Chinati Peak is the highpoint of the Chinati Mountains. It is also the highpoint of Presidio County. This impressive mountain is located in a remote corner of Big Bend Country in west Texas and is only a few miles from the Mexican border. However, because of its remote location, and the fact that it is currently inaccessible to the public, Chinati Peak is relatively unknown. I'm sure many people have never even heard of the mountain. I believe that Chinati Peak is located within a Texas State Park, but the park is currently closed to the public. I've also heard that the summit of Chinati Peak is on private land. Either way, the mountain is off-limits for now. However, the park may be opened to the public at some point in the future.
Despite its remoteness, Chinati Peak is a major landmark. Those driving on US 90 between Van Horn and Marfa can see the impressive, dome-shaped hump of Chinati Peak rising prominently in the distance to the southwest. Chinati Peak is encircled by jagged desert peaks and rugged canyons. Although the summit of Chinati Peak is broad and relatively flat, it is surrounded by cliffs and brush-filled drainages on all sides.
The 60-mile stretch of road between Marfa and Ruidosa is known as the Pinto Canyon Road, or FM-2810. This road probably offers one of the most scenic and solitary drives anywhere in the country. The road cuts through a range of ecological zones. Starting from the grasslands of the Marfa Plateau, the road heads southwest for the volcanic crags of the Chinati Mountains, then drops into the depths of Pinto Canyon. After winding through the scenic Pinto Canyon and crossing several streams, the road heads for the scorched desert terrain along the Rio Grande Valley near Ruidosa. This road is truly a hidden gem. If you're in the area, you can also take FM-170 along the Rio Grande River, which is also a scenic route.
Big Bend Ranch State Park is located nearby between the towns of Presidio and Lajitas along FM-170. The ranch encompasses nearly 300,000 acres of Chihuahuan Desert wilderness and was purchased from private landowners in 1988. At this time, there is little development, but certain areas of the park have limited recreational and vehicular access.
From Marfa, Texas, drive southwest on FM-2810. This is also known as the Pinto Canyon Road. This scenic little road is initially paved and starts heading through the grasslands southwest of Marfa. You will soon see the giant dome of Chinati Peak looming in the distance. The Border Patrol is active around here. After 32 miles, the pavement ends, and you abruptly start your sometimes perilous descent into Pinto Canyon. The road is rough in places, but the canyon is pretty spectacular. You will see a sign that says private property for the next ten miles through Pinto Canyon. There is private land on either side of the road, but the road itself is a county road. Continue your descent into the canyon. A sedan can usually make the trip under good conditions, but as usual, a high clearance vehicle is recommended. The Pinto Canyon Road continues through the scenic canyon and heads for Ruidosa on the Rio Grande River.
The Chinati Mountains are currently closed to the public. However, the nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park is open to the public.
Camping is not allowed in Pinto Canyon. However, camping is allowed in the nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park.