Emory Peak, Big Bend National Park

Distance: 5 miles one way to the summit
Overall elevation gain:  ~2400 feet one way
Summit elevation: 7,825 feet
Location: Big Bend National Park, Texas
Date: October 21, 2013

Emory Peak left of center from the Basin trailhead

Emory Peak is the highest point in the Chisos Mountains and Big Bend National Park at 7,825 feet in elevation. It's also the tenth highest point in Texas, but it is the most prominent peak in the state, rising 4,485 feet above the Rio Grande. I hiked to the peak as a side trip on day one of hiking the Outer Mountain Loop, which is a 31-mile loop hike (without side trips) through and around the Chisos Mountains.

The shortest route to Emory Peak begins at the Basin trailhead and follows the Pinnacles Trail for its entire length to the low point on the ridge between Emory Peak and Toll Mountain. Much of the Pinnacles Trail moderately gains elevation passing through forest and meadows with occasional views back into the Basin and of Casa Grande. The trail begins to gain elevation a little faster as it climbs the north side of Emory Peak passing the namesake pinnacle rock formations before emerging on the top of the ridge at the end of the trail.

Looking towards Emory Peak (obscured at right) from the Pinnacles Trail

Casa Grande from along the Pinnacles Trail

Along the upper part of the Pinnacles Trail

The point where the Pinnacles Trail ends is where the Boot Canyon Trail begins and where the Emory Peak Trail heads west and up to Emory Peak. The Emory Peak Trail was rebuilt in the past few years and is now 1.5 miles long and has an overall gentler grade. The lower part of the trail now also has views to the south and east of Boot Canyon, the South Rim, and other parts of the Chisos Mountains. As the trail approaches the summit it becomes steeper before arriving just below the summit.

Lower part of the Emory Peak Trail

Emory Peak Trail looking towards Emory Peak in the distance

The final 30 to 40 feet of elevation gain requires a scramble up the rocks that make up the summit. The summit has 360-degree views of the park, as well as the park's radio equipment. On the west side of the summit cliffs drop several hundred feet, and there was a peregrine falcon flying around at eye level just off the peak for a while when I was on the summit.

Looking south from Emory Peak. Juniper Canyon is left of center, Blue Canyon at right, South Rim at center, and Casa Grande and the Basin at far left

Looking west from Emory Peak. Blue Creek Canyon is left of center

Looking into the Basin from Emory Peak

After carefully scrambling back down the summit, I hiked the 1.5 miles out to the junction with the Pinnacles and Boot Canyon trails. I picked up my gear (which I stashed in bear boxes the park provides for people like me) at the this intersection and continued hiking down the Boot Canyon Trail. As I passed through Boot Canyon the water was flowing quite well through the canyon thanks to recent rains. After 1.3 miles on the Boot Canyon Trail I reached its intersection with the Juniper Canyon Trail. By this point I had hiked 7.8 miles with at least 6.2 more to go down Juniper Canyon on my first day. I had passed several people on the Boot Canyon Trail, but once I turned on the the Juniper Canyon Trail, I left the relatively high use area of the high Chisos and didn't see another person for about 48 hours.

Continue with my post about Juniper Canyon and later on the Dodson Trail.

Boot Canyon and on to Juniper Canyon with the boot at right

Looking up into Boot Canyon

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.


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