Sunday Hikes: Emory Peak Trail

Emory Peak is the tallest point in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park at 7,825 feet above sea level. The Chisos are a unique mountain range because they are completely contained within the borders of the national park. Even though the mountain is only half the size of its northern Rocky Mountain brothers, the views from the top are astounding.

The trailhead begins in the Chisos Basin, either by the camp store/visitor center or a little further down the hill in the overflow parking (if you are planning an overnight trip be sure to park in the overflow). The trail begins up a couple steep stretches with some loose footing before reaching the first set of backcountry campsites, Juniper Flat.

From here the trail goes flat through the Boulder Meadows area which houses the second set of backcountry sites. After passing Boulder Meadow 5, the trail gets steeper with more switchbacks as you pass the Pinnacles campsites. From Pinnacles the trail is steep and long with switchback after switchback and despite only being a mile will wear you out so be sure to stop and take in the view and enjoy some water.

Once you finish this section you will enter a flat area with Toll Mountain to the East and Emory Peak to the West. Here is the only restroom along the way (it’s literally a hole with a fence around it) and three large bear proof boxes to store your things in. This is a great place to sit down and have a snack before the next mile of the hike. At this point you have hiked about 4 miles and climbed about 1,500 feet.

The next mile is definitely the most difficult stretch with a third of the elevation gained in this mile. After the first long stretch the south side of the park’s views will open up and you will be able to see far into Mexico. The views on this trail start great and get better every time you look!

The last quarter mile is the steepest and has loose footing so be careful as you make your way up to the top of the mountain. The trail ends at the bottom of two large rock formations that make Emory Peak’s peak. The one with the antennae is the higher and true peak. At this point the trail turns into a short 25 foot up rock scramble that isn’t too difficult to traverse. The trick with this part isn’t having technical skill but having nerve because of the thousand foot drops on either side of you as the wind blows through the rocks. After you muster up the bravery to climb up though you are rewarded by views that are only impeded by the horizon.

After spending some time at the top, taking in the views, and munching on a granola bar, you gotta figure out how to get down! After you do that then it’s just a short 5 miles back to your car! The hike down goes by quickly and there are often deer along the trail (I am sure they are there on the way up but I always see them on the way down).

Once you reach the bottom walk right into the lodge restaurant and have a nice steak dinner after your long and difficult hike! The first time I hiked Emory peak it took about three hours but the National Park Service suggests allotting seven hours for the hike so it could possibly take all day so be sure to pack enough food and water for your hike!

Thanks! – Josh

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