Day 3 of our our camping trip to Big Bend National Park would be our final day here, but it would end with one of the must-see sights of the park. But first, we were treated to a wonderful sunrise:
What made it spectacular was that we were able to view it from the remote back-country campsite. I highly recommend staying at one of these campsites at least once while in Big Bend! It’s such a different experience from waking up in the middle of a crowded campground. Our campsite, Robbers Roost, is accessible if you have a high-clearance vehicle, but there are other back-country campsites that are accessible by regular passenger cars. Just check with the visitors center rangers, and you can choose the campsite based on their recommendations (and you are required to pay for the back-country permit).
Speaking of high-clearance vehicles, my buddy drove us in his Jeep Rubicon, so we had no worries about traveling to the back-country campsites or trail-heads. It was lots of fun, and the Jeep was certainly in its element!
Next on the agenda was our final trail, and one of the must-see highlights of the park: Santa Elena Canyon. But before I write about that, I have to add a bit of important info about Big Bend. The park occupies a huge amount of land in Texas, so getting from one part of the park to the other takes a significant amount of time. For instance, getting from the Panther Junction Visitors Center, which is kind of in the middle of the park, to Santa Elena Canyon takes over an hour according to Google Maps. And of course, you’ll find yourself wanting to pull over several times on the way to take photos of the incredible landscape! So, make sure you build the travel time into your schedule, especially if you don’t want to set up your campsite in the dark.
Santa Elena Canyon is an amazing sight and very cool trail, but getting on the main trail can be a bit of a challenge, depending on the flow of Terlingua Creek. I’d say half of the people crossed the creek, which came up higher than knee-level this day, and half walked upstream a bit to find a dry crossing. We did the latter on the way in. This dry route involves a little bit of scrambling up the hill to get to the trail, but is not too difficult. If you want to do the creek crossing, wear some shorts or swimming trunks, and have shoes you don’t mind getting wet. A towel would be good to have as well.
But the extra effort of getting across the river will be rewarded by a hike inside the majestic canyon, and some wonderful photos. It’s actually kind of difficult to capture the scale of the canyon because the walls go up so high, but it was fun to try. On this trip, I brought along my Moman tripod and ND-1000 filter so I could blur the water a bit. In the photo at the beginning of this post, I used and exposure of 30 seconds to blur the water. The ND filter and the WCL-X100 wide adapter for my Fujifilm X100T camera made for a nice combination. Still, I had to take four photos and stitch them together to create the final image since I couldn’t capture what I wanted in just a single frame.
That image was taken at a little outcropping not quite at the end of the trail. I think it’s a better view that the one at the end, but I did take a photo at the end. I think the hiker in the photo makes the image work… if she wasn’t there, I probably wouldn’t have posted the photo. But you can get a sense of scale when there’s a person in the image, so I like the photo:
On the way back, my two buddies decided to cross the river. I didn’t want to risk dumping my camera in the water (and I didn’t want to get wet) so I took the dry route back. However, that worked out nicely because I was able to take a photo of them crossing:
After a little break and cleanup at the Jeep, it was time to head home. This trip to Big Bend National Park was pretty epic, with fun camping, lots of hiking, a visit to Mexico, and an endless supply of photo opportunities. And to spend time with friends is priceless. I’m looking forward to our next camping trip! 😊🏕️📷🌌🚙🌇