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Hiking in the Unspoiled Beauty of Big Bend

Program Number: 11958RJ
Start and End Dates:
2/2/2013 - 2/9/2013; 11/1/2015 - 11/6/2015; 11/8/2015 - 11/13/2015; 11/15/2015 - 11/20/2015; 11/29/2015 - 12/4/2015; 12/6/2015 - 12/11/2015; 1/10/2016 - 1/15/2016; 1/17/2016 - 1/22/2016; 1/24/2016 - 1/29/2016; 1/31/2016 - 2/5/2016; 2/7/2016 - 2/12/2016; 2/14/2016 - 2/19/2016;
Duration: 7 nights
Location: Big Bend National Park, Texas
Price starting at: $1,285.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Walking/Hiking; National Parks Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 16; 7 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    

Hike your way through Big Bend National Park, one of the most remote, wildly beautiful and peaceful places in America. Geological history spanning millions of years and a discussion of the “brief” era of the dinosaurs will add to the appreciation and mystique of what the early Spanish explorers called “El Despoblado” — the empty land.


• Explore historic Terlingua, a former “ghost town” that is now a quaint desert town, and its Starlight Theater restaurant built in 1931 as the movie theater for the mining community.
• Hike through three ecosystems — mountain peaks to desert springs and river trails.
• See Native American rock art and soak in the Hot Springs after a six-mile hike along the Rio Grande.

Activity Particulars

Varies by date. Dec. 6, 2015 │ Jan. 10, 2016: Challenging – Hiking 8-10 miles daily over varied terrain. Elevation gains of more than 2,400 feet. All other dates: Moderately Challenging – Hiking up to six miles daily over varied terrain.

Terrain varies from desert floor to mountain trails, generally rocky and uneven. Due to the size of Big Bend National Park, full days with a field lunch are spent away from the accommodations. Single rooms only offered on some dates.

Date Specific Information


Moderately challenging. Daily hikes up to six miles a day. Terrain varies from desert floor to mountain trails, generally rocky and uneven. Includes one night at an El Paso airport hotel both at the beginning and end of the program. For details, call or go to
Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

11-1-2015, 2-7-2016, 2-14-2016

Program based at Chisos Mountains Lodge, the only accommodation in Big Bend National Park. Group size no larger than 20.

11-8-2015, 11-15-2015, 11-29-2015, 1-17-2016, 1-24-2016, 1-31-2016

Program based at Far Flung's Big Bend Casitas in Terlingua and limited to 18 participants.

12-6-2015, 1-10-2016

Program based at Far Flung's Big Bend Casitas in Terlingua and limited to 12 participants.

Big Bend National Park

Bordering the Rio Grande, Big Bend is one of the largest and least visited national parks. Its dramatic canyons, desert expanses and Chisos Mountain range are home to exceptionally diverse plant and animal life. Big Bend offers a unique opportunity to experience an ancient and austere landscape in relative solitude.

Varies by date. Either a charming casita ("little house" in Spanish) with two queen beds, kitchenette, and 200-square-foot porch with rocking chairs facing a landscaped courtyard, or full-service lodge in Big Bend National Park.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Adana Martinez

In her 12 years with the Far Flung Outdoor Center at Big Bend National Park, Adana Martinez has shared her love of the park’s solitude with many who have explored it with her. She studied Exercise and Sports Science at Texas Tech University, specializing in wellness for older populations, and has worked in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. In addition to her intimate familiarity with Big Bend’s backcountry, Adana has led outdoor adventures in Colorado, Utah, and California.
Thomas Styron

With more than 11 years’ experience leading people through some of the most remote river systems in the U.S., Thomas Styron was drawn to Big Bend by his preference for arid environments and remote terrain. He fell in love with the area’s distinct blend of cultures, rich history, and diverse ecosystems. Thomas has a knack for sharing his fun-loving attitude and genuine enjoyment of the landscape with others, and participants on his programs often come away having awakened new interests.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
  El Paso, TX 1 night
   Chisos Mountains Lodge
  Big Bend National Park, TX 5 nights
   Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
  El Paso, TX 1 night
 Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
Type: Hotel
  Description: This hotel is conveniently located near the El Paso International Airport and Fort Bliss. In addition to the convenience of being merely 1/4 miles from the El Paso Airport, this beautiful Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham hotel shares a parking lot with two great restaurants.
  Contact info: 6789 Boeing Drive
El Paso, TX 79925 USA
phone: 915-778-6789
  Room amenities: Clock/Radio, Coffee Maker, Iron, Ironing Board, Hairdryer, Work Desk And 32 Inch LCD TV With HBO In All Rooms
  Facility amenities: The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle service and features a business center, a fitness and exercise room, and an outdoor swimming pool and spa. You can also enjoy free, in-room, high-speed, wireless internet access and expect a great hot breakfast buffet served southwestern style every morning.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

 Chisos Mountains Lodge
Type: Lodge
  Description: The Chisos Mountains Lodge is the only accommodations in the National Park. The Lodge located in the heart of the Chisos Mountains in an area known as the Basin, is surrounded by stunning views of the Chisos Mountains. Wildlife such as deer, javelina and all kinds of birds are often spotted in the area. A park visitor center and gorgeous "get-away" spots are only steps from the rooms.
  Contact info: Rural Station, Basin Area
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 USA
phone: 432-477-2291
  Room amenities: Coffee maker, microwave, refrigerator AC/heat and wall to wall carpet in all rooms. No TV, radio or phones in rooms. Pay phones available in general Basin area. Cell phones generally do not work. VCR/TV rental available.
  Facility amenities: One coin-operated washer/dryer is available. Limited Internet "hot spot" for wireless laptop. A small convenience store, National Park small visitor center, restaurant and gift store.
  Smoking allowed: No

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Check in at 3:00 pm. You will be staying at Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham that night.
  End of Program:
Ends after breakfast. Check out by 12:00 pm. You will be staying at Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Participants will be sent Far Flung Outdoor Center's Liability Release Form in orientation packet. It must be filled out, signed and sent back to Far Flung prior to program date. No exceptions.
  Parking availability:
Free parking on site
To Start of Program
  Location:  El Paso, TX
  From End of Program
  Location: El Paso, TX
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

El Paso, Texas


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle


Per Person/One Way:


Included in the cost of the program
Prices are subject to change.


Free shuttle service from the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham in El Paso is included in the cost of this program date. Please call 915-778-6789 for more information.

Elevation Note: The Lodge is at 5400 feet elevation. Highest hiking elevation will be 6650 feet.

Equipment Requirements: Good hiking boots or strong walking shoes, Camelbak or equivalent, Day pack, Flashlight, Hiking stick or trekking poles (strongly recommended), Zip-lock bag with toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrive Hawthorn Suites for pre-program overnight accommodation
(Saturday, February 2)
 Afternoon: Arrive at the Hawthorn Suites. Check-in begins at 3 pm. Free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel. Please call 1-915-778-6789 for more information.
 Evening: Dinner on your own. There are multiple restaurants within walking distance from the hotel.
Accommodations: Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham

Day 2: Transfer to Chisos Mountains Lodge; Check-in/Orientation
(Sunday, February 3)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hawthorn Suites
 Morning: Meet in the hotel lobby at 9 am and begin the transfer to Big Bend National Park for start of program.
 Lunch: The group will make a stop along the way to break for lunch on your own.
 Afternoon: Check-in between 4 and 5 pm. The Road Scholar Group Leader will be in the Lodge lobby by 3:00 PM but generally the Lodge cannot accommodate check-in prior to 4 pm. Should you arrive earlier than 4:00 PM there are plenty of places to explore in the Basin. Please plan to arrive no later than dinner which is at 5:30 in the Chisos Mountain Lodge restaurant
 Dinner: Welcome dinner at Chisos Mountain Lodge, 6:00 pm
 Evening: Orientation and introduction meeting following dinner.
Accommodations: Chisos Mountains Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3: Hike Grapevine Hills/The Window/Big Bend National Park evening presentation
(Monday, February 4)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at Chisos Mountain Lodge, 7:00 am
 Morning: Hike Grapevine Hills trail in Big Bend National Park. Hike is approximately 2.2 miles round trip with little elevation gain. Walking in sand for about a half-mile at the first of the hike will be required. One of the most photographed sites in the national park, "Balance Rock" can be seen at the end of this trail. Degree of Difficulty - Easy
 Lunch: Deli style picnic field lunch.
 Afternoon: Hike "The Window" trail in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park: hike is approximately 4 miles round trip with a 500 foot elevation gain. It's a bit of an "opposite" type of hike in that we hike down the mountain - into the "Basin" and then have to hike back up at the end of the morning. This hike offers great views of "The Window" - a break in the mountain range looking out across the desert; the end of the hiking trail crosses several streams of water. Degree of Difficulty - Medium
 Dinner: Dinner, Chisos Mountain Lodge at 6:00 pm.
 Evening: Evening program presented by Big Bend National Park. Programs vary from week to week. They can be anything from the history of Big Bend National Park, to dinosaurs, birding, geology and the night sky.
Accommodations: Chisos Mountains Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Full Day Hike, Historic Hot Springs/Mining History/Ghost Town
(Tuesday, February 5)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at Chisos Mountain Lodge, 7:00 am
 Morning: Rio Grande Village on the east side of the park is the destination for the day. We will hike 3 miles along the Rio Grande - with great views of the river - to the historic Hot Springs. There will be plenty of time at the Hot Springs for participants to view the restored buildings of the early settlement and health resort (1900 to 1940) as well as the Native American rock art. Participants wishing to soak in the Hot Springs should bring swimwear. There are restrooms for changing. Following a sack lunch we will hike back to Rio Grande Village. The hike is 6 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain. Degree of Difficulty - Medium
 Lunch: Sack lunch carried by participants.
 Afternoon: Hiking continued.
 Dinner: Prior to dinner at the well known Starlight Theater restaurant in the historic Terlingua Ghostown, a short presentation on the mining history of the area will be given by the guide. The Starlight was built in 1931 as the movie theater for the mining community and was resurrected from ruins as a restaurant in 1991. It is considered by most visitors to the area as a "must see."
 Evening: The Starlight Theater has hosted musicians such as Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. Tonight one of our own local musicians, Cowboy Doug will provide entertainment. Who knows, he might just be the next Willie!
Accommodations: Chisos Mountains Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Hike Mule Ears and Santa Elena Canyon/Evening Program with BBNP
(Wednesday, February 6)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at Chisos Mountain Lodge, 7:00 am.
 Morning: Mule Ears Trail on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive in the western part of the National Park is a 3.8 mile round trip hike through open desert has no significant elevation gain, but does cross several arroyos (gullies). Primitive trail ends at a natural desert spring and old stone corral which was once part of the Castolon Ranching Properties. Degree of Difficulty - Medium
 Lunch: Deli style picnic field lunch at the Castolon/Cottonwood area in the southwest section of the National Park. Castolon was an old cavalry post built in 1920. The military withdrew in 1921 and it then became a frontier trading post. There is a store that is still open today.
 Afternoon: The Santa Elena Canyon Nature Trail begins at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive on the west side of the park. Although a short hike (1.7 miles round trip with an elevation gain of approximately 200 feet) there are quite a few steps on this trail into the canyon where the walls rise to 1800 feet. Once inside the canyon a brief presentation on the Rio Grande will be given by your guide. Degree of Difficulty - Medium
 Dinner: Dinner, Chisos Mountain Lodge at 6:00 pm.
 Evening: A presentation on one of the many faces of Big Bend will be given by the National Park Service.
Accommodations: Chisos Mountains Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Hike Lost Mine Trail/Free Time/Farewell Dinner
(Thursday, February 7)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at Chisos Mountain Lodge at 7:00 am.
 Morning: Hike Lost Mine Trail located in the Chisos Mountains; spectacular hike of approximately 5 miles; one of the top hikes with all visitors as well as locals to the National Park. Once the top is reached and at an elevation of 6850 feet, one can see on a clear day hundreds of miles. Degree of Difficulty - Medium
 Lunch: Sack lunch to be carried by participants.
 Afternoon: Free Time
 Dinner: Dinner will be a special event at the offices of Far Flung Outdoor Center in Terlinugua.
 Evening: Return to Chisos Mountain Lodge following dinner.
Accommodations: Chisos Mountains Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Transfer back to El Paso.
(Friday, February 8)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at Chisos Mountain Lodge between 7:00 and 9:00 am.
 Morning: Leave at 10 am for the transfer back to the Hawthorn Suites in El Paso.
 Lunch: The group will make a stop along the way to break for lunch on your own.
 Evening: Dinner on your own. There are multiple restaurants within walking distance from the hotel.
Accommodations: Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 8: Departure from the Hawthorn Suites to the El Paso Airport
(Saturday, February 9)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hawthorn Suites.
 Morning: Independent transfers to the El Paso airport. Free shuttle service can be arranged through the Hawthorn Suites. Please call 1-915-778-6789 for more information. Participants will depart from the airport independently.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Big Bend National Park, TX Big Bend National Park
Official Website For additional information, visit
  Big Bend Tourism Council
Official website for the Big Bend area outside the National Park For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Most Singular Country-A History of Occupation in the Big Bend

Author: Arthur R. Gomez

Big Bend Country, Land of the Unexpected

Author: Kenneth B. Ragsdale

Description: Ragsdale's stories cover a half-century, roughly 1900 to 1955, from wagon trains to the filming of an epic movie, a time in which the face of the Big Bend changed: the quicksilver mines closed, a national park was established, isolation and cattle gave way to vacation ranchettes and tourists.

Big Bend Vista, A Geological Exploration of the Big Bend

Author: William MacLeod

Big Bend, A Homesteader's Story

Author: J.O. Langford

Description: A story of the Langfords' life in the rugged and spectacularly beautiful country which they came to call their own. This account is told with the help of Fred Gipson, author of Old Yeller.

Big Bend, The Story Behind The Scenery

Author: Carol E. Sperling

Description: This book is dedicated to all who find Nature not an adversary to conquer and destroy, but a storehouse of infinite knowledge and experience linking man to all things past and present. They know conserving the natural environment is essential to our future well being.

Exploring the Big Bend Country

Author: Peter Koch & June Cooper Price

Description: Photographer-naturalist Peter Koch first visited the new Big Bend National Park in February, 1945, on assignment to take promotional pictures for the National Park Service. He planned to spend a couple of weeks—and ended up staying for the rest of his life. Koch's magnificent photographs and documentary film-lectures Big Bend, Life in a Desert Wilderness and Desert Gold introduced the park to people across the United States, drawing thousands of visitors to the Big Bend. His photographs and films of the region remain among the best ever produced, and are an invaluable visual record of the first four decades of Big Bend National Park. In this highly readable book, Koch's daughter June Cooper Price draws on the newspaper columns her father wrote for the Alpine Avalanche, supplemented by his photographs, journal entries, and short pieces by other family members, to present Peter Koch's vision of the Big Bend. The book opens with his first "big adventure," a six-day photographic trip through Santa Elena Canyon on a raft made from agave flower stalks. From there, Koch takes readers hiking on mountain trails and driving the scenic loop around Fort Davis. He also describes "wax smuggling" and other ways of making a living on the Mexican border; ranching in the Big Bend; the prehistory and Native Americans of the region; collaborating with botanist Barton Warnock on books of Trans-Pecos wildflowers; and the history and beauty of Presidio County, the Rio Grande, and the Chihuahuan Desert.

God's Country or Devil's Playground

Author: Edited by Barney Nelson

Description: In this anthology of nature writing, Barney Nelson gathers nearly sixty literary perspectives on the landscape and life of the Big Bend region, broadly defined as Trans-Pecos Texas and northern Chihuahua, Mexico. In addition to Leopold and Webb, the collection includes such well-known writers as Edward Abbey, Mary Austin, Roy Bedichek, and Frederick Olmsted, as well as a wide range of voices that includes explorers, trappers, cowboys, ranch wives, curanderos, college presidents, scientists, locals, tourists, historians, avisadores, and waitresses. Following a personal introduction by Barney Nelson, the pieces are grouped thematically to highlight the distinctive ways in which writers have responded to the Big Bend.

Hikers Guide

Author: Park Staff

Description: Covers all major trails in the park, from short self guiding nature trails to strenuous backpacking routes.

Hiking Big Bend National Park

Author: Laurence Parent

Description: Comprehensive guide to 44 most popular hikes in the national park as well as three hikes in Big Bend Ranch State Park

I'll Gather My Geese

Author: Hallie Crawford Stillwell

Description: The New York Times identified Hallie Stillwell (1897–1997) as a "rancher and a Texas legend." As readers of her autobiography know, she became a rancher because she married one, but the legendary status she earned on her own. At the age of nineteen, Hallie decided to take a job teaching school in the remote border town of Presidio, Texas. Her father thought it a dangerous proposition and told her she was getting into a wild goose chase. She responded, "Then I'll gather my geese." After teaching for a year, she got a proposal from an old-fashioned rancher twice her age, Roy Stillwell. Hallie's escapades as a bride in the rough environs of the Big Bend ranch have appealed to thousands of readers.

Naturalist's Big Bend

Author: Roland Wauwe

Description: An Introduction to the trees, shrubs, wildflowers, cacti, mammals, birds reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects of the Big Bend.

The Big Bend Guide

Author: Allan C. Kimball

Description: Whether spending two days or 10, Kimball provides the skinny on what to do, what to see and how to get there.

The Big Bend of the Rio Grande

Author: Ross Maxwell

Description: The most definitive overall guide to the Big Bend by the park's first superintendent, Ross Maxwell who was also a geologist

The Big Bend, A History of the Last Texas Frontier

Author: Ron C. Tyler

Description: A study of four centuries of human society-Indian, Spanish, Mexican, Texan and American - in a region remote and little known.

The Story of Big Bend National Park

Author: John Jameson

Description: This book offers a comprehensive, highly readable history of the park from its founding in 1944 up to the present.

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