Big Bend National Park High Point Trip Report

Emory Peak (7,825 ft)

Date: January 1, 2000
Author: Scott Surgent

After my new year's eve in Alpine, I awoke to the new year and proceeded south to Big Bend. It's about 100 miles of driving. The road weaves through the Alpine hills, then drives through some flat bits, then weaves again through the hills and mountains approaching Big Bend. I paid my entrance fee ($10), and drove to the Chisos Basin area.

This is the heart of the Park, and there are lodges, gift shops, stores and ranger stations all about. Quite a few people were there (mostly Texas licence plates). It was pleasantly warm, and I began my hike right about noon.

The Pinnacle Ridge trail gets my vote as one of the nicest, almost nearly perfect trails I have ever hiked! It slowly climbs through low forest cover, crosses a couple meadows, then proceeds up a series of switchbacks that are built at a pleasant gradient, so that before you know it you've gained 2,000 feet! The views are fantastic! The flora is thick but not so dense as to make you feel you're hiking in a tunnel. And the trail is good smooth dirt, mostly free of scree and other annoying junk.

As it was, I arrived at the top of the ridge, 2,000 feet up and 3.5 miles in, in barely over an hour! I surprised even myself. I hooked up with another hiker who was going about the same pace as me, so we ended up hiking the last bit to the summit together.

The route to Emory Peak is along a spur trail that is a bit steeper and rockier than the main trail. The last few hundred feet of the trail is considerably steeper than the rest. The summit was visible: a rocky outcrop topped by a radio tower. To achieve the summit required a very short bit of rock scrambling (about 20 feet up), but the rock is solid and the handholds are bomber. We arrived at the top in clear pleasant weather and relaxed, barely 2 hours into the hike for me (and 4.5 miles from my truck). The views, of course, are beautiful.

We stayed at the top for about 30 minutes then headed down just as a very large group of hikers were just arriving and crowding us out. We hiked down a ways, then split as he took another trail. I was back to my truck exactly 5 hours after starting my hike. Absolutely awesome, a great way to start 2000.

After a dinner at the lodge in Chisos Basin, I left the park and droveback to Alpine, passing through some rain along the way.