Today's route, from the Chisos Basin to Santa Elena Canyon to the Terlingua Ghost Town and back to the Lodge is about 126 miles, totaling close to four hours, broken up with stops for hiking in the canyon and dinner at the Starlight Theater.
At the Chisos Lodge.
Hike the Window Trail. This trail descends through Oak Creek Canyon to the Window pour-off which frames panoramic desert vistas. During wetter periods Oak Creek may be flowing, and must be crossed several times. Use caution on this trail: the top of the Window pour-off is slickrock with no railings, and the return hike is uphill. Difficulty: Moderate; approx. 3.6 miles round trip from the campground. More leisurely hikers: Hike the Basin Loop Trail, a moderately travelled 2-mile hike good for all skill levels. Unparalleled views of the Window, without the strenuous uphill climb!
Picnic lunch in a scenic location in the park.
Travel Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Hike Santa Elena Canyon Trail. After crossing Terlingua Creek (conditions permitting), the trail ascends on paved steps to a vista, then descends back to the water’s edge, continuing into the canyon until the canyon walls, rising 1,800 feet, meet the water. Difficulty: Moderate; 1.7 miles round trip. This hike is suitable for all skill levels. More leisurely hikers have the option to stop at the top and enjoy the view without hiking all the way into the canyon if you choose. After the hike, travel to Terlingua Ghostown for a short tour of this fascinating historic cinnabar mining town.
At Starlight Theater, originally built in 1931 as the movie theater for the mining community, and later becoming a site for gatherings under the stars as it remained roofless until the late 80s.
After dinner, stay to enjoy live music (when offered), featuring local or visiting artists and peruse the historic Terlingua Trading Post before we head back to the Chisos Lodge.