Texas mountains and Emory Peak
Big Bend National Park does not have any 14ers, but it does have mountains that reach half that height in the Chisos Mountains. The tallest of the group is Emory Peak at 7,825. The hike to the top is a great adventure perfect for a day hike from Chisos Basin or an easy diversion if hiking the Outer Mountain Loop.
I was hiking the latter and stopped to check out the highest mountain in Big Bend. The highest mountain in Texas is Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park at 8,751 feet.
I had hiked 3.5 miles up the grueling Pinnacles Trail to the top of the Chisos Plateau weighed down with almost two gallons of water, so I was happy to take the backpack off. I only had a couple of miles to my camp, so I had plenty of time for the one mile one-way hike to Emory Peak.
The hike to Emory Peak
At the trail junction, there is a bear box, so you can leave your backpack in the metal box and then hike with just water and any snacks to the top of Emory Peak. The Emory Peak Trail dead ends at the top of the mountain. There is a campsite about a quarter of a mile up the trail.
The elevation is already pretty high at the trail junction, so the Emory Peak Trail is not too difficult, especially compared to the section of the Pinnacles Trail just completed. It gradually goes up, but it is not too hard without a backpack until you get to the very end.
The very last part of the trail goes virtually straight up for about hundred feet. At first sight you might be intimidated by the incline; however, it is easier than it looks. There were plenty of secure rocks to place your hands and feet on. If you have the stamina to hike the 4.5 miles from the Chisos Basin to this point, you most likely can handle the last climb to the top of Emory Peak unless you are petrified of heights.
Making friends at Emory Peak
I ran into Ryan and Scott from Houston at the base of the climb. They were debating on whether to finish the climb, any sane person would when confronted with the last part of the trail, but they soon joined me at the top. We talked about Big Bend, travel, and Texas history. I mentioned I had visited the Alamo, and one of the young men attended Sam Houston State, so an interesting discussion followed. He mentioned I should visit San Jacinto since I enjoyed the Alamo and enjoy history in general.
Whenever you are solo traveling and solo hiking in particular, it is great to have good conversation. It is also nice meeting people on the road in order to have pictures taken. I don’t mind the occasional selfie, but they get old after a while. I did take one selfie of the experience before they joined me, and then we did a self-timer picture of the three of us.
The view was spectacular. Big Bend, Mexico, and West Texas were laid out in front of our eyes. The colors were not so great as the area is in a severe drought, so brown was the dominant color. It felt great to feel the breeze up here as at 7,000 plus feet. I would long for this feeling later on my hike when I crossed the stifling desert in 100 degree heat.
We scrambled down the steep precipice back to the more level portion of the trail and headed back down toward my backpack. We split up there as I was heading toward my campsite in Juniper Canyon, and they were heading back down to the Chisos Basin as they were day hiking. It was also nice to have conversation now because I would not see many people the next couple of days when I hit the more remote part of the park in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Emory Peak tips
- It is 4.5 miles one-way, so about 9 miles round trip from the Chisos Basin. It is straight up going up and straight down going down. Make sure you start relatively early, so you can comfortably enjoy and arrive back down in daylight.
- Make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen as most of the climb up is in the sun. There is shade on top of the Chisos Plateau, but you lose that when you near the top of Emory Peak.
- When climbing the last section be careful where you put your hands. Texas is home to poisonous snakes, scorpions, and spiders. Don’t stick your hands where you cannot see.
- Proceed slowly and make sure every rock you grab on to and step on to is firm. Dealing with a broken bone over 4 miles away from help would not be fun.
- Probably not a good trip for the kids. Athletic high school aged kids in good shape could complete the hike and probably make the climb. I would not suggest bringing children under 16. Climb and hike at your own risk and bring your children at yours and their own risk.
- There is no water on top of the Chisos, so all water must be carried from the Chisos Basin. Plan on bringing close to a gallon per person for those day hiking.
- No need to bring oxygen 🙂
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