Cerro Castellan is the prominent, isolated butte that dominates the Santa Elena Canyon area in the southwest corner of Big Bend National Park. It is an imposing and impressive sight: Sheer cliffs guard all sides of the peak, and at first glance, it seems somewhat improbable that an easy route exists up the peak. Closer study reveals a fortuitous set of weaknesses on the east side, offering a steep, enjoyable, rewarding, and surprisingly straightforward scramble to the summit.
Although this is just a short diversion from the road--a couple of hours or less, round trip--it is nonetheless a worthwhile one to an outstanding desert peak. Don't miss this if you're in the area!
From the small communities of Telingua/Study Butte, Texas, just west of Big Bend National Park, head east on TX 118 into the park. Turn right (south) on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and follow the road several miles towards Santa Elena Canyon. A short way past the signposted Tuff Canyon Overlook, turn left (west) on River Road West, and drive just a few yards along this dirt road. Park here, east-northeast of the peak.
Red Tape, Camping/Lodging, Grub, etc.
The peak lies within Big Bend National Park, and is subject to the usual NPS red tape; please refer to the area page
for details about fees and camping inside the park.
The nearest lodging, showers, gas, and food are found in Telingua/Study Butte. Showers are available for $3 at Study Butte RV Park, or for $2/6 mins at the Motor Inn RV Park. Limited supplies (mostly groceries) can be bought at the FINA at the Big Bend Motor Inn, located at the west end of town; there is a small store/cafe/bakery here (6am-10pm).
The cheapest lodging in the area is found at the Chisos Mining Company Motel
(approximately $50/night as of April 2007), located on FM 170 a short way west of the junction with TX 118.
Dining options are surprisingly good given the remoteness of the area and relative lack of other amenities. The following are excellent; please see the links below for further details, hours, maps, etc:
- Terlingua Springs Market/Coffee Shop - Located on FM170, about 1/2mi west of the junction with TX 118. Home baked pastries, organic foods, and fresh coffee.
- Phat Cafe - Located on Allen Lane, a short way past the Telingua Springs coffee shop. Asian cuisine, by reservation only; about $20/person.
- Starlight Theater - Located in Terlingua Ghost Town. (In the ghost town, turn right at the junction by the El Dorado Hotel; the restaurant is located a short way past this in an old theatre.)
Weather/When To Climb
This peak lies in the southern Texas desert; summer climbing is not recommended! Late fall through early spring are best.
There are a number of useful resources on the web for planning a visit to this area. The following two links should suffice to tell you everything you need to know: