Big Bend National Park in Texas is massive to say the least. Anyone who is an avid hiker knows that the statistics of getting lost on some of these desert hikes is not uncommon, however with some sort of planning and a good sense of direction one can have an amazing time hiking this vast landscape of desert and mountain in a one day excursion alone or with someone who they enjoy their company.
My single most enjoyable hike took me an hour from Panther Junction (main cross road in Big Bend) to the off road direction of the trail head. 2 more hours on this dirt, high clearance road and the trail is easily marked to start.
As you get moving on the hike towards the Mariscal Canyon Rim the trail has zero signage and is only marked with Cairns left by other hikers…you always wonder if they are marking the best route. This hike is a 7 mile round trip 2,000 foot elevation gain. Not an easy feat for the average hiker. The weather in the desert in December was around 75-80F, with no cloud cover this means you should have lots of water and sun protection to keep from tapping out before you even reach the edge of the steep climb to the top.
The most enjoyable part of this hike is through the desert, there are plenty of signs that many Mountain Lions are near by, however they are so intensely camouflaged with the mountain terrain they are not easily detected. I did feel the eyes on me as I moved towards my destination. At one point each hiker will happen upon a large diameter of Quartz…they are literally everywhere and some are a massive size. It’s tempting to take a few home, but any hiker knows that we should leave the space around us as we found it.
Climbing to the top of the rim takes strength and patients, being sure to stay on path and follow the cairns that are left to guide you. One can keep hiking over to the downward path to the Rio Grande which would total out this hike for a RT of 13 miles. I took in the view of the rim and headed back down before sunset….I didn’t want to risk a hungry Mountain Lion waiting for that right moment to pounce.