The Ultimate Guide to Big Bend National Park

A view of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park in Texas.
A view of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park in Texas. Photo credit: David Mark

In Big Bend National Park, you’re right in the middle of the desert, where clouds are scarce and the views are unparalleled. You can meander along the roads of Big Bend in your car or four-by-four, but that would be an insult to this beautiful landscape. The Lost Mine Peak hiking trail (4¾ mi. round-trip) takes visitors up 1300 ft. to the top of Lost Mine Peak. Lost Mine Peak is the second-highest peak in the park—the highest being Emory Peak, which is difficult. Unless you’re a diehard, Lost Mine is as good as it gets.

The Lost Mine Peak Trail

Hiking through the Big Bend National Park offers some great views.
Hiking through the Big Bend National Park offers some great views. Photo credit: David Mark

You can find the well-marked trailhead about a mile before the Chisos Basin campground, and there’s plenty of parking. At the trailhead, guides that give information on 24 different markers placed all the way up the mountain are sold. The trail guide is informative, but use it too much, and you’ll miss the trail’s fantastic views. The Lost Mine Peak trail starts off gently enough, making its way gradually uphill past deer, lizards, and more prickly pear cacti than you will ever see again. About a mile in, the trail becomes a mess of switchbacks leading up the side of the mountain.

If you’re not up to the trek, the view from marker 10 is spectacular and comparatively easy to get to. Once you hit the top of the mountain and the trail peters out into a big, flat plain of rock, you can see a full 360°—all the way to Mexico. If you want to go a bit more off the beaten path but don’t want to climb a mountain, the seldom-used Ward Spring trail is a hidden gem. Half of the difficulty in the Ward Spring trail is just locating the trailhead.

The sun sets over Big Bend National Park.
The sun sets over Big Bend National Park. Photo credit: Yinan Chen

From the junction at the northern end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, head 5½ mi. south toward Castolon. On your left, there should be a paved pullout, and, although the trailhead has no sign, you will be able to see a well-worn path. The trail itself leads over the harsh desert ground and becomes hard to find during its last third, when you need to look for rock cairns on the ground or simply fragments of trail. After a 1¾ mi. hike (one-way), with an elevation gain of 480 ft., visitors reach a rewarding destination—several trees at the bottom of the volcanic formation and a cool spring.

Looking for more to do near the Big Bend National Park? Check out our blog post on the caves in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Ready to explore more of Texas? Take a PlacePass tour in Dallas!

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