23329
Texas/New Mexico

Hiking at Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains & Carlsbad Caverns

Come south this winter to explore diverse ecosystems, geologic formations and human cultures, while hiking in three of our nation’s national parks.
Rating (5)
Program No. 23329RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
1,849
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8 days
7 nights
20 meals
7 B 6 L 7 D
DAY
1
Check In, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
El Paso, Texas
D
Hampton Inn & Suites El Paso-Airport

Activity note: Hotel check in from 3:00 p.m. The activity level for this program is "Outdoor:Choose Your Pace". Participants must be able to hike several miles daily over varied terrain in order to visit most locations on this program.

Afternoon: Program Registration 4:00-5:00 p.m.: After you have your room assignment., come over to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff, to get your welcome packet containing your up-to-date schedule and other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet at the front desk when you check in. Orientation at 5:00 p.m.: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. Transportation for program-related activities will be via 15 passenger van unless specified otherwise. Please be aware that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: Catered Texas Bar-B-Que Dinner at the hotel.

Evening: Take the rest of the evening to continue getting to know your fellow participants, relax, and get a good night’s sleep for the full day ahead.

DAY
2
Chihuahuan Desert, Fort Davis National Historic Site
Terlingua, Texas
B,L,D
Longhorn Ranch Motel

Activity note: This is a long travel day with lots of great breaks. All transportation on the program will be via mini-bus. There is no reserved seating; participants must be willing to rotate seats throughout the program. Several short hikes totaling approximately 3.2 miles are included.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel that includes coffee, milk, juice, eggs, meat (varies), assorted breads and pastries, waffles, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal.

Morning: We will pack up and check out of the hotel this morning. This is one of our longest transfer days, where we will journey to the remote region of the Big Bend. We will also begin the discussion of cultural history, starting with the Jumanos, our earliest inhabitants. A portion of this drive follows the Texas Mountain Trails scenic highways.

Lunch: Picnic lunch at the old oak grove at Fort Davis National Historic Site.

Afternoon: After lunch, we begin our first hike in the Chihuahuan Desert. The Hospital Canyon Trail climbs steadily for 0.7 miles thru oak groves to the North Ridge Trail. Once on the North Ridge Trail, we follow the contour of the edge of the mesa for 0.3 miles to the Tall Grass Loop Trail. Stunning views of Fort Davis and the surrounding mountains fill the skyline. The Tall Grass Loop is 0.8 miles thru dense grass lands, home to our jack rabbits, mule deer and javelina. Finally we will descend back to the fort and walk 0.6 miles back to the visitor’s center. After completing our loop hike, we will explore Fort Davis which was occupied from 1854-1891. We will see evidence of the early settlers: Mescalero Apaches and Buffalo Soldiers. The lieutenants quarters, commanding officer’s quarters, officer’s kitchens and servants quarters, and the enlisted men’s barracks are all furnished in period commodities and are open for exploration. To tour the entire fort is an easy .75 mile walk. Following our exploration of the fort, we will depart for our hotel in Terlingua.

Dinner: After we settle into the Longhorn Ranch Motel, we will enjoy a hot homemade family style Mexican dinner at Tivo's Place.

DAY
3
Big Bend NP, Santa Elena Canyon, Terlingua Ghost Town
Terlingua, Texas
B,L,D
Longhorn Ranch Motel

Activity note: Today we will explore the West Side of Big Bend with three separate hikes totaling approximately 4.5 miles over varied terrain. We will also explore historic sites by foot.

Breakfast: Homemade breakfast bar at Tivo's Place at the Longhorn Ranch Motel; this includes a hot breakfast with plenty of variety and a few items changing daily.

Morning: We will start our morning with a hike on the Native Americans trail, 2.0 miles (easy), with many pictographs, petroglyphs, and metates. Next up is the Homer Wilson Ranch Trail, taking us to an old line camp that was home to one of our most inventive pioneers, .7 miles (moderate).

