If you plan on putting the Lost Mine Trail on your itinerary while you visit Big Bend, here are a few things you need to know.
The Lost Mine Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Big Bend. And for good reason. Most folks can do this hike under half a day (under 5 miles round trip) and it offers staggering vistas down Pine Canyon, the desert floor beyond, and even Sierra del Carmen in the distance. The trail offers an alpine environment filled with junipers and pines that augments your visual experience with the wonderful scents of the mountain air that is reminiscent of Christmas trees. You start around an elevation of 5,650 feet and ascend to just under 7,000 feet. Because of the elevation, the trail can still be quite chilly in the morning, making it a good option for the summer months. It can be downright cold, even snowed under, in the winter.
Before heading out to the trailhead, check the Big Bend NPS website. I have often seen the trail closed due to bear activity. Not that the black bears are necessarily a threat but because we try to give them the space they need in their own natural habitat as they work their population back to healthy numbers.
Also, the trailhead parking is very limited and fills up quickly when the park is busy. Get there early, like 7:00 AM, to ensure you have a place to park. The next parking lot is at the Chisos Basin Visitors center which is about a mile and a quarter away adding 2.5 miles round trip to the hike. And even that lot gets full during the busiest seasons (spring break, Thanksgiving, Christmas).
It is an uphill hike on the way up and you do hit some tiresome switchbacks as you near the end, but I’ve seen a broad range of fitness levels able to make this fulfilling hike. The trick is to pace yourself and rest often if you need to. There’s no race and you have plenty of time if you got there early enough. Heck, I’ve seen a bus full of elderly make the trek. Some were quicker than others but, they took their time and little by little made it to the end where you are offered staggering views.
Still don’t think you can make the whole trip? There is a ridge just under a mile up the trail that still offers a great view of Juniper Canyon and beyond. Definitely worth the effort. See above pic.
I’m going to end each article I write with a plea to respect the park. Respect the Rangers, speed limits, and others around you. Don’t be loud. Nobody wants to hear your music or your conversation. Don’t leave anything behind, even the Goldfish your kids drop along the way. Oh, and respect the locals so you don’t give visitors a bad name. We have one Big Bend NPS, let’s preserve it and make it a delight for everyone to visit.