The Window Trail
Big Bend National Park, Texas
The Window Trail leads directly to the Window, a large rock canyon that cuts through the Chisos Mountains rim, allowing drainage from the Basin to the Chihuahuan Desert. The V-shaped Window frames panoramic desert views and forms a perfect silhouette for the colorful Big Bend sunsets—the hike itself offers excellent opportunities to view wildlife, plant life, and the fascinating geology of the Chisos Basin. There are two trailheads for this trail—you can start at the Basin Trailhead for a roundtrip distance of 5.6 miles and an elevation drop of 980 feet, or save yourself a few agonizing steps by starting at the Basin Campground, which reduces the distance to 4.4 miles roundtrip and the elevation drop to 500 feet. The trail descends for its entire length making for an easy hike, but remember, the return requires a significant climb—not wanting to climb any farther than needed, we decided to start our hike at the lower trailhead. Eager to reach the brink of the Window, we set out on the trail under the bright afternoon sun—instantly upon setting foot on the trail, we were surrounded by butterflies—and for the remainder of our hike, we were never without a butterfly as a hiking companion. California sisters, queens, fritillaries, sulfurs, crescents, whites, mestra, painted ladies, and buckeyes filled the blue sky with their beauty—making an amazing hike even more enjoyable. As the trail descends, it leaves the Basin and enters Oak Creek Canyon—depending on rainfall, a spring sometimes surfaces in the canyon bottom, creating a flowing stream—lucky for us, the water level was high enough for the picturesque stream to be flowing. Although, after the improved dirt trail ends, the trail follows the chasm carved from the creek, and when the water is flowing the hiking is more difficult—nonetheless, it is great fun hopping from rock to rock in order to cross the stream. Approximately the last 0.25 mile of the hike traverses the slickrock canyon where footing becomes more difficult—there are rock steps, slippery wet surfaces, and several stream crossings. Making our way across the water and polished rock, Pick and I marveled at the spectacular scenery before reaching the top of the pour-off—what an incredible vista! The appropriately named Window, offers a view into the desert below and beyond, its high walls towering above the polished rock that is the pour-off—do not approach the edge too closely, the rocks are slick and a fall to the desert 220 feet below would be fatal. The two of us took our time exploring the area and taking photographs before beginning the climb back up to the campground, a climb of 500 feet over 2.2 miles. The return hike was just as beautiful as the descent into the canyon—excellent views of Casa Grande and Emory Peak rounded out the beauty of the day, making The Window hike one of our favorites in Big Bend National Park.