Lunch: Enjoy a picnic lunch at Cottonwood Campground.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will hike the very photogenic Santa Elena Canyon, 1.8 miles (moderate, 600 foot elevation gain). Towering 1,200 limestone rock cliff walls tower above as the Canyon Wrens serenade us. Next, atop Sotol Vista we will take a short pit stop to witness the expansive views for which Big Bend is so famous. Rounding out a day filled with great history, we will head to the cultural center of Terlingua for a Ghost Town Tour and an amazing sunset.

Dinner: Dinner tonight will be at the historic Starlight Theatre, built during the boom and bust era of mercury mining.

Evening: A visit to the Terlingua Trading Company will follow dinner.

DAY
4
Big Bend NP, Chisos Mountains, Lost Mine Trail
Terlingua, Texas
B,L,D
Longhorn Ranch Motel

Activity note: Today we will explore the heart of Big Bend National Park, hiking approximately 5 miles. You'll need to carry all the drinking water that you will need for the day; we recommend 3 liters.

Breakfast: Homemade breakfast bar at Tivo's Place at the Longhorn Ranch Motel; this includes a hot breakfast with plenty of variety and a few items changing daily.

Morning: We will begin our morning by driving up in elevation to the Chisos Mountains where we will witness how this sky island creates a different ecosystem of a high mountain desert. We will walk among oaks, maples, pines, junipers, and madrones on the Lost Mine Trail, 4.8 miles (challenging, 1,300 foot elevation gain). This trail climbs steadily with amazing views of the Chisos Basin, Pine Canyon, and the Window.

Lunch: We will pack a sack lunch this morning of sandwiches with all the fixings, along with trail snacks. Today we will enjoy lunch on the trail, in the quiet shade of the trees.

Afternoon: After our hike we will enjoy some free time to explore the Chisos Basin visitor’s center; you may choose to relax, read a book, and soak in the view on the Chisos Mountains Lodge front porch or visit the Chisos Mountains Lodge Gift Shop. After driving down from the mountains, we will head out on back country roads to an “off grid” house to learn the ins and outs of desert living.

Dinner: Dinner this evening will be catered at the hotel.

Evening: Following dinner, we will enjoy an evening of star gazing (weather permitting). Terlingua was awarded the “Dark Night Skies Award” and claims to have the darkest night skies in the lower 48. See the Milky Way and shooting stars. Find your favorite constellations and be enamored in the fact that there are more stars visible in it then you remember.

DAY
5
Boquillas Canyon, Boquillas, Mexico, Chisos Mtns
Terlingua, Texas
B,L,D
Longhorn Ranch Motel

Activity note: Today we will travel to Boquillas, Mexico therefore you will need your passport. Also, you may want to bring a little cash as there are several shops with items for sale. We will be on our feet a lot today and will hike approximately 5 miles.

Breakfast: Homemade breakfast bar at Tivo's Place at the Longhorn Ranch Motel; this includes a hot breakfast with plenty of variety and a few items changing daily.

Morning: This morning we will travel to the east side of Big Bend National Park. Our first hike is to Boquillas Canyon, 2.0 miles (moderate). The canyon towers 1,500 feet overhead with its sheer vertical rock cliff walls. The trail winds through the riparian zone (a hot spot for birding), passing many metates, and ending at a pebble beach on the Rio Grande. After this, we will go through the American Port of Entry, the only "Class B" Port of Entry on the Mexican border, on our way to Boquillas, Mexico. Once at the river, we will ride a small ferry boat across the Rio Grande. Next, we will hike into the little village of Boquillas, 2.4 miles (easy), where the main mode of transportation is the burro, most people use wood fired cook stoves, and the families live in one room houses that are painted brightly every color of the rainbow. Once in Boquillas, we go through the Mexican Port of Entry.

