Big Bend: The Window Trail

The Window Trail is a longer version of the short Window View Trail in Big Bend National Park that offers stunning views through a small “window” in the canyon.
Up in the Chisos Mountains portion of the park, this five mile round trip hike has an elevation gain of 914 feet and begins at the Chisos Basin Visitor Center (or there is an entrance that shortens the steep portion of the trail from the back of the campground in that area).

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The trail is an out and back, and most of the elevation gain is on the return trip, making for a leisurely walk to the destination, save for a few slippery steps leading up to the “window”, but the need for a bit of an energy burst towards the end.

On the particular day we did this hike, the Thanksgiving crowds were in full force (apparently the park’s busiest holiday, unbeknownst to us before planning to be here for it). A popular family hike, we saw hikers of all ages and varied skill levels taking on this trail. Especially on the not terribly easy trails, it is always great to see young families out there as well as those still going strong well into their seventies and eighties, both of which we aspire to be ourselves some day.

The sun was quite warm at the beginning of the trail, but the air was comfortably cool once we got into the shade of the mountains. Unfortunately, on the way up, this would mean that the steepest part was in the sun, but we survived; though on a blistering summer day here I’m not so sure how fun this would be.

Views were stunning from the start, with a sneak peak of the scenery we’d see through the “window” at the start and the majestic Chisos engulfing us the entirety of the trail.

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The trail was wide and quite free of obstacles, as opposed to some of the rockier trails we’d done elsewhere in the park. Some wide steps were incorporated into the trail in the steeper sections and it is an overall very well maintained trail.

Along the way, we saw this guy on the trail, as well as a couple of flowers in bloom. I had a feeling they must have had rain somewhat recently between the sporadic flowers and all of the ocotillos with leaves on them throughout the park (they’re only supposed to maintain leaves when there is enough water to feed them).

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Things got switched up a bit towards the end as we had to take a few sets of rock stairs and step over some narrow waterways onto slickrock. It was very manageable, save for the few spills I almost took on the slippery rock when we’d step aside for other hikers or be waiting for a young child to step over the water.

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The end was unmistakable when we came to it. A relatively small break in the canyon wall gave way to some postcard-like views of the basin below. Really neat in contrast to the surrounding rock. We made sure not to get too close to the edge though as the same rock I almost slipped on is also what the ledge is made of, and it slopes down a little at that. So make sure to watch the kiddos at this one. A few yards away though was still an amazing view….except that I now realize that by not getting closer to the edge, views below were overexposed in the photo using the “auto” setting – lame! The early views though give a better idea of what it actually looked like to the naked eye, just through a smaller opening!

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Most of the way back was still a pretty comfortable walk, with very gradual inclines. Our hearts started to get pumping in the last mile-ish, but we felt good afterwards, and could see why this is such a popular hike.

We then took advantage of the wifi outside the visitor center since most of the park has no cell reception, and bought the most delicious ice cream sandwiches we’ve ever had at the general store. Some kind of Blue Bunny mud bar that was HUGE, contained chocolate ice cream and gooey fudge. So good and only $2, which is a good price for the usually inflated stores in national parks. Definitely helped with the hot sun, as I clearly wasn’t feeling it!

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The little shade I could find to eat lunch. Ice cream – the solver of most of life’s problems – definitely helped us cool off!

A great hike and ice cream = another great day in Big Bend!

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