Major Redo of Popular Emory Peak Trail at Big Bend National Park Completed

Big Bend Trails employee Rose Bane at work on the Emory Peak trail. NPS photo.

At 7,832 feet, Emory Peak is the highest point in Big Bend National Park. The hike to the top of Emory Peak is now easier on both people and the terrain, thanks to a recently completed multi-year project to reroute the popular trail.

The new trail to Emory Peak offers panoramic views into Mexico and of the northern reaches of the park, and is designed to have sustainable grades and cut long-term maintenance costs. In addition to providing better accessibility to the highest peak in the park, the new route uses modern trail design and layout principles to make it far less prone to erosion from rain and overall use.

Trailhead access for the Emory Peak Trail is now located at the top of Toll Mountain Pass and is several hundred yards closer to the Chisos Basin than the previous trailhead. Visitors will find the new trail to be about a third of a mile longer in length, but the grades have been significantly reduced, making for an easier hike than the very steep 25-30% grades on the old trail.

A hike up Emory Peak is a nine mile roundtrip from the Basin Trailhead. The first 3.5 miles of the route follows the Pinnacles trail, to a point where the one mile trail to the summit cuts off the Pinnacles Trail and heads upward. This map of the High Chisos Mountains Trail System will help you visualize the area.

The recently completed project involved just over 1.2 miles of trail, and was badly needed. According to park documents, the old trail was "poorly designed, climbing straight up drainages and ridge lines. The trail had become heavily damaged by ongoing erosion, leading to resource damage and unsafe hiking conditions."

The Emory Peak trail work was made possible by funding from the park’s entrance fee program. According to a park spokesman, "this investment in a popular hiking trail is expected to be in use for many, many years to follow."

“I am very pleased to see the park’s fee revenue used to improve so many aspects of the Emory Peak Trail,” said Superintendent Bill Wellman. “This is an excellent example of the work the park’s trail crew accomplishes for the benefit of the park visitor.”

You'll find information about hiking to Emory Peak and other destinations in the park's Chisos Basin on the park website, along with other information to help plan a trip to Big Bend.