Planning a trip to Big Bend Natl Park in December

Discussion in 'Americas' started by wellcraft, Oct 10, 2020.

  1. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    The last two December's I've enjoyed taking motorcycle trips from PA to Tucson to enjoy some great weather and roads but this year I'm looking to travel someplace different and Big Bend National Park looks like a good option. I'm looking for warm dry weather, great scenery and enough roads to plan 5 or 6 days of riding. I also plan to to do a bit of hiking so at least two days maybe three would be spent walking instead of riding. I'm looking for advice on roads, eateries, lodging as well as suggestions for places to see and things to do both inside and outside the park as well as any locations to avoid. I will not be doing any camping, did enough of that in the military, so my lodging options will be in a hotel. I don't need to stay in the most extravagant location but I don't want to stay in a dive either just something safe, comfortable, affordable and within a reasonable driving distance of the park. I know there's a resort in the park which would be my first choice if the price is right and rooms are available but that seems unlikely.

    I'll be riding my 2020 GSA and prefer to stay on paved roads but I'm open to unpaved roads but nothing super technical or difficult since my off road riding experience is limited to riding on my lawn :-) I'll also be riding solo so I don't want to get into an area where if I drop my bike there's no one around to help me pick it up. Thanks
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  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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  3. bomose

    bomose Long timer Supporter

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    Cannonshot's report is a great way to find out most everything. It may be too late to get reservations at the Chisos Mt Lodge, but you can try. My wife and I have stayed there before and it is excellent. Lots of good trails around there, too. If not, Terlingua has some pretty good motels and more places to eat. The Kiva has really good steaks. If possible, go to Emory Peak. We rode a lot around there two years ago on my 990. Old Ore Road is not too difficult and you can hike to the Ernst Tinajas. We also did the River Road. Most was pretty easy 2 up, but the west end had very deep sand. At least go to the Marsical Mine on the east end. And the Hot Springs are down a short dirt road.
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  4. scfrank

    scfrank Old farts riding club. Supporter

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    Terlingua Ranch is a great place to stay. Decent cabins. Decent restaurant. Interesting history.

    “ I'll also be riding solo so I don't want to get into an area where if I drop my bike there's no one around to help me pick it up.”

    You’re going to area where people are a long ways apart. Chisos Basin is worth a visit.

    Santa Elena Canyon. Rt 170 west.
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  5. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    Too bad you're not going to camp. Sunrise atop the Chisos is quite a view.

    I've day hiked a loop from the Chisos Basin campground into the mountains, made a full loop that included summiting Emory Peak, and back down the other trail to the campground. It's a long day, but you'll hit the most scenic parts of the Outer Mountain Loop in one go, and without the need to carry as much of a load. Be aware that there's some Class 3 scrambling towards the summit of Emory.

    If you can arrange a shuttle, it's possible to day hike from the Chisos Basin all the way down to the valley floor via the Window Trail, or just turn back at the Window if you don't have a ride. Hike up it if you want more of a challenge. Cattail Falls is also in that area, but I'm not sure how much water will be flowing in December. The hike to Mule Ears is fun, too. Boquillas Canyon Overlook is easy to access. The Mariscal Rim Trail is much more demanding, but it offers a spectacular overlook into the canyon.

    Black Gap Road might be ok to try on your bike as long as it's dry, but it'd be an out & back trip since there's a big obstacle in the middle of it. Big Bend State Park is nearby. I've been meaning to visit.
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  6. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    Thanks for sharing the link with me, you've provided a ton of information and it's going to take me a few days to read through all 20+ pages and absorb it all.
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  7. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    I called Chisos MT Lodge and attempted to make online reservations without success so I called them but no answer so left a message and waiting to hear back from them.
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  8. sstracke

    sstracke Been here awhile

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    A few ideas for "road-only" riding in the Big Bend area...

    Lodging in Big Bend appears to be closed until 2021. Terlingua lodging isn't plentiful, and can be a bit "rustic". I have enjoyed staying in an old travel trailer at Retro Rents.

    Be aware the speed limit in the park is 45mph in most (if not all) of the park. Sticking to roads you've got, basically, three options in the park - Santa Elena Canyon, Chisos Basin and Boquillas Canyon. Luckily, all three are nice rides, although relatively slow speed. And, they are all out and back routes.

    The road between Terlingua and Presidio is a lot of fun. I have ridden it one way, only to turn around to ride it the other way just for fun. Hotels in Presidio shouldn't be hard to find.

    Take the road to Candelaria, and you'll feel you're even more in the middle of nowhere - without riding dirt, it's an out and back as well.

    Star Parties at McDonald Observatory would be fun, but they sell out pretty fast. Of course, then you're riding twisty roads late night in December - look out for deer, javalina, F-250's, etc....

    Take the loop from Fort Davis to past McDonald Observatory to Hwy 166 and back to Fort Davis. Indian Lodge would be a great place to stay, but it can book up quickly (notice a recurring theme?). There are other hotels in Fort Davis, as well.

    Marfa is worth a ride through (since you almost have to), but unless you're an artist you may feel unimpressed. Marfa Burrito, however, is a great place for breakfast or lunch. I've stayed at the Paisano, and like it a lot.

    Various chain hotels in Alpine.

    On your way from PA, ride the Sisters on your way to Big Bend. Start in Medina, ride to Leakey, then decide which direction to ride the loop. When it says 15mph, they mean it, unless you are comfortable on tight turns with little room for error...and the odd patch of loose gravel. I've gotten stopped twice on Hwy 337 on either side of Leakey, for 8mph over the posted speed limit. The only mountie I've ever seen on either Hwy 335 or Hwy 336 was stopping traffic for a Life Flight helicopter. Hwy 41 is 80mph for 14 miles.
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  9. AustinRT

    AustinRT Been here awhile

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    All great recommendations especially the Sisters on the way. That suggestion assures you ride hwy 90 from Del Rio to Marathon. Much better than IH10. I always enjoy opening up the throttle on this couple hour stretch.
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  10. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    Thanks for everyone's input and suggestions but a deer encounter two weeks ago has derailed my planned trip to Big Bend. Deer jumped right out in front of me I didn't even have time to hit the brakes, hit the deer, bike went down and slid into a car coming from the opposite direction. Bike totaled, me with a broken leg and a few scrapes and bruises, deer jumped up and ran off. Not a good day but injuries could have been significantly worse so I'm thankful I came away with a small bit of road rash and a broken leg. I'll save everyone's suggestions and hopefully can make the trip next year.
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  11. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    Well, that sucks. Good to hear that you're relatively ok.

    Is another GSA in your future?
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  12. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    I was riding my 2016 K16GTL when I had my encounter with the deer so my 2020 GSA is still in the stable and ready to ride. Now that my K16 is gone I'm not certain I'll keep the GSA, the GSA may get traded in for a 2021 R1250RT. Not sure what I want to do at this point but I have plenty of down time to decide, 12 weeks before I can put any weight on my leg, and by that time PA will be in the middle of winter so no riding anyway.
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  13. DADODIRT

    DADODIRT Long timer Supporter

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    Just poked in here as I'm working on plans for Big Bend this winter. @wellcraft - glad you're ok. Those PA deer can be bad.
    I'm going to dig into Cannonshot's RR again. Then I might start another thread. Don't want to hijack here.
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