The South Rim of Big Bend NP is offered In the spirit of Wheeler Geologic area, Black Ridge, and Island in the Sky
. Although Big Bend offers several mountains the South Rim area is higher than many of the mountains within the park and just 500 feet lower than the highest point in the park Emory Peak
. The South Rim requires a long, moderately strenuous hike that is minimum of 12.6 miles and could easily extend to 16 miles or more depending on the routes taken. There are plenty of back country camp sites which allow the trek to be done over a few days. Although the South Rim never offers the 360 degree panoramic views that we are accoustomed to with mountains, the South Rim offers 180 degree views for a long duration of the hike.
From the Persimmon Gap visitor centor on 385 go 27 miles south and then turn right on 118 then after a few miles turn left on the road to the Chisos Basin through Green Gulch. The Basin is about 7 miles. Park at the visitor center. The trailhead is on the south end of the visitor center. Laguna Meadow and Pinnacles trail will both lead to the South Rim. Laguna Meadow is slightly longer but not as steep as the Pinnacles trail. Pinnacles trail passes the Emory Peak
trailhead where energetic people could do Emory Peak on the way to the South Rim. The overall altitude gain of either route is about 2000 feet from the Chisos Basin with most of the gain in the first 3 miles. Another option is starting from the desert below from the Juniper Canyon trailehead. Overall length from Juniper Canyon trailhead is still about the same while altitute gain would be about 3000 feet.
Back Country Permits are required for any back country camping. A $15 entrance fee is required for entrance to the park. From Feb 1 - July 15 the Southeast Rim portion of the trail is closed due to Peregrine Falcon nesting. The rest of the trails are still open.
When To Climb
All times are good. Big Bend is busiest at Spring Break and Christmas break. During the spring the Southeast Rim is closed but the rest or the trails for the South Rim remain open. The desert is hot in the summer but the Chisos are typically in the 80 degree range. Snow is infrequent in the winter. See Red Tape.
There are several back country mountain campsites available as well as camping in the Chisos basin which offers 63 campsites. There are other desert area back country camp sites which offer access through the Juniper Canyon trailhead as well. Lodging is available in The Basin only a mile from the trailhead. Information on lodging in The Basin as well as nearby locations can be found here