Big Bend National Park is a long road trip if you’re coming from the other side of the state of Texas. We were coming from Houston and takes about 9.5 -10 hours to get to Big Bend. We broke up the trip by staying a few days in Marfa. From Marfa, Big Bend is only 2.5 hours.
Big Bend National Park is in the Chihuahuan Desert and covers 118 miles along the US and Mexico border along the Rio Grande River. There are 3 main campgrounds in the park: Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village and Cottonwood. We stayed at Chisos Basin.
Chisos Basin Campground
When camping in the months of November to May, it is highly recommended to make reservations. Our visit was kind of last minute so we couldn’t reserve in advance but by checking the website we were able to see approximately how many sites were still available. We chose Chisos Basin because it had access to many great trails. We stayed in a tent, but you have the option of staying in an RV if you have one and you can also reserve a cabin. Chisos Basin has a lodge uphill from the campground. There is a restaurant with wifi, a visitors center, and a store with many items for your camping needs and groceries. The main trailhead to several of the trails is also located here.
One important thing to note:THERE ARE NO SHOWERS AT THE CAMPGROUND. So be prepared and ready to improvise to be able to wash yourself. If you have time then you can move Rio Grande Village Campground 30 miles away where they have showers to use.
Back at the campground, we stopped at the entrance and picked up a yellow envelope. We drove around the site for an empty space and claimed our spot. We filled out the envelope, put out $14 dollars in for the night, dropped it in the box and then headed back to our chosen site to set up. We just had a small 2 person tent to set up. That was it.
For our meals, we had a JetBoil that heated water for our packaged camping meals we got From REI. You just pour the hot water in the bag, stir it up and then let it sit for 15-20 minutes. We also warmed up soups and hot drinks with the JetBoil.
Hiking to Emory Peak
We woke up the next morning with the intent to hike around the South Rim trail. It’s a 12 mile hike with a few steep miles in the beginning. Were we ready for this? No. But we were still gonna do it, or so we thought.
We drove up to the lodge to get to the trailhead. It was already 10 am. We should’ve started earlier. We kept walking….and walking. Not too bad I thought. But, after 2 miles in I could feel myself getting tired. The walk was getting steeper the further we went and there were lots of switchbacks. We basically stopped every 30 minutes to catch our breath, take a few bites of our Cliff bars and drink water.
Finally we reached a rest area. There were toilets, a bear-proof locker to store your packs, and a sign that told you which direction to go for whatever trail you are hiking. We looked at it and saw that Emory Peak only had 1.8 miles more to get to it. The South Rim had 3 more miles to go. Jorge was kinda worried about me and asked if I was ready to turn back. There was no way I was gonna come this far and not finish 1 trail! So we decided to go up to Emory Peak. Don’t let the small distance fool you. We were going to a peak. And I didn’t know until we met up with other hikers on the way up that it is the 2nd tallest peak in Texas.
The rest of the way up was higher than the other trails. We started to get decent views of mountains in the distance.
There were a few flat parts, which were great for catching your breath. The rest of the way up was a bit tiring. The last part you do have to do some bouldering and kind of scramble over some large rocks to get to the very top. The view was worth it! Also, THERE’S CELL PHONE RECEPTION AT THE TOP! Jorge called his mom and I quickly made a post on Instagram. HAHA!
After all of that, coming back down was easier and we were coming down the trail with swiftness. LOL. But I could definitely feel the impact on my knees from the steepness.
About a mile away from the end, we passed some beautiful fields and stopped to take a few pictures.
By the time we finished, it was almost 5 pm and we had hiked 10 miles. Not too bad! I definitely felt proud of myself for not giving up at the beginning. We treated ourselves to ice cream cones from the convenient store by the lodge. It was well deserved!