress in layers in the mountains – it’s amazing how quickly the temperature can drop. Also, be mindful of crazy gusts of wind at the top, you don’t want to lose your hat!
» Obviously, pack plenty of water for your hikes & don’t forget your sunscreen.
⋙ Cattail Falls
This trail isn’t one that actually appears on the map. A ranger told us about the trail and gave us directions and the hike here was really beautiful. We were in Big Bend during a time of drought, so the water wasn’t flowing, but the pool was there. It was still a marvelous hike though.
» Getting There:
This trail isn’t marked on the provided NPS map, but it’s on an unmarked, dirt road just down Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive near Sam Neil Ranch, but on the opposite side (which is on the NPS map). The park ranger recommended a high clearance vehicle, but 4wheel drive isn’t necessary. Take the unmarked road just over a mile to the trailhead parking area. From the parking area you follow the road beyond the gate about half a mile to the trailhead. From the trail head it’s 1.5 miles to Cattail falls.
This massive tree with branches that reach to the ground is at the Cattail Falls trailhead.
Expectation vs. Reality – to see it rushing you have to catch it after a hard rain. Regardless of the low flow, it was still a stunning hike. Be sure to stay on the trail at the waterfall and don’t swim in the pools. The NPS actually took this hike off the map because of the fragility of the ecosystem there. Leave only footprints.
⋙ Lost Mine Trail
Lost mine trail is one of the most popular trails in Big Bend and although it isn’t an easy hike we saw people of all ages making their way the top. This trail climbs about 1,000 feet in elevation & is 2.4 miles each way to the summit.
» Getting There:
This trailhead is just off the Chisos Basin Road. There’s a pull-off on the side of the road with a decent amount of parking space. From there it’s just the almost 5 miles roundtrip there and back.
I’m a mountain lover through & through.
My dad and me jumping for joy at the summit.
The extraordinary view from the Lost Mine Summit
This was my favorite view from the trail – the road down to the Chisos Lodge surrounded by some stunning mountain views.
⋙ Just For Fun: Treat Yourself to a Beer
Inside the Chisos Lodge (just down the road from the Lost Mine Trail) is a perfect place for a nice lunch, or do what I did and treat yourself to a craft beer. You’ve been hiking all day, you deserve it. They carry a couple different beers from Big Bend Brewing Co. just up the road in Alpine, Texas. I had the La Frontera IPA and it was so delicious that I brought home a 6-pack for Matt and me to enjoy back home.
Can you beat a beer with this view?
The sunset / moonrise over the mountains just outside the park was just another striking mountain-scene in the Big Bend area. Mountain experiences can range from a day hike to backcountry camping, from a drive through the mountains to a beer overlooking them. The important thing is to take time to experience the joy that the mountains bring and make the most of your moments there.
Did you like this article? PIN IT!