OverviewCasa Grande (spanish for "Big House") is located in the heart of Big Bend National Park, overshadowing the Chisos Mountain Campground and Visitors' center. The hiking trails in the area give you great views and access to all sides of Casa Grande, and can be quite crowded when close to the parking area. The mountain is roughly a square in shape with rhyolite cliffs and flat topped summit. Prickly pear cacti are the dominant species on the summit plateau, with more variety in the valleys, but dominated by juniper trees. Erosion has created plenty of passages up to the summit with some rock scrambling or easy climbing move being the crux of the climb. Rock climbing to the summit is an obvious option, but unless you're well versed in protection placement, you might at least second guess that option since rhyolite doesn't offer the most secure protection.
The Topo Map (on the map, note the campground, Panther Pass parking area/trailhead, visitor's center...
and remember, those are intermittent desert streams.
Getting ThereBig Bend National Park is in SW Texas, where the Rio Grande makes that big bend. There's a visitor's center in the center of the park called the Chisos Mountain Visitor's center which is right by Casa Grande. (The road getting into this area of the park is windy and at times, it's steep, so is one of those NPS roads that has signs recommending length restrictions for RV's and campers, aka: the good spots.) The Chisos Basin Campsite ("The Basin") at 5401 ft will be a good place to rest your stiffness from the drive. You can see the northwest side of Casa Grande from the Basin campsite.
The Lost Mine Trail leaves Panther Pass few miles from the campsite. There's convenient trailhead parking there too, and a guided trail brochure with informational signs for the beginning section. The trail begins on the north side of the mountain, and circumnavigates clockwise around to the east side before moving on eastwardly. Thick vegitation makes it hard to break from the trail right away, but this trail offers views of the north and east face of Casa Grande, so you can study your route from the trail on the way up, and break from the trail when the opportunity arises.
Access to the west and south sides of the mountain can be obtained using the Juniper Canyon Trail, which is the route many take to climb Mt. Emory, the highest peak in Big Bend. Toll Mountain views the South side of Casa Grande, and Emory Peak views the Southwest side of Casa Grande. There are not any official NPS trails leading up Casa Grande, so you'll have to make your own way to the mountain after breaking with one of the park's main trails. This southeast side is the most eroded, so it should offer the easier way to the top.
Mountain ConditionsRemember, don't plan on finding water on Casa Grande unless it's raining or you'll end up opening a prickly pear.
Daily Weather Report from Big Bend National Park
The NPS/NOAA weather station at the base of the northwestern side of Casa Grande
Webcam looking due West. Casa Grande would be behind you if you held this camera
Leaving soon? Here's the the satellite view to see if a storm might be approaching.
The majority of the park’s exposed vertical rock is composed of unstable igneous rock (rhyolite). Nevertheless, you should still find plenty of safe protection placement locations. No drilling is allowed according to NPS regulations, but you may replace existing bolts under certain circumstances.
Talk to the Chisos Mountain Visitor's Center park rangers. They'll have the most up to date information about the conditions, existing bolts, etc., and they most always have a pleathora of other good things to know.
Red TapeYou'll need the Big Bend National Park visitor's pass, or a National Park Pass, Golden Eagle passport, etc., which you can buy at the entrance to the park. That's it! Permits are not required for climbing, although voluntary registration at one of the visitor centers is encouraged. A backcountry permit isn't necessary as the mountain overlooks the road into the Basin, but you may consider getting a backcountry permit (they're free at the visitor's center) if you want to continue beyond.
Here is a NPS map of the Chisos Basin Visitor's Center area with the looming Casa Grande.
When To ClimbAnytime. I was there in October, and it was fantastic. The autumn colors arrive in November. This is southwest Texas, remember, so it's hot and dry. Water is not easy to come by in the backcountry, so be prepared in the deadly summer heat. Water is available at the Basin campsite and the Chisos mountain visitor's center nearby.
Summer-like temperatures can be observed year round during the daytime. The rains generally come in summer afternoons, helping to cool things off, but it's still hot at night in the summer. Spring weather can be all over the place, and it's been known to even hail. Winter nights can drop below freezing. So, it might be wise to plan your trip around your preferred weather patterns.
CampingThe most practical option is to camp at the Chisos Mountain's Basin campsite, especially after the long drive to get there. Locally called "The Basin." and residing at the base of Casa Grande. It's a typical NPS campsite: small sites, closely packed, picnic table, and a nearby, but segregated area for RV's. You'll certainly be lured to the Casa Grande as the morning light textures the mountain. Water is available in camp. More luxurious conditions are also available in the basin for those so inclined.
Summit Treasure!!!On the summit there is a little jar tucked under a prickly pear that contains a little notebook and a pen. I found it accidentally when I nearly sat on it. People have been signing it for years. I found it on the northern side of the summit, about 6 feet from the edge. Good luck finding it!
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