Big Bend in winter

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 23-30, 1996

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Big Bend in winter
Q: How is the weather in Big Bend National Park in January and February? Any suggestions for places to go, helpful hints, etc.?
Hal Herrin
Hiawassee, GA
[email protected]

A: Big Bend is one of the few national parks in the Lower 48 that isn't buried under two feet of snow or chilled by frigid below-freezing temperatures in January and February. Average daily highs in this lonely corner of southwestern Texas usually reach between 59 and 64 degrees, with lows dipping down to the mid-30s.

With weather like this, you'll want to get out and enjoy the park's spectacular desert landscapes, the rugged Chisos Mountains, and the lush floodplains of the Rio Grande. You'll have your choice of short self-guided walks or full-day backcountry hikes throughout Big Bend's 800,000-plus acres of remote wilderness. For a good introduction to the park's remarkably diverse plant life--not to mention panoramic views of the Chisos Basin--stretch your legs on the Lost Mine Trail, a moderately strenuous, 4.8-mile round-trip trek. Pick up the trailhead and an informative booklet just beyond 5,770-foot Panther Pass, the highest point on the park road.

If you're feeling more ambitious, try the 5.2-mile Window Trail, a moderate hike that starts from the Chisos Campground and Basin parking lot and descends through open grasses into shaded Oak Creek Canyon. From there, the canyon narrows and trees give way to polished rock and a spectacular V-shaped opening in the mountain called the "Window." To find the trail, follow the park road past Panther Pass to the basin, a three-mile-wide depression in the mountains, chiseled by wind and water. The basin trailhead is located just west of the ranger station.

For more information on other don't-miss sights, call Big Bend park headquarters at 915-477-2251. Or check the National Park Foundation's guidebook page for Big Bend.

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