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National Parks in the Wintertime

mm84321

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Looking to see if anyone has any insight as to where the best parks are to visit during this time of year. I have 10 days that I am planning to get away for and would like to be able to do some hiking and other outdoor activities.
 

Hannerhan

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If you don't want to have to worry about lots of snow and freezing cold, head to the Southwest. Big Bend National Park is one of the least visited and prettiest in the U.S. and it's fantastic this time of year. Hotter than hell in the Summer but great right now. And if you head that way you could bounce around from Texas to New Mexico to 4 corners, etc.
 

Svenn

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Originally Posted by Hannerhan
If you don't want to have to worry about lots of snow and freezing cold, head to the Southwest. Big Bend National Park is one of the least visited and prettiest in the U.S. and it's fantastic this time of year. Hotter than hell in the Summer but great right now. And if you head that way you could bounce around from Texas to New Mexico to 4 corners, etc.

Big Bend was gonna be my suggestion too, forecast shows it being in the mid-80's by the end of the week! It's also farther south in latitude than San Diego, so the sun should be fairly high in the sky and bright. The vegetation at the higher altitudes is an extension of Mexican subtropical forest, I believe they even have occasional jaguar visits.
 

Hannerhan

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The bitch of Big Bend is that it's so remote. But then again, remote is what you want when you're in a place like this...

 

mm84321

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Thanks guys! This is exactly the kind of place I had in mind.

Any recommendations on good places to lodge nearby?
 

Hannerhan

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Originally Posted by mm84321
Thanks guys! This is exactly the kind of place I had in mind.

Any recommendations on good places to lodge nearby?


What are you looking for...something nice, mid-priced, rustic, camping, etc? I have lots of recs but it would depend on your price range and which direction you would be coming from. Feel free to respond here or PM me either way but here are some thoughts...

If you want something nicer and like golf, this is right in the area and is solid:http://www.lajitasgolfresort.com/.

This place is high-end rustic and is great if you want less tourists and more quiet but really like good food and are willing to pay for it: http://www.cibolocreekranch.com/.

If you're coming in from the East (Austin, Midland/Odessa, DFW, etc) you should stay here one night either on the way in or out: http://www.gagehotel.com/. Great place with a fantastic restaurant.

If you're coming from the West (El Paso), spend some time in Marfa for a couple of days. I prefer the Paisano of the hotels there, but if you like mid-century modern the Thunderbird is cool too.

Make sure to go through Fort Davis as well. This is a great State Park and the adobe accomodations are pretty kick ass for the price. Be sure to request the original restored section: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/f...vis_mountains/. McDonald Observatory is right in that area and is worth checking out too.

If you do end up heading that way, I can give you the names of all the good restaurants within 150 miles too...so just let me know.
 

Svenn

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^hannerhan, I've never been to Big bend but it sounds like you have quite a lot... are the winter days really that warm? I was wondering, maybe it's just a high of 80 but that only happens for a few hours at the end of the day when the sun's out, the rest of the day being in the 40's (desert temp. swings).
 

romafan

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we were XC skiing just north of yellowstone last winter and went into the park for a day. snowmobilers aside, it was a neat experience, but quite


i like the idea of big bend, and have read stories about rafting trips led by the singer butch hancock on rio g. through this area that sounded cool -:
http://www.tulsaworld.com/scene/arti...276_H4_hB57105
 

Hannerhan

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Originally Posted by Svenn
^hannerhan, I've never been to Big bend but it sounds like you have quite a lot... are the winter days really that warm? I was wondering, maybe it's just a high of 80 but that only happens for a few hours at the end of the day when the sun's out, the rest of the day being in the 40's (desert temp. swings).

The average temp fluctuation between high and low is probably about 40 degrees out there. More in the lowlands and less in the high country.

So if it's 80 in the afternoon down by the Rio Grande (elevation 1800-2000 feet), it will likely be in the 30's at night. Up in the Basin and higher (elevation 5500-7800 feet) it won't get as warm during the day. So if it's 30-80 by the river you're probably looking at 20-60 up in the mountains.

Right now they're getting a piece of this wicked cold front we have, but I'm sure it will be warm again next week. This is a great link for daily weather there:
http://www.nps.gov/bibe/daily_report.htm
 

Hannerhan

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Originally Posted by romafan
i like the idea of big bend, and have read stories about rafting trips led by the singer butch hancock on rio g. through this area that sounded cool -:
http://www.tulsaworld.com/scene/arti...276_H4_hB57105


I've been on two overnight float trips in Big Bend, and it's impossible to convey in words the solitude and quiet that exists there. There are very few places in the U.S. where you can get that. Not to mention that the skies are the darkest in the U.S. so the star gazing is beyond impressive.

