Go west young man...
May 21, 2008 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Off to Big Bend, would like some advice from those who have been there before.

My wife and I are off to Big Bend National Park for the long weekend. I reviewed the previous two AskMe questions about Big Bend that I could find, but they seemed more focused on camping and especially activities in the winter. Obviously summer hiking is going to be a little different.

We are fairly experienced backcountry hikers, logging 8-10 miles a week, and also avid photographers. We will definitely be prepared for hot summer hiking, as we do it regularly. We're looking for recommendations on your favorite activities, trails and sites. Obviously we can't see all of it, but we'd like to get a great sample. Five 2 mile hikes a day would be better than one or two 6 mile hikes.

We are more interested in photography than anything, but hiking out there is also part of the fun. Where are the best places to photograph sunrises and sunsets? Best trails for seeing wildlife, insects and flowers? Any other can't miss summertime sites that might be found nearby?
posted by sanka to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This was surely mentioned in the previous threads, but there are wonderful hot springs to sit in and watch the stars from. I was very young when dad took me, but I remember an interesting oasis created by an underground water flow coming to the surface; a grouping of trees and lush vegitation in the middle of the arid landscape. We took some great photos contrasting the oasis with the surrounding landscape.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 6:46 AM on May 21, 2008

There's a great overlook for sunrise down the road (almost to where the Mexican states have a border) from Castolon - where there's an almost island of Mexico surrounded by a meander.

Be careful on those roads. And slow. Ever have to ride 30 miles on a mountain bike because you flatted two tires from driving too fast? Yeah.
posted by notsnot at 6:46 AM on May 21, 2008

The South Rim is a gorgeous hike, and a gorgeous place to spend the night, but it's far from the most remote Big Bend has to offer.
posted by piedmont at 7:03 AM on May 21, 2008

If you follow the Boquillas Canyon trail, you'll see a ginormous sand pile up against the canyon wall with a wee silly cave at the top. The cave is a nice spot for a snack. Bounding down the sand pile is stupid fun.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:47 AM on May 21, 2008

I, too, say to drive slow.

I think they set the limits based on the wildlife -- if you stay under the posted limit, it's much, much easier to brake and not hit the wildlife when (not if) it darts out into the road in front of you.
posted by coffeefilter at 11:49 AM on May 21, 2008

Um...drive slow?
Yeah for the wildlife, but also to see things.

I love the Mesa de Anguila. It's out by Terlingua so you can have a drink with Clay Henry (the mayor) before you head out or after you come back. The mesa is pretty long, so you can go up and hike as far as you want and then return. It has some sweet huecos and the Rio is essentially a steep sided gorge. From the top you basically look down into Mexico. Just Beautiful.

I also like the Chisos.
posted by Seamus at 1:40 PM on May 21, 2008

It has been a long time, but used to you could go down to Rio Grande village on the river and pay a local to row you across to Boquillas del Carmen - a quaint village on the Mexican side that feels (or felt in 1973) like stepping back in time 100 years. However, we had to steal a rowboat to get back as no one would take us, it leaked & sank & I almost drowned from laughing so hard before I could grab some roots & haul myself out the other side.

Dry creekbeds make an interesting hike back into some of the canyons off the desert floor, but remember: the Mojave rattler has both hemotoxin & neurotoxin - you get bit several miles from the road & you're in a world of hurt. I came one step from trodding on one. Camping out on the flat during a thunderstorm on the mountains behind was memorable.

If you get bored drive up to Marfa & check out the lights.
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:38 PM on May 21, 2008

I just have some camping advice. When I was there we found some camping that was an official spot, of course, but it wasn't in the mass campgrounds. It was on a dirt road that was kind of undeveloped and the campsite didn't have a firepit or picnic table or anything (if I remember correctly). Anyways, there was no one around as far as the eye can see and I highly recommend this camping if you can find it. I think that the road got considerable worse (4wd and clearance required) just down from our campsite so you would need a vehicle with those capabilities if the campsite that you got was further. I hope this makes some sense. primitive roadside camping is what they call it.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:34 PM on May 21, 2008

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