By Carlos Morales
Beginning next year, a new trail at Big Bend National Park will take visitors on a brushy, three-mile trek around the base of Lone Mountain.
Dubbed simply as the Lone Mountain Trail, park officials describe the new addition as a “moderately challenging” hike with striking views of the Chisos, Rosillos, and Dead Horse Mountains.
“For many, many years now, there’s been a desire to have some sort of walking trail, hiking trail, something that people could do right at Panther junction,” said Tom VandenBerg, the park’s chief of interpretation. “And I think this will serve that need quite well.”
The trail will both begin and end at park headquarters at Panther Junction, and while there are over 200 existing miles of park trails in Big Bend National Park, the Lone Mountain Trail will be the first trail in this corner of the park. The trail runs through a scrubby Chihuahuan Desert landscape dotted with prickly pears and flowers in the spring; it’s a popular spot for desert birds, too. “It’s a pretty dramatic landscape,” said VandenBerg. “The views in all directions as you circumnavigate the mountain would be very memorable.”
Plans for a new trail in this area go back to 2010 when park officials did an environmental assessment to begin the first steps in creating a new hiking route. At the time, the original project was intended to be a much longer trail that would link up with old park roads — it was originally intended not only for hiking but also for mountain biking. While plans for the trail itself were approved, the mountain biking aspect “was never completely approved, because that’s a whole nother level of planning and approval,” said VandenBerg. The plans for a trail in the Panther Junction area slowed sometime in 2012, but were only recently revived.
While mountain biking won’t be part of the new Lone Mountain Trail, visitors looking to bike through the national park can still ride on designated driving roads, but not on the hiking trails.
Construction of the new Lone Mountain Trail begins next year and, according to VandenBerg, will be an involved process. The park’s trail crew and volunteers have to balance creating a trail that’s both light on the land and fits in with the overall landscape.
“There’s a lot that goes on,” said VandenBerg. “It’s a whole science in building a trail not only that is welcoming and easy to maneuver for people, but also one that won’t require tons and tons of maintenance.”
The new trail plans don’t include the addition of extra parking or new facilities, but park officials say, if warranted, they’ll consider “alternative parking or trailhead configurations at a future date,” according to a press release put out by the park.