New Yorkers would feel right at home in the area, since Marfa and the surrounding area is full of former Yankees and The Times seems to write about the area out there quite a bit.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/16/ga...20texas&st=cse

http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/11/22...q=marfa&st=cse


I'm a big fan in case you can't tell. Grew up about 100 miles North of the national park, so it's the place I consider home.
 

acecow

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My favorite winter-time park is Death Valley in California. So much stuff to explore and the best part is once you get off the main road you are pretty much all alone. Whenever we go, we hardly ever see any other tourists. Maybe one or two cars per day. Here's some photos I snapped during the last trip.















 

mm84321

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Those are some fantastic pics.

I decided on Big Bend, and will hopefully bring back some pictures similar to acecow's.

I was considering visiting a few parks in California this summer, Sequoia definitely being one of them. Which others would you guys recommend? I imagine Death Valley is brutal during the summertime.
 

Big A

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I lived down in Redford, TX for a while. Beautiful area. I could write a book about the place.

Big Bend gets cold in the winter - I had a tarp collapse on me there in late November, many years ago. The humidity from our breath froze up on the underside, and it was just tied to some palm stalks (or whatever they're called). I was so tired, I didn't wake up. Also, if you're up near Emory Peak the climate is completely different than the valley floor - it's almost like Texas hill country up there.

If you are on the east side of the park check out Banta shut-in --


If you are near the Rio Grande and you have a little time, track down Enrique Madrid in Redford, Texas. I think he's still alive. He runs what was once the largest private lending library in the US down there. His mother, a school teacher, started it in an old filling station by writing requests for books to anyone and everyone, Shawshank style. The guy is an encyclopedia about the area's history, and it's fascinating.

Also, if you can go get Mexican food in Ojinaga (across from Presidio). Be careful on Hwy 170 . . . if it isn't the most dangerous road in the US, it's pretty damn close.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to PM me. It's one of my favorite places in the world.
 

