Friday, December 11, 2015

Outer Mountain Loop- Day 1

The Outer Mountain Loop is a popular 30-mile trip in Big Bend National Park that highlights a wide variety of habitats. It climbs over the Chisos Mountains twice and traverses the lower-elevation desert section beneath the towering rim. Pathfinder and I opted for two nights following the NPS suggested itinerary.  
Over the mountains and through the desert, and back over again.
Reports of the difficulty of this trip had us a little on edge. Rangers warned us that people get lost and die all the time on this route. They also advise you to carry all your water for the first 20 miles.  However, we got specific instructions on water source locations from the Big Bend Chat website and also had firsthand information that the water was flowing. But still, we didn’t know what to expect.
How much water do we carry for 2 days?
Starting from our backcountry campsite at Boulder Meadows (to get a slight head start), the climb up into the Chisos mountains via the Pinnacle Trail seemed easier to me than it had the previous day, despite my water-ladened pack. I think I was fueled by happiness.
My favorite time of day!
The oaks of Boot Canyon took my breath away for the second time. Photo by Pathfinder.
Down the Juniper Canyon Trail, new and diverse terrain captured our attention, and the views of the desert below, our future, seemed distant.  Though we would be there in only a few hours.
Soon we will be all the way down there!
Upper Juniper Springs was flowing fresh and clear in a thick grove of majestic oaks.
Our designated camping zone started after the oaks gave way to cactus and spiny shrubs. 
Pathfinder and I found a flat patch of bare earth surrounded by grasses and cactus. Under the clear open sky, we saw pleiades and cassiopeia come out, then millions more stars I can't name.
Cowboy camping.
By 7 PM, it already seemed really late since it’d been dark almost an hour, so 7 was declared the new hiker midnight, and we fell asleep to the chorus of crickets.

For more information:

Big Bend Chat- updated info and planning tips on the Outer Mountain Loop
NPS website about the Outer Mountain Loop
Mary’s excellent trip report (this is what got us inspired to do this trip)


  1. How fun to read this! It makes me want to go back. And it makes me laugh that the Rangers also told you no water.

    1. It was a wonderful loop! Big Bend is certainly a new winter favorite.

      I was glad I learned from you to ask fellow hikers (and volunteers)about the water.

  2. Really love the cowboy camping photo, can't always hang, but can improvise.

    1. Thanks Don! This is only the second time I've ever cowboy camped. Having the klimet torso pad allowed me to sleep much better. My legs were still much more sore the next day than they are if I sleep in the comfort of the hammock, but I got enough rest to hike.

      I'm glad to add cowboy camping to my skillset. Next up is learning to pitch the tarp on the ground in heavy winds and thunderstorms... still don't have that down.

  3. Hanging anything from any natural feature is not allowed in Big Bend NP.

    1. FYI to all you hammock hangers out there...

      Hammock use on natural structures at Big Bend is prohibited under article 2.10 of this document:

  4. Hey Joan, You have some wonderful photos of the Outer Mountain Loop. A Hike I have never done myself (sadly). I wonder if you would let me use one of your photos in an upcoming blog post I am doing. I am happy to give you credit and link back to this article? Please Let me know. My Email is Steven.outdoors (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. Yes, feel free to use the photos if you give them credit! Thanks! Sure is a wonderful hike and area!