Texas Hiking – Big Bend National Park & Beyond

Trip Length 6 Days
Group Size 4-12
Activity level
Starting from
$3,349 for REI Members
$3,649 for non-members
Departures Oct 2022-Dec 2023

Located in the southwestern corner of Texas, Big Bend National Park has long lured hikers with its iconic trails, uniquely diverse geology and ecology, as well as the peaceful, all-encompassing isolation from the daily hustle and bustle. Our journey begins and ends in the magnificent border city of El Paso. En route, we travel the Texas Mountain Trail, exploring both the natural wonders of Big Bend National Park and some of the region’s most iconic towns – Fort Davis, Alpine, Terlingua and Marfa. Each night is spent in distinctively Texan accommodations, from gorgeous historic hotels, to a ghost town retreat, to a park lodge nestled high in the Chisos Mountains.

Explore a slot canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Trip Highlights

  • Hike from the Chisos Mountains to the Chiuhuahuan Desert in Big Bend National Park
  • Hike in Big Bend Ranch State Park
  • Stay at historic hotels and visit small west Texas towns rich in character
  • Expert local guides ensure you have an authentic Texas experience
  • Opportunity to see diverse plant and animal life that call this region home

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate [3]. You should be capable of hiking with a daypack up to 12 miles (up to 6 hours) with elevation gains/losses of up to 2,100'. Trails are composed of packed dirt, sand, large and/or loose rocks, with some steep sections and exposed overlooks.

  • Hiking

What's Included

Lodging and meals as indicated on the daily itinerary; transportation to the start/end of the trip in El Paso, Texas; park entrance fees.

Accommodations

Historic Texas hotels: 3 nights; Mountain lodge: 2 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Texas Hiking – Big Bend National Park & Beyond
Day 1

Hike Fort Davis National Historic Site and explore Alpine, Texas.

Our adventure begins in the multi-cultural border city of El Paso. Following introductions, we begin the three-hour journey to our first hike at the Fort Davis National Historic Site. The park is one of the finest examples of a frontier military post in the American Southwest with trails that offer sweeping panoramic views of the Fort and nearby Davis Mountains. During our visit we’ll learn how the fort served as a key military encampment during western expansion and hear stories about legendary residents such as the Buffalo Soldiers. We then continue to Alpine, the Gateway to the Big Bend. There is time for a stroll through town or to relax at our lodgings, the historic Holland Hotel, before we gather for dinner. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 2.5-3 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 320’; Transfers: 3.5 hours.

Day 2

Hike in Big Bend National Park and experience the Chisos Basin.

We set out for Big Bend National Park and our first hike at Persimmon Gap Draw. This often-overlooked treasure features outstanding views of the oldest exposed geology in the park. We visit the park’s Fossil Bone Exhibit, which celebrates 120 million years of paleontological history, and the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Our afternoon hike climbs through Panther Pass to the Lost Mine Trailhead where we take in spectacular views of the Chisos Mountains. We spend the next two nights at Chisos Mountains Lodge, nestled inside the mile-high Chisos Basin, completely encircled by towering pinnacles of volcanic origin. Big Bend is internationally recognized as a Dark Sky Park, so we take time in the evenings to stargaze. All meals included.

Hiking 6.8 miles; Elevation gain/loss: up to 1,300’; Transfers: 2 hours.

Day 3

Discover the diversity and history of the South Rim Trail.

Today we discover the most famous hike in all of Texas: the South Rim Trail. The biological diversity and geologic history add to the grandeur of the Chisos—a true “sky island” surrounded by an ‘ocean’ of Chihuahuan Desert. This is the only mountain range in the U.S. which is fully contained within the boundaries of a national park. Throughout the day we are rewarded with countless dramatic viewpoints, including those from the South Rim which spans miles into the distant Sierra del Carmen Mountains of Mexico and thousands of feet below to the Chihuahuan Desert floor. Returning to our lodge, we dine and take time for stargazing. All meals included.

Hiking up to 12 miles; Elevation gain/loss: up to 2,000’.

Day 4

Mountains, desert and river ecosystems of Big Bend.

Today we experience a “triple treat” and explore Big Bend’s mountains, desert and river ecosystems - all in one day. We begin hiking on the Window Trail, which descends through a canyon sandwiched between majestic mountain peaks. Photo opportunities abound as we make our way out of the Chisos Basin and onto the desert floor via the picturesque Oak Springs Trail. Utilizing a trail not found on maps, we picnic under the shady trees of a desert oasis. Next, we take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to Santa Elena Canyon. A short hike showcases sheer limestone walls that tower 1500’ above both sides of the Rio Grande River. The day ends at our accommodation in the ghost town of Terlingua. All meals included.

Hiking up to 10 miles; Elevation gain/loss: up to 740’ elevation gain and 2,100’ elevation loss.

Day 5

Hike the Mesa de Anguila and Big Bend Ranch State Park.

The Mesa de Anguila Trail is a hidden gem seldom explored by visitors to Big Bend National Park. The mesa sits high atop Santa Elena Canyon and marks the western border of the park. Our hike provides fantastic views of the bends of the Rio Grande, a brilliant example of how the park got its name. We visit the Barton Warnock Center to learn more about the region’s incredible natural history, and then drive along the Camino del Rio. The road twists and winds with the Rio Grande, crossing arroyos, climbing mountains, and hugging canyon walls. Reaching Big Bend Ranch State Park, we discover the beauty and diversity of this massive 311,000 acre park. Returning to Terlingua, there is free time to explore the Ghost Town before we gather for a farewell dinner at the iconic Starlight Theatre. All meals included.

Hiking 6 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 900’.

Day 6

Visit the Museum of the Big Bend and hike Hancock Hill before returning to El Paso.

This morning we begin our return journey to El Paso. We travel the Texas Mountain Trail back to Alpine where a visit to the award-winning Museum of the Big Bend provides further insights into the incredible region we have just experienced. Then the ascent of Hancock Hill offers one final taste of the Big Bend’s many incredible trails, with terrific views of Alpine and the surrounding mountains. Following a scrumptious lunch at a local Alpine favorite, we transfer to El Paso with a planned arrival time of 4:00pm. Breakfast and lunch included.

Hiking 2 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 200’; Transfers: 5 hours.

Itinerary map for Texas Hiking – Big Bend National Park & Beyond

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation. This gear list is provided to help you in choosing your equipment and clothing for this trip. Try to bring only what is necessary.

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.