Julie United States 4 Comments

Emory Peak is the highest peak in the Chisos Mountains and Big Bend National Park. It’s a tough hike to get here but the view over the park is unbeatable.

There are two different ways to do this hike. The quickest and most direct way is to hike out-and-back to Emory Peak from the Chisos Basin Visitor Center. Option #2, a full day adventure, is to hike the South Rim Trail and add on the detour to Emory Peak.

This post covers the out-and-back hike from the Chisos Visitor Center to Emory Peak. At the end of this post, I give a link to our separate article about the South Rim Hike with Emory Peak (or you can skip ahead to it now).

How to Hike to Emory Peak

Emory Peak Hiking Stats

Distance: 10.4 miles out-and-back
Total Ascent: 2440 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 5 to 7 hours

Emory Peak Map

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.


Getting to the Trailhead

This hike starts and ends at the Chisos Basin Visitor Center. There is a large parking lot here but it can fill up early. I recommend arriving around sunrise, in order to get a parking spot, and to start your hike in the morning, while temperatures are still cool.

There are several trails that start next to the Chisos Basin parking lot (the Window Trail, the Window View Trail, and the Laguna Meadows Trail). From the parking lot, look for the sidewalk that leads to the hiking trails. 

Chisos Basin Trailhead

Chisos Basin Trailhead. The trail to the left leads to Emory Peak. The trail to the right is the Window View Trail.

For this hike, follow the signs for Emory Peak. Hike the Laguna Meadows Trail for roughly 0.3 miles until you come to a fork in the trail. Take the trail to the left, following the signs to Emory Peak. This is called the Pinnacles Trail.

Fork in the Trail

The Pinnacles Trail

The first mile of the Pinnacles Trail isn’t too strenuous. But that giant peak looming in front of you…that’s your end goal. It looks unbelievably high. And it might feel that way, especially by the time you approach the top.

The Pinnacles Trail steadily gains elevation. Near the end of this trail you will hit the switchbacks and this is where it gets to be more challenging.

The Pinnacles Trail ends at the saddle that sits at the base of Emory Peak. From here, take the Emory Peak Trail. The second trail, the Boot Canyon Trail, leads out to the South Rim.

Hike Big Bend

On the Pinnacles Trail (the view along the trail on the way back to Chisos Basin).


Emory Peak Saddle

View from the saddle, at the start of the Emory Peak Trail.

Emory Peak Trail

At the saddle, there is a toilet as well as bear boxes, large boxes where you can store your backpacks, if you don’t want to lug them the rest of the way up the mountain.

Emory Peak Trail Sign


From this point, it is a 1.5-mile hike to Emory Peak with approximately 1,000 feet of elevation gain. It is uphill the entire way.

Emory Peak Trail

On the Emory Peak Trail, with Emory Peak in the distance.

The trail ends with a 25-foot rock scrambling section to get up onto the peak. If you like rock scrambling, you’ll love this part of the hike. But if you have a fear of heights or climbing up and down massive boulders, this final section can be intimidating.

Emory Peak Rock Scrambling

View of the Rock Scrambling

This is looking down from the top of Emory Peak at the final section of rock scrambling.

From Emory Peak, enjoy the spectacular 360° views over Big Basin National Park. On a clear day, you can see the Chihuahuan Desert and the entire Chisos Mountain Range.

Tim Rivenbark

Julie Rivenbark

Chisos Basin View

The view over Chisos Basin. If you look carefully, you can see the Chisos Basin visitor center and lodge.

Retrace your steps back to the visitor center.

Summary: Chisos Basin parking lot -> Laguna Meadows Trail (0.3 miles) -> Pinnacles Trail (3.4 miles) -> Emory Peak Trail (1.5 miles)

Big Bend Travel Guide

South Rim Trail + Emory Peak

This is a loop hike that starts and ends in Chisos Basin. This is a much longer and more challenging hike than the out-and-back hike described above. However, the views from the South Rim are amazing. If you already have plans to hike the South Rim Trail, adding on the hike to Emory Peak adds about 3 miles and 1.5 hours to your day.

South Rim Trail Big Bend

You can do this loop in either direction. We hiked it counter-clockwise, hiking the South Rim Trail first and then adding on Emory Peak as we headed back to the Visitor Center.

Distance: 15.6 miles
Total Ascent: 3640 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 8 to 10 hours

For more information about how to combine these two hikes, read our detailed guide on the South Rim Trail.

Tips to Have the Best Experience

Start early in the day. This is a very long hike, so ideally, start at sunrise to give yourself enough time to complete this hike. Starting early will also let you get the most strenuous part of the hike, the ascent up to Emory Peak, finished before temperatures really heat up.

Bring lots of water. During the warmer months, 4 liters per person is recommended.

Bring sunblock. There is very little shade on the trail.

Check in the Visitor Center and/or the National Park Service website about trail closures before you go. 

There is a chance you could cross paths with a black bear or a mountain lion. Click the links for advice from the NPS website on what to do should you encounter one of these animals on the hiking trail.

If you have any questions about hiking to Emory Peak, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Big Bend National Park

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK: Get started with our article Best Things to Do in Big Bend for great things to do in the park. We also have a 3 Day Big Bend Itinerary, plus information about the best hikes in Big Bend, including the South Rim Trail and how to hike to Balanced Rock.

HIKES IN GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS: Learn how to hike to the “Top of Texas” our guide to Guadalupe Peak. The Devil’s Hall Trail is a fun hike to unique looking canyon. We also have detailed guide on how to hike the McKittrick Canyon Trail to Pratt Cabin, the Grotto, and the Notch and the Permian Reef Trail is one of the most underrated hikes in the park.

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries. You can also learn more about the national parks and get a FREE printable checklist in our US National Parks Checklist.

NATIONAL PARKS BY SEASON: Big Bend National Park appears in our Best US National Parks in March, Best National Parks in April, and Best National Parks in November articles. For more information about the best times to visit the national parks, check out our Best National Parks Month-by-Month Guide.

Read all of our articles about Texas in our Texas Travel Guide and the USA in our United States Travel Guide.


Big Bend National Park Emory Peak


All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 4

  1. Avatar for Joe

    Hi !

    I don’t think i will be able to do both these hikes. If i had to pick one, which one would you recommend? Some say if I did South Rim, then i can skip Lost mine hike as they are pretty much similar (lost mine is a mini version of south rim?)

    Also the jaunt up the rocks to the peak of Emory – is it really hard or a normal hiker from PNW can do it ?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      You can’t go wrong because both hikes are great. We liked the South Rim Trail more for the views and the varying terrain. However, it is a longer hike so if you have limited time, the Lost Mine Trail is the way to go. The hike up to Emory Peak isn’t all that challenging. It is a steady uphill walk that ends with some fun rock scrambling. A normal hiker from the PNW should have no problems doing this (we hiked much harder trails in Washington). Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Joe
        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          I don’t recall which way we went up but I also don’t recall having much of an option on which way to go. However, we did this hike a few years ago so my memory is a little fuzzy. You could look for a route to the right once you get up there. Have a great hike! Cheers, Julie

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *