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Texas

Hiking in the Unspoiled Beauty of Big Bend

Program No. 11958RJ
From desert vegetation to the lush floodplains of the Rio Grande, from dinosaur fossils to Native American pictographs, come hike and learn the story of Big Bend, in Texas.
Length
6 days
Rating (4.97)
Activity Level
Starts at
1,799

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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
Activity Level: Outdoor: Spirited (10)
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Feb 5 - Feb 10, 2023
Starting at
1,799
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Nov 12 - Nov 17, 2023
Starting at
1,799
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Dec 3 - Dec 8, 2023
Starting at
1,799
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Jan 7 - Jan 12, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Jan 21 - Jan 26, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Feb 4 - Feb 9, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Oct 13 - Oct 18, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Nov 3 - Nov 8, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Nov 24 - Nov 29, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Dec 8 - Dec 13, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Activity Level: Outdoor: Spirited (10)
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Feb 5 - Feb 10, 2023
Starting at
2,349
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Nov 12 - Nov 17, 2023
Starting at
2,349
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Dec 3 - Dec 8, 2023
Starting at
2,349
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Jan 7 - Jan 12, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Jan 21 - Jan 26, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Feb 4 - Feb 9, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Oct 13 - Oct 18, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Nov 3 - Nov 8, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Nov 24 - Nov 29, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Dec 8 - Dec 13, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking up to 6 miles daily over varied terrain; elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Activity Level: Outdoor: Challenging (8)
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Feb 12 - Feb 17, 2023
Starting at
1,799
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Oct 22 - Oct 27, 2023
Starting at
1,799
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Dec 11 - Dec 16, 2023
Starting at
1,799
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Jan 14 - Jan 19, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Jan 28 - Feb 2, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Oct 20 - Oct 25, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Nov 10 - Nov 15, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Dec 1 - Dec 6, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Activity Level: Outdoor: Challenging (8)
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Feb 12 - Feb 17, 2023
Starting at
2,349
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Oct 22 - Oct 27, 2023
Starting at
2,349
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Dec 11 - Dec 16, 2023
Starting at
2,349
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet. This departure takes place in Marathon.

Jan 14 - Jan 19, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Jan 28 - Feb 2, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Oct 20 - Oct 25, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Nov 10 - Nov 15, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

Dec 1 - Dec 6, 2024
Starting at
2,199
Itinerary Note

Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain; Elevations up to 6,850 feet.

At a Glance

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 in Texas will add to the appreciation and mystique of what the early Spanish explorers called “El Despoblado” — the empty land.
Activity Level
Varies by date
Varies by date. Outdoor: Challenging – Hiking 7-12 miles daily over varied terrain. Outdoor: Spirited – Hiking up to six miles daily over varied terrain. Elevations up to 6,850 feet.
Micro Group
Micro Group
These adventures feature our smallest group size, with 12 participants or fewer.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • 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 Texas Rio Grande.

General Notes

Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Alicia Wright
Alicia comes from a river family in Northwest Colorado. In 2013, she moved to Moab, Utah and became a full-time river leader on the Colorado Plateau. The Rio Grande enticed her to the Big Bend Region in the winter of 2017. Alicia fell in love with the Chihuahua Desert, the diverse cultures of the international border and the vibrant history of Texas. Her passions have propelled her to lead hiking groups through the Big Bend National Park and share what she has learned.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Alicia Wright
Alicia Wright View biography
Alicia comes from a river family in Northwest Colorado. In 2013, she moved to Moab, Utah and became a full-time river leader on the Colorado Plateau. The Rio Grande enticed her to the Big Bend Region in the winter of 2017. Alicia fell in love with the Chihuahua Desert, the diverse cultures of the international border and the vibrant history of Texas. Her passions have propelled her to lead hiking groups through the Big Bend National Park and share what she has learned.
Profile Image of Tara Shackelford
Tara Shackelford View biography
Tara’s love for adventure and family roots in the desert of West Texas prompted her to share her passion for community, adventure and conservation with the world through her company, Hidden Dagger Adventures. She has worked for various companies in the outdoor field, including Outward Bound California, and is thrilled to be back in her home state of Texas to deliver top notch trips.
Profile Image of Joe Lorenz
Joe Lorenz View biography
Joe Lorenz hails from northern Wisconsin. He attended St. Norbert college, graduating in 2015 in biology. After working a year at the University of Colorado-Boulder, he completed a Master of Science in Molecular Biology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He completed wilderness medicine training through NOLS in Lander, Wyoming, earning his EMT license, which led him to Terlingua, Texas, working as an EMT and river guide. Since then, he has worked as a football coach, substitute teacher, wildland firefighter, and in safety management.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Big Bend Vista, A Geological Exploration of the Big Bend
by William MacLeod
The Story of Big Bend National Park
by John Jameson
This book offers a comprehensive, highly readable history of the park from its founding in 1944 up to the present.
Big Bend, A Homesteader's Story
by J.O. Langford
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.
Hiking Big Bend National Park
by Laurence Parent
Comprehensive guide to 44 most popular hikes in the national park as well as three hikes in Big Bend Ranch State Park
The Big Bend, A History of the Last Texas Frontier
by Ron C. Tyler
A study of four centuries of human society-Indian, Spanish, Mexican, Texas and American - in a region remote and little known.
I'll Gather My Geese
by Hallie Crawford Stillwell
The New York Times identified Hallie Stillwell (1897-1997) as a "rancher and a Texas legend." 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
by Roland Wauwe
An introduction to the trees, shrubs, wildflowers, cacti, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects of the Big Bend.
God's Country or Devil's Playground
by Edited by Barney Nelson
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.
Beneath the Window: Early Ranch Life in the Big Bend Country
by Patricia Wilson Clothier
A memoir by Patricia Wilson Clothier. Before it became a national park, the Big Bend was home to a number of ranches and mining operations. On the Wilson ranch, which stood at the center of the current park, Mrs. Clothier spent her youth exploring the wonders of ranch life in the Chisos. Patricia's richly detailed memories, coupled with a backdrop of Depression era hardships, bring the Big Bend to life in this original and vivid description of a childhood spent "Beneath the Window".
Big Bend, The Story Behind The Scenery
by Carol E. Sperling
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.
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Big Bend Country
D
Marathon Motel

Activity note: Motel check-in available from 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:00-5:00 p.m. Upon arrival, check-in at the Marathon Motel main office. Here you will register with the program staff, get any updated information, confirm the time and location of the orientation session, and get keys to your room. After registration, there will be some time to settle into your room before the welcome dinner and orientation. For arrivals after 5:00 p.m. please contact us directly using the contact information in our pre-program communication.

Dinner: At the Rita's Cantina, behind the main office of Marathon Motel.

Evening: Orientation: 7:00 p.m. at Rita's Cantina. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to applicable requirements and guidelines throughout the program. Transportation will be provided via 15 passenger vans. Hikes will be led by a hiking instructor. Dinner locations have alcohol available for purchase onsite. If you wish to have a drink during dinner that is not included with the meal, purchase your beverage from the establishment. If you wish to buy your own supply for down time, you are more than welcome to do so, but please do not bring outside beverages to the dinner meals. The last night is BYOB. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/current conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Hot Springs, Nature Trail, Panther Junction
Big Bend Country
B,L,D
Marathon Motel

Activity note: Getting in/out of a passenger van. Hiking about 3+ miles; a portion along a canyon wall with sheer cliffs on one side, long portions of hike with little shade. Minimal elevation change. Bring a hat and sunscreen. Bring swimwear if you wish to swim at hot springs; restrooms available to change in. Hike Rio Grande Village Nature Trail and visit Panther Junction. Mileage from the hotel to the trailhead= 90 miles; 92 minutes.

Breakfast: At Rita's Cantina.

Morning: Our morning hike will take us along the Rio Grande on the east side of the river and the historic Hot Springs. At the Hot Springs there will be plenty of time to view the restored buildings of the early settlement and health resort from 1900 to 1940 as well as Native American rock art. There will also be time to soak and relax in the springs.

Lunch: Field lunch at Historic Hot Springs.

Afternoon: Hike Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. 1 Mile Round trip, 200 ft. elevation gain crossing a wetland area showcasing riparian plants and animals with 360 view at the summit. We’ll visit Panther Junction, the park’s main Visitor Center. We’ll return to our lodging mid-afternoon with some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: Dinner at the Gage Hotel.

Evening: Dark Night Sky Presentation near hotel by local expert.

DAY
3
Hiking Lost Mine & "The Window" Trails
Big Bend Country
B,L,D
Marathon Motel

Activity note: Getting in/out of a passenger van. Hiking 4.8 miles throughout the morning. 1100 ft. elevation gain. Hiking about 4.8 miles throughout the afternoon; several low-water stream crossings. Elevation loss approximately 900 feet. Waterproof hiking shoes or boots recommended. Mileage from the hotel to the trailhead= 78 miles; 80 minutes.

Breakfast: At Rita's Cantina.

Morning: In the Chisos Mountains, we will set out for a spectacular hike along the Lost Mine Trail. It affords a 360-degree view into the southeastern section of the National Park. One of the most popular hikes in the park, we will be rewarded with spectacular views of Pine Canyon and the Sierra del Carmen and in Mexico. On a clear day, one can see hundreds of miles! Elevation gain 1,100 feet. Degree of difficulty: Medium.

Lunch: Sack lunch on the trail.

Afternoon: In the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, we will hike “The Window” — a break in the mountain range looking out across the desert; the end of the hiking trail crosses several streams of water. Steep and loose debris in sections. It’s a there and back hike.

Dinner: Dinner at French Grocer.

Evening: We will be joined by a local expert on the alternative building techniques at Eve's Garden. A small town of under 400 people founded in 1882, Marathon- pronounced "mare-a-thin" by its residents- is known for serving tourists as a final stop before entering Big Bend.

DAY
4
Fossil Exhibit, NPS talk, Upper Burro Mesa, Santa Elena
Big Bend Country
B,L,D
Marathon Motel

Activity note: Getting in/out of a passenger van. Hiking up to 4 miles throughout the morning; uneven terrain, crossing multiple creek beds. Hiking up to 2 miles throughout the afternoon; multiple steps along a canyon wall. Elevation gain approximately 200 feet. Mileage from the hotel to the trailhead= 87 miles; 91 minutes.

Breakfast: At Rita's Cantina

Morning: Visit the Fossil Exhibit, the newest addition to the Park in 2017, where we will learn about the ancient seas and life that existed here more than 250 million years ago on a self-guided tour. We will meet a Big Bend Interpretive Ranger for an informative presentation. Our hike this morning will be along the Upper Burro Mesa Trail. The trail is about 4 miles dry through a creek bed with some rocky portions to maneuver and slight elevation gain. Trail is wide, with some stairs to climb with a steep drop off on one side. Can be muddy in sections if there have been recent rains.

Lunch: Sack lunch on the trail.

Afternoon: We will then head to the Castolon area of Big Bend National Park for a self-directed exploration. Castolon was an old cavalry post built in 1920. The military withdrew in 1921 and it then became a frontier trading post. Our next hike along the Santa Elena Canyon Nature Trail will begin at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive on the west side of the park. We’ll hike through the famous canyon as the walls rise to 1,800 feet. Our next hike along the Santa Elena Canyon Nature Trail will begin at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive on the west side of the park. We’ll hike through the famous canyon with walls that rise to 1,800 feet. We will also learn about the Rio Grande that forms part of the U.S.-Mexico border. We will tour the Terlingua Ghost Town before dinner.

Dinner: Dinner at the Starlight in Terlingua Ghost Town.

Evening: Returning to our lodging, the remainder of the evening is at leisure.

DAY
5
High Chisos Mountain Loop Full Day Hike
Big Bend Country
B,L,D
Marathon Motel

Activity note: Getting in/out of a passenger van. Hiking about 12 miles throughout the day; mountain terrain, well-shaded with conifers and hoodoos, well-defined trail, rocky at times, steep switchbacks. Elevation gain approximately 2,400 feet. Degree of difficulty: Strenuous. Mileage from the hotel to the trailhead= 78 miles, 80 minutes.

Breakfast: At Rita's Cantina.

Morning: We will spend the day hiking in the beautiful Chisos Mountains. We will start in the Basin, hiking 12 miles round-trip with about 2,400 foot elevation gain. The trail follows switchbacks up into the mountains with steep and rocky terrain. Our hike will take us through woodlands opening up to excellent views into the Basin. We will be in the highest part of Big Bend National Park, and the views are often 100 miles in distance.

Lunch: On the trail in the heart of the Chisos Mountains, we’ll have sack lunches.

Afternoon: We will continue hiking the High Chisos Mountain Loop with return to our accommodations around 4:00 p.m.

Dinner: At the Brick Vault. We will share favorite experiences and camaraderie with new Road Scholar friends at Rita's Cantina after dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
Big Bend Country
B

Activity note: Motel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: To-go Breakfast at Rita's Cantina. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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