Lunch: On a shaded deck that overlooks the Rio Grande, we will enjoy tacos cooked up by Lilia at her family restaurant, Falcon’s. Homemade margaritas, cold Cerveza, Coca Cola, and Aqua Mineral are all pleasing choices. (Lilia makes sure her food is safe, using bottled water to wash veggies and make ice.)

Afternoon: After lunch we will walk around this three block town, stop off at the Park Bar, and do a little exploring. We will also explore the church, school, clinic, and their new solar field. We will wrap up the afternoon by heading back across the border into the US.

Dinner: Tonight we will head up to the Chisos Mountains Restaurant for dinner with a view.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Marfa, TX, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Carlsbad Caverns NP
Carlsbad, New Mexico
B,L,D
Hampton Inn & Suites Carlsbad

Activity note: This is a travel day with lots of great stops and activities along the way. This afternoon we will hike down into Carlsbad Caverns, approximately 3 miles.

Breakfast: Homemade breakfast bar at Tivo's Place at the Longhorn Ranch Motel; this includes a hot breakfast with plenty of variety and a few items changing daily.

Morning: We will pack up and check out of the hotel this morning. Then we will drive through Alpine, Marfa, and Van Horn en route to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We will take a mid-morning break at the Prada Store art exhibit in Marfa. Once in Guadalupe Mountains National Park we will stop at the Frijole Ranch Historic Site, which dates back to 1876. The seven buildings are now a walk thru exhibit.

Lunch: Lunch will be at a picnic pavilion on the Frijole Ranch, which was named because frijoles were a staple food in the region.

Afternoon: After lunch we will travel the short distance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and explore the visitor’s center upon arrival. Next we will hike the Natural Entrance Trail down into the deepest caverns, 1.5 miles (moderate). Our night sensors awaken as we descend and wildlife talks shift to that of bats. We will build on our cultural history to understand the caverns chronology of human habitation. The caverns' microbiology adds to the geologic discussion. Once we reach the bottom we will hike the Big Room Trail passing many stunning formations, 1.5 miles (easy). Finally, we will ride the elevator to the top. Time permitting, we will browse through the Visitor's Center Museum.

Dinner: At a local Carlsbad restaurant a short ride from the hotel, choose from a select menu of home-cooked options; a range of non-alcoholic beverages is included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Guadalupe Mountains NP, McKittrick Canyon, Farewell Dinner
El Paso, Texas
B,L,D
Hampton Inn & Suites El Paso-Airport

Activity note: We will explore Guadalupe Mountains National Park with a hike of almost 5 miles. You'll need to carry all the drinking water that you will need for the day; we recommend 3 liters.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel that includes coffee, milk, juice, eggs, meat (varies), assorted breads and pastries, waffles, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal.

Morning: We will pack up and check out of the hotel this morning. Then we begin our day with a hike on the McKittrick Canyon Trail, 4.8 miles (moderate). The Capitan Reef is one of the best preserved fossil reefs in the world. This hike also follows a small spring fed creek, where wildlife thrive. Ending at the Historic Pratt Cabin (1936), we will relax on the front porch rocking chairs as we reflect on how much change this rock cabin has seen in its lifetime.

Lunch: Today we'll enjoy a picnic lunch at historic Pratt Cabin.

Afternoon: Our next walk is to the Pinery Butterfield Stagecoach Ruins, .8 miles (easy). This was a relay station on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route, which in 1857 had the first letter to travel from east to west by means other than a steamship sailing around South America. Following this, we will explore the visitor’s center before departing for El Paso.

Dinner: Our Farewell Dinner will be at Los Bandidos de Carlos and Mickey’s, which has been serving up fine Mexican food since the 1950’s in an eclectic memorabilia-filled venue.

Evening: Enjoy live music at Los Bandidos de Carlos and Mickey’s

DAY
8
Program Concludes
El Paso, Texas
B

Activity note: Hotel check out by 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: Hotel breakfast buffet is available. This meal concludes our program.

Morning: If you are departing from the hotel today, please check out no later than 12:00 p.m. 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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