mm84321

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Originally Posted by Big A
I lived down in Redford, TX for a while. Beautiful area. I could write a book about the place. Big Bend gets cold in the winter - I had a tarp collapse on me there in late November, many years ago. The humidity from our breath froze up on the underside, and it was just tied to some palm stalks (or whatever they're called). I was so tired, I didn't wake up. Also, if you're up near Emory Peak the climate is completely different than the valley floor - it's almost like Texas hill country up there. If you are on the east side of the park check out Banta shut-in -- If you are near the Rio Grande and you have a little time, track down Enrique Madrid in Redford, Texas. I think he's still alive. He runs what was once the largest private lending library in the US down there. His mother, a school teacher, started it in an old filling station by writing requests for books to anyone and everyone, Shawshank style. The guy is an encyclopedia about the area's history, and it's fascinating. Also, if you can go get Mexican food in Ojinaga (across from Presidio). Be careful on Hwy 170 . . . if it isn't the most dangerous road in the US, it's pretty damn close. If you have any additional questions, feel free to PM me. It's one of my favorite places in the world.
I will be in Rio Grande for a few days; maybe I'll look him up. As it will be my first time at Big Bend, I have been frequenting the official forum for the park asking for suggestions on the best trails to hike. A senior member was kind enough to write me out a day by day schedule. Let me know what you think.
O.K. Max; here are my ideas, as promised. I have a grandson who is almost your age and I would give him the same advice. You will receive many different opinions; all will be good, with your welfare and enjoyment as their mission. That's what this Forum is all about. Once you are outfitted with a car, tent, and backpacking equipment (you don't really have to take a tent into the back country, but if you go for an "overnight" you need a backpacker tent). I think most of your ideas are sound, any errors in judgment were from inexperience. The Park is so varied and interesting that, as I said before, exploratory day hikes are are the way to go, with an "overnight" later on in the trip, if you choose. You might even luck into a night at the Chisos Lodge (a cancellation), to break the monotony. The "heart" of the Park is in the Basin, the "soul" is in the mountains, desert, and river canyons. Begin in the Basin, with the store, Lodge, restaurant, camp grounds, rest rooms; and trail heads for incredible day hikes. My thoughts for you are: Day One: Drive 250 miles to the Basin, make camp. Explore the Basin. Day Two: The Window Trail: Take the entire day, hike to the "Window"; then up and over the ridge of Vernon Bailey Peak on the Oak Creek Trail, and then to Cattail Falls, a very rare experience. Return the same route, 8-9 hours. Day Three: Lost Mine Peak: Since you have already gone down to the Window, then down to the desert, and into a closed canyon, today you go up to the Lost Mine Peak, with vistas into Juniper Canyon, the high Chisos,the desert to the Rio Grande, and the mountain ranges of Mexico. In the afternoon I would hike up the Pinnacles Trail to Juniper Flats and Boulder Meadows. Day Four:The South Rim: Since it will still be cold on the Rim for an overnight, do an all day r/t to the South Rim via Laguna Meadows (the "signature" spot of Big Bend) 8-9 hours. On the fifth day I would move to Rio Grande Village on the west side of the Park, only 45 minutes from the Basin. There you will explore Boquillas Canyon in the morning, and in the afternoon you will hike Hot Springs Canyon all the way to the hot springs, take a soak, and return. On the sixth day you will hike Marufo-Vega, a difficult r/t to one of the most beautiful spots in the Park, above the Rio Grande in Boquillas Canyon, and below the Sierra Del Carmen Mountains in Mexico. 8-9 hours. On the seventh day you rest; (if you had a high clearance vehicle you would travel the River road to Mariscal Mine); otherwise carefully drive to Ernst Tinaja with a short hike in and return to RGV. On the eighth day I would drive across the Park to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, then south to Cottonwood Campground. I would stop at the Sotal Vista, the Burro Mesa Pour Off, and the Mule Ears Overlook. Continue on to Cerro Castellan and then to the Campground. Day nine you drive early for sunrise at Santa Elena Canyon, nearby, hike into the canyon, short r/t, then return on Ross Maxwell to Mule Ears for a r/t out to the "peaks" and spring, a fabulous desert experience. 7-8 hours. Day ten you return again on Ross Maxwell to Sotal Vista for a r/t hike out to the old Homer Wilson Ranch, and up Blue Creek Canyon to the "Red Rocks" and beyond, time permitting. Option: if you go early to the Red Rocks and return, you can also hike r/t five miles out to "The Chimneys" on the "Chimneys Trail". Day eleven I would head west on the Old Maverick road to H-118 to Study Butte, and on to Terlingua, the "Ghost Town" I would have reservations at the Far Flung Adventures "Las Casitas" $125.00, or the Chisos Mining Co. $78.00, for a break, a shower, and a good meal at the Starlight Cafe. After a good breakfast at the Ghost Town Cafe I would head for Lajitas, then on to the River Road and "Big Hill" and a hike to "Closed Canyon". I would camp at a Big Bend Ranch State Park site along the Rio Grande. Day twelve I would return to Big Bend via Terlingua and Study Butte for a return to the Basin and a final camp site, and farewell. Day Thirteen you drive out of the Park after a side trip to the Grapevine Hills. This is what I would do, for a first trip, knowing what I know now (or tell my grandson to do). You don't have to worry about "backpacking 101" on your first trip to Big Bend, only camping in spectacular surroundings. You will have seen the "heart and soul" of the Park, leaving out only Emory Peak and the "secret places" for later trips. But you will know Big Bend! (If you must do a backpacking overnight, then hike out to Mule Ears Springs,where you will have water) Read about it all in the guide book. If any of it is too much, abort, be safe! There will be countless options, consider them all. Amigo, QS
 

Big A

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Originally Posted by mm84321
I will be in Rio Grande for a few days; maybe I'll look him up. As it will be my first time at Big Bend, I have been frequenting the official forum for the park asking for suggestions on the best trails to hike. A senior member was kind enough to write me out a day by day schedule. Let me know what you think.
That's a lot of driving around I'd keep it simpler . . . I usually did hiking in 14 day blocks without a car, and a water resupply near Estes Peak. You can drink the water at various washes in the park, just bring iodine and some kool-aid like substance or a really good filter. Also, you don't really need a tent at all. If you have a good sleeping bag and a mat, a tarp will do just fine. In the backcountry there is this palm / agave type plant that sends up huge seed stalks - there are nice straight sticks everywhere. I think exploring the basin, the Window Trail, Lost Mine Peak, the South Rim, Boquillas, and Hot Springs are all good ideas. Santa Elena Canyon is also very nice. If you get a chance you can rent a canoe and float down the Rio Grande into it, which is downright spectacular. There are some minor rapids, with Rockslide being the biggest (just stay to the left . . . or was it the right?). I'll dig up my guide book since I'm having trouble recalling the trail names and re-post tomorrow.
 

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