Window Trail

The most popular trail in the Chisos Basin.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
7.4 km
Ascent
222 m
Descent
222 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
1.4 km
High Point
1.6 km
Gradient
Window Trail Map

The Window Trail is hands-down the most popular hike in the Chisos Basin area of Big Bend National Park and one of the most renowned trails in the state of Texas. Naturally, you can expect to share the trail with plenty of other hikers, but if you get an early start mid-week, you can still manage to find a "window" of time if you will, when there aren't too many people on the trail.

Description

You can begin this hike from either a parking lot near the campground or from the main visitor center parking lot. The total hike is a bit longer if you begin from the visitor center. The route shown here is the shortest option—beginning from the campground.

If you look at the elevation profile, you'll note that this is an unsual hike because it begins by going downhill first, and then finishes by returning back uphill. Essentially, you'll be hiking down a desert wash to reach the view from the "Window," a slot in the sheer rock wall where the slot canyon abruptly ends in a massive cliff. When water flows through the wash, it plummets out of the Window, creating a waterfall. However, it's relatively rare for that much water to flow through this desert wash, even though it's situated in an elevated mountain range.

The trail itself begins on a fairly mellow downhill grade, following a wide, well-built singletrack for most of the way. Through the upper section, you'll enjoy expansive views of the Chisos Mountains rising high above you, including vistas of Emory Peak, the tallest summit in the range. While this section of trail would only earn a "Moderate" FATMAP difficulty rating, the hike gets dramatically more difficult as it nears its endpoint.

About two-thirds of the way through the descent, you'll finally drop into the wash and slowly descend into a narrow slot canyon, with sheer cliff walls rising high above you. Here the hiking gets much more demanding. The National Park Service has helped provide easier access to the Window by constructing rock steps and walkways that traverse the small slickrock cliffs in the bottom of the wash. But even still, the trail-based portions are rocky and rough, and a few sections will force you to scramble up and down a few substantial boulders. While most people should be able to make it to the Window, this scrambling might earn a "Severe" FATMAP rating on its own, but the hike overall earns a "Difficult" rating.

The view from the Window is an incredible sight to behold! From the bottom of this narrow slot canyon, polished smooth by the blowing sand from the desert below, you'll enjoy an incredible vista from the elevated Chisos Mountains of the expansive Chihuahuan desert spreading out below you! The view stretches for many miles and invites you to take some time to simply sit and savor the majesty of Big Bend National Park.

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Picturesque

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area