Route: Chisos Escalada (TX)

Texas, US
22.8 mi

Big Bend National Park, Sam Nail Ranch to Emory Peak and back.

Tyler Priest described the route:

Oak Spring Road to Oak Spring Trail to The Window Trail to Pinnacles Trail to Emory Peak Trail to Emory Peak, and back down the same route.

The Chisos Escalada is a full ascent and descent of the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, a mountain range of volcanic origin located entirely within the bounds of the national park in the rugged desert borderlands of Far West Texas. The Escalada is a 22+ mile round trip with almost 5,000 feet in net elevation gain. It begins below the towering Chisos Mountains, directly across the road from Sam Nail Ranch on Oak Spring Road. After 2 miles of a gentle gradual climb along a gravel road, Oak Spring Trail makes bigger gains in elevation as the trail takes you near the bottom of The Window pouroff, and then up and over The Window and into the Basin. This ascent provides the first challenge of steep terrain.

The trail then drops you down onto The Window Trail, as you gently climb up deeper and higher into the Chisos Basin, fully surrounded by towering mountains. After the Window Trail brings you close to the services of the Chisos Basin (water, restrooms, convenience store), the ascent continues on the Pinnacles Trail, steeply taking you up and out of the Basin. Expect stretches of this ascent to bring runners to a fast hike at best.

After reaching the rim of the Chisos Basin at the top of the Pinnacles Trail, the 1.5 mile Emory Peak Trail picks up with an initially gentle climb providing expansive views to the east. The last half mile of the Emory Peak Trail is the most steep and technical section of the route, most notably including the scramble to the top of Emory Peak which is 100 feet of Class 4 climbing. Upon topping out, you’ll have 360 views atop the highest point in the center of the Chisos Mountains.

After more than 11 miles, the Escalada deescalates. After scrambling down the peak and navigating down steep technical sections, your pace will pick up as you cruise back to the Pinnacle Trail. The Pinnacle Trail then descends rapidly, but a few surprise climbs on the way down provide a test your weakening legs.

As you descend back to the heart of the Chisos Basin, a trip to the water fountain, and perhaps the convenience store, is likely in order. Then the trail picks up once again on the Window Trail. After a gentle descent, Oak Spring Trail picks up .25 miles from the dramatic Window pouroff--a short but worthy side trip if time and energy allow. Oak Spring Trail provides the final big climb of the route which then drops you out of the Chisos Basin and brings you back down to the grassland floor outside of the mountains. As Oak Spring Trail turns back onto Oak Spring Road, 2 gentle rolling miles bring you back to your starting point, where hopefully some ice cold beverages and proper refueling awaits you.

GPS Track