Big Bend Hikes: Long Chisos Basin Loop

Mexican Blue Jay atop an old agave flower spike

My last hike before ending my season at Big Bend had to be one more walk in the Chisos Basin. Since I’m in training for a long walk in France, I chose to do the long loop around the top of the basin – going up the Laguna Meadow Trail and connecting to the Pinnacles Trail via the Colima and Boot Canyon Trails. The weather was ideal with temperatures just right for the 11-mile hike! Love these mountains so much!

On the Laguna Trail looking back towards the Window

We decided to do the long loop in a counter-clockwise direction. The Laguna Meadows Trail is a more gradual ascent and we followed this trail to its junction with the South Rim and Colima Trails. Along the way, I grabbed some pictures of some of the plants I love that inhabit this mountain environment.

Peeling bark of the Texas Madrone
Madrone leaves catching the light

After about 4.5 miles, we came to the junction of the Blue Creek Trail which descends steeply towards the Homer Wilson Ranch and is part of the Outer Mountain Loop. The Outer Mountain Loop is a popular 3-day backpacking route that skirts the base of the Chisos Mountains and climbs into the mountains. At some point, it would be fun to try completing this difficult hike. When Jim and I reached the Blue Creek Trail, we came across a couple eating lunch who were just starting their Outer Mountain Loop backpack trip and getting ready to head down the Blue Creek Trail. We spent some time chatting with them and talking about their other backpacking experiences. The woman shared that she has hiked the Appalachian Trail a section at a time and still has to complete the Vermont leg of the trail near us.

After leaving those folks, we forged on to the end of the Laguna Meadows Trail where it meets two trails – the South Rim Trail and the Colima Trail. Although I would have liked to hike out to the South Rim, it would have added 4 miles to the distance and meant getting done near dark. I was content with just viewing the South Rim from the Laguna Meadow Trail! 🙂

Looking towards the South Rim from the trail

The Colima Trail is a connector trail that leads to the Boot Canyon Trail and the East Rim Trail system. In this area, there is a corral and cabin used by the park trail crew. We noticed the corral just off the trail and could not resist checking it out.

Corral for park mules and horses

The short mile-long Colima Trail brought us to the Boot Canyon Trail. We hiked this same loop a number of years ago and I was reminded how much I loved this part of the hike through the magnificent canyon terrain with sweeping views of the desert and Sierra del Carmen range in the distance.

Boot Canyon view
Another angle – with the Sierra del Carmen range in the far distance
Landmark geologic formation up close

The Boot Canyon Trail is dramatic and breathtaking – a highlight of the hike for me! It winds around Emory Peak and through the canyon with some short, steep climbs and drop-offs punctuated with amazing views.

Jim climbing up the Boot Canyon Trail

Along with Texas Madrone, the Chisos high country is peppered with several varieties of Oaks, Pinon Pines and Juniper trees. There is an incredible diversity of plant material here. It has taken me a few years to really learn and appreciate this unique plant life.

Pinon Pine branch
Drooping Juniper

Once we reached the junction with the Pinnacles Trail, we were well past the half-way mark of the hike and had just the 3.5-mile descent to go. I always feel like descending is easier but, honestly, the Pinnacles Trail loses elevation steeply and really does wear on the legs!! Thank goodness for hiking poles! We stopped for a few breaks along the way and I got side-tracked with trying to capture a photo of the Mexican Blue Jay that was taunting us on our descent!

View of Casa Grande from the Pinnacles Trail
Rare photo of me taken by Jim! Do all photographers hate getting their picture taken?
Juniper Flats along the Pinnacles Trail – love the grasses in the foreground!

The Juniper Flats area along the Pinnacles Trail is really pretty and there are several back-country campsites here. Next trip to Big Bend, we decided that we would spend a couple nights up here. It is a short hike from the parking area with a backpack and I can imagine the night sky must be spectacular!

As we neared the end of the trail, I caught these two nuzzling each other!

This Mexican Blue Jay was following us down the trail – looking for a hand-out I assume! Every time I would get close to snapping a good photo, he would take off before I could get focused! Finally, towards the end of the hike, he perched on this agave flower stem and stayed put – allowing me to capture him up close and personal. Such a tease!

The final stretch of the trail…

I have much more to post regarding our 5-month stay in Big Bend and will continue as I find the time. I am somewhat pre-occupied with planning for an upcoming spring trip to France and the start of an adventurous trek along the Way of St. James – Le Puy. I purchased a lighter weight travel camera for this 460-mile walk and hope to be able to document my journey! Au revoir, Ă  bientĂ´t….

6 Comments on “Big Bend Hikes: Long Chisos Basin Loop

  1. This looks like a tough trail. Were you scared of bears and mountain lions? Best of luck with the Compostela walk!


    • It is a challenging trail but certainly not the most difficult trail I’ve been on! I don’t worry too much about running into bears or mountain lions – in Big Bend they are generally fairly shy. Thanks for the wish for a good walk in France! Beyond excited about this trip!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lynn,
    I wondered what your summer plans were. When you first mentioned an extended hike in France my first thought was el Camino de Santiago or maybe something in the Pyrenees Mountains. On hearing about the Way of St James that was unfamiliar, so I looked it up. It turns out my first thought was correct – same as el Camino but the English name for it.
    Lovely photos and perfect weather for hiking I am guessing from the long sleeves you and Jim are sporting. I envy your hiking experiences – not something Toni or I can (or wish to) duplicate.
    What will your hiking route be in France? I would like to follow you so if you are posting, put me on the list. In 2010 Maria, Frank, Toni and I saw portions of the Camino trail near San Sebastian in Spain as well as near Banassac-Canilhac in France as well as a few hikers.
    Happy trails now and through the summer.


  3. Hi Stewart!
    I am walking the Camino trail from Le Puy En Valey to Saint Jean Pied de Port. My sister-in-law and I are hiking this spring. I’m not sure what my connectivity will be for posting here to the blog but I will hopefully be posting along the way. If not here as much, then on FB. Do you participate in FB or Messenger? Send me an email if you use either and I’ll send a friend request!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes I’ll send a friend request, although FB is not my favorite. Sending private email about our trip to Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain. Recommend 2 days there if you can swing it. S


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