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Big Bend National Park may be ten hours drive from anywhere, but the Chisos Mountains, a massive, circular igneous outcrop with lush alpine forests, provide nice respite from Texas heat. Emory Peak stands highest among the Chisos Mountains, at 7825 feet, though well below the highest peak in Texas, Guadalupe Peak.
By Texas standards, the easiest dayhike to Emory Peak is quite challenging, with an elevation gain of 2400 feet over 3-4 miles. The standard route is a walk-up from the Chisos Visitor Center along the Pinnacles trail, with a steep 1.2 mile final section on the Emory Peak Trail. You'll find lots of fun and solid rock near the summit for casual scrambles. The west face of Emory boasts a big and sheer drop to the desert floor below. Certainly technical routes may exist here, though warns, "Sturdy rock for safe climbing is somewhat limited in the park, because the majority of the park's exposed vertical rock is composed of unstable igneous rock and sharp fluted limestone."
From the summit, the panoramas are stunning, particularly on a clear day. Expansive desert vistas on all sides, with views of rugged (and higher) peaks well across the Mexican border. The Chisos Mountains are amenable to extended backpacking trips, although finding adequate water is always an issue. Rock climbing at Big Bend is possible, but guidebooks are hard to find. Click here for rock climbing info and regulations.
Another approach is via the Juniper Canyon trail (8.5 miles). To reach the trailhead, turn left at Panther Junction and drive about five miles to Glenn Springs road. Turn right on Glenn Springs road and drive about two miles to Juniper Canyon road. Follow this road for about four miles until reaching the trailhead. Both Glenn Springs road and Juniper Canyon road require a four-wheel drive high clearance vehicle.
Here are several maps of the area: Online Maps (PDFs).
Public transportation is completely nonexistent in this area. The closest bus station is in Fort Stockton, 130 miles to the north. Southwest Airlines flies into both Midland, Texas and El Paso, Texas where you can rent a car.
From February 1 - July 15, the Southeast and Northeast Rim trails south of Emory are closed for Peregrine Falcon nesting.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend, TX 79834
The National Park Service offers an "America The Beautiful Federal Lands Recreational Pass" for $80.00 and is good for entrance to all National Parks, National Forests, BLM, US Fish & Wildlife, and Bureau of Reclamation sites for one year from date of purchase. If you're disabled, you may want to get an Access Pass which are free and good for a lifetime. If you're 62 years of age or older, a Senior Pass can be purchased for $10 and they're also good for a lifetime. Click here for more info on fees and passes. Existing National Park Passes and Golden Age/Access/and Eagle Passes will be honored until they expire. (Info courtesy of SP Member Sequoia)
Black-tail Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus) are common along the Pinnacle Trail. Use caution at night and early morning. Considered among the mildest-tempered rattlesnake species.
Black bears are very common in the park, especially the Chisos Mountains. Mountain lions are also common and there have been at least two attacks since 1984. There are signs at the trailhead warning of taking children on the trail or hiking alone.