The Window Trail is just one of the great spots in Big Bend National Park’s Chisos Basin Area. This place is packed full of great places to explore. In addition to other great hikes, such as breathtaking Lost Mine Trail, the challenging 9.3-mile Emory Peak Trail or the toddler friendly 2.2-mile Grapevine Hills Trail, the Window Trail is a great way to spend a few hours in the Basin. This moderately challenging, out-and-back hike features a stroll through a valley on the way to a “pour-off” with impressive views, making it a great place for photos. If you have a few hours, make sure you take the time to explore this fantastic trail!
The Window Trail is one of many hikes and sights highlighted in our 16+ page itinerary for Big Bend National Park.
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE WINDOW TRAIL
There are two main options for parking for the Window Trail. If you choose to hike the long route, which is 5.5 miles with a total climb of nearly 1000 feet, the trail can be accessed aside the convenience store near the Chisos Basin Lodge. Here, there is a parking lot with nearly 100 spaces. While the parking lot can fill up, many people who are park here are going in and out of the Chisos Basin Visitor Center or the convenience store. This means that if the lot is full and you are not able to find a spot, you just need to wait a few minutes and a space will open up.
Tralhead information for the Window Trail from the National Park Service
If you want to shave off about 1.9 miles (for a total hike of 3.6 miles and a total elevation gain of 500 feet), you can park at the Chisos Basin campground (see below). If you want to get to this parking area, be advised that parking is very limited and turnover is slow, so we recommend arriving early or in the later afternoon for the best chance of finding a spot.
Window Trailhead Parking from the National Park Service
There is a bathroom right at the parking area at the campground and in the Visitor Center.
Since it was going to be a hot day and we were also packing in a visit to Santa Elena Canyon in the same day, we decided to take the shorter route down to the Window. While the longer route is more popular, we were glad that we saved our energy (and the time) for later in the day.
THE HIKE DOWN TO THE WINDOW
After you get onto the trail, you start to descend immediately. Throughout the hike to the Window, you’ll head steadily downhill.
The trail is well maintained. While we were there, we saw several people working on the trail, including a crew that was removing graffiti from a hiker earlier in the month (note: he was caught and prosecuted!).
At the start, the dirt trail immediately is surrounded by a combination of brush, rocky hills, agave plants and cactus.
For the entire trail, you’ll catch views of the Window. Make sure you stop and take a few photos if you see a view you like. The angle of the sun can really change quickly, affecting how things look minute-to minute I the Basin. This is particularly true in the early morning or later evening hours.
After about 0.7 miles, the trail enters a grove of trees. Keep your eyes out for wildlife in here, as this is a great place to spot some of the unique birds that Big Bend is known for.
About 1.6 miles into the hike, the trail starts to head down a riverbed. During most of the year, this riverbed is dry (or with a few puddles). If you go during the rainy season, be ready, as you’ll likely be required to step over water (or even wade through it). Some of the steps (embedded right into the rock face) are steep or require hikers to stretch a bit as you move from rock to rock. It’s doable for family members of all ages, but just be sure to be careful as you navigate through here!
As the trail approaches the pour-off, be sure to keep a close eye on your kids and take your time. It is an understatement to say the rock is extremely smooth and slippery, so you’ll have to be really careful as it’s easy to lose your footing. However, don’t let this scare you away-it’s worth going to the end to take a look.
Since we began our morning early (we were on the trail at 7:00 AM), we had the pour-off to ourselves for about 10 minutes before other hikers started to show up. We enjoyed a quick snack before turning back up the trail on our way back to the campground.
THE HIKE BACK UP THE WINDOW TRAIL
Once we turned around on the trail, we quickly realized that we were hiking down the entire way to the Window and started to get a bit winded heading back. While the trail back to the campground isn’t steep, it is uphill the entire way. The sun was higher in the sky by this time, making it a bit hotter.
For some reason, the kids decided they wanted to try to find the smallest agave plant on the trip back, which made it go by fast without any complaining at all!
Overall, loved the hike on the Window Trail. We highly recommend it and plan on doing it again during our next visit!
OTHER TIPS WHEN HIKING THE WINDOW TRAIL
- Make sure you take plenty of water before you head out on the trail, as it is exposed for most of the hike and you’ll dry out quickly, particularly on the way back. Even when we hiked (in February), we found ourselves quite thirsty once we got back to the campground.
- We always recommend good shoes, but for this trail, hiking boots are not needed. However, we recommend having shoes with extra good traction to take on the slippery rock near the pour-off.
FURTHER BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- The Window Trail is one of several hikes covered in our 16+ page itinerary for Big Bend National Park.
- As you can probably tell, we loved this hike and this park. We think you will too, which is why we wrote our blog post on 5 Reasons Why You’ll Fall in Love with Big Bend National Park.
- Another amazing hike in Big Bend National Park is covered in our blog on hiking the Lost Mine Trail. You won’t want to miss this one!
- In the remote Castolon Area of Big Bend National Park, you’ll have to check out hiking the Santa Elena Canyon Trail. This short trail puts you right on the border of Mexico and hikes through a beautiful canyon along the Rio Grande.
- Only about 4 hours away are Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We offer detailed itineraries for both parks and they are both working checking out!
- We’ll work with you to create custom, vintage-style posters, postcards and note cards from your own photos, including those of Big Bend National Park. Check out our process!
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK
- The National Park Service has a great website covering information on Big Bend National Park, including maps and lodging.
- Camping in Big Bend National Park is very popular. The campgrounds fill up quickly, especially in Chisos Basin.
- The Chisos Mountain Lodge is a perfect place to stay as a home-base in Big Bend National Park. The lodges are clean and the location is perfect ot allow you to get on the trails quickly.
- Trek Southwest has a ton of information on Big Bend National Park, covering both hiking trail and camping information. If you are looking for coverage on much of the park, they are a great reference!
- Mara from Rightkindoflost does a great job of covering an overview of what there is to do in Big Bend National Park.