The Lost Mine Trail

One of the more popular trails at Big Bend National Park is the Lost Mine Trail. This is because of the many beautiful overlooks along the trail and it’s proximity to the Chisos Basin camping and lodge area. In fact, one of the most challenging aspects of hiking this trail is finding a space in the trailhead parking lot as it sits at the top of a pass and there is no other safe parking in the area. But, if you are lucky enough to get parking, you can enjoy a moderately strenuous trail with views of the Chisos Basin, the mountains and surrounding deserts, and Mexico in the distance.

The beginning of the Lost Mine Trail under a light dusting of snow

The trail was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps as the National Park was being established in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The trail is named for Lost Mine Peak, but apparently there was never a mine in this area lost or otherwise, so don’t expect to find a secret horde of gold or silver. The paths are well constructed and easy to follow with several benches for resting along the way. You can expect to gain about 1000 feet in elevation along about 2.4 miles of trail, with much of the climbing occurring with switchbacks for the final ascent to the end of the trail. You can also pause along the way and watch the Mexican Jays hop through the branches along the trail. Once at the top you can walk along dome of the peak and take in the views of surrounding mountains and deserts. Below is a phone photo of a jay along the trail. The birds really don’t mind you getting close enough to photograph them.

Mexican jay on the Lost Mine Trail at Big Bend National Park

I have been told that my grandmother and her sister (I think) enjoyed going out and hiking this trail long ago, so it was fun to think about her hiking this trail in the 1950s and 60s as I walked along the same trail. I’m sure it hasn’t changed much in the decades since and I was seeing the same vistas that she once enjoyed. I never spoke to my grandmother about this, but my aunt once told me about her trips out here and it was nice to have this connection with her through the decades. I thought of my grandmother a lot on this hike and imagined her when she was my age or younger climbing the trail.

Below is a view from along the trail looking down at the Chisos Basin area where I would camp for the night. The Chisos Basin is a beautiful area set amid the mountains in the middle of the park with much sought-after campsites. It is generally a bit cooler and more pleasant that the surrounding desert that you can see in the distance. My last day at the park, I actually woke up to snow.

A look back at the Chisos Basin from the Lost Mine Trail

Once I reached the cool and windy top of the trail, it was difficult to decide where to look with beautiful mountain and desert views in all directions. I had to wander around for a while and take it in before deciding on some photos to take. I did really like a large, jagged column of rock to the south of the peak. It was lit well by the late afternoon sun and you could see the mountains and deserts into Mexico in the distance.

View from the Lost Mine Trail

I was also impressed by a stubborn tree clinging to the rocks of the high cliffs with its roots. I wondered how if found enough moisture to survive up here. I took the photo below nearly sitting on the rocks to get the tree against the sky. The peak falls off precariously to either side and I had few options for positioning myself. And, yes, I was a bit nervous walking around up here.

Tree clinging to the high cliffs on the Lost Mine Trail at Big Bend National Park

Climbing up past this tree, you can see through a gap in the mountains to the towering cliffs of the Sierra del Carmen in Mexico. The distant cliffs are about 25 miles away and are a beautiful sight to see in the southeast part of the park. As the sun begins to set, they take on an almost pink glow. The Photopills app showed that the sun would be rising behind this gap in the morning should I wish to hike up before dawn (I didn’t).

The Sierra del Carmen seen through a mountain gap on the Lost Mine Trail

I ended up toughing out the cold wind and waiting around at an overlook for the sun to set. There were no clouds on the horizon, just the orange dusty haze over the distant desert. In the photo below, the sun actually set to the left of frame behind the mountain but I thought the more interesting view was across the basin. You can see the curvy road leading over the pass and down into the camping area. The trailhead parking lot is where that road passes out of sight in the distance.

The walk back to the car from this point was about 40 minutes with the last of it lit only by my headlamp. There are signs that tell you that bears and mountain lions are active in the area in the evenings and early mornings, but all I saw was a deer wandering around in woods. Thanks for reading.

29 thoughts on “The Lost Mine Trail

    1. With all of my previous visits to Big Bend, I hadn’t hiked this trail until now. In the past, every attempt I made was thwarted by the full parking area. On this trip it was my top priority and I got lucky the afternoon of my arrival to find someone leaving just as I got there.

      The rim trails are probably just as scenic to hike, but that it a full day hike, where as the Lost Mine trail can be done in a morning or afternoon.

      I did the rim trails once and I was gone dawn to dusk, but it was rewarding.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love the beautiful, rugged scenery. That’s the kind of trail I like to hike. And I agree with shoreacres that the tree photo is the best. It looks to me like the tree is crawling along the rocks, with its roots. Thanks for risking your neck for that great photo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw people doing far stupider things than I was doing so, I am not a complete idiot anyway. I was never in a position that I didn’t feel safe, I am just not incredibly comfortable with heights so I had an exaggerated sense of danger.

      Thanks, I studied that tree and its roots for a while. Amazing how it can survive clinging to the rocks up there.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Then it looks like Search & Rescue will never have to come out to save you from yourself.

        I was pondering the name of the trail, since there’s no mine in the area. Maybe it refers to losing something, such as, “I lost my wallet on that trail,” or “I lost my shoe,” or “I lost my friend, who fell off a cliff.”

        Liked by 2 people

        1. The nearest I could find to that is that there was a legend of a rich lost mine in the area, but from what I have read the geology of this area makes it very unlikely that there was ever much of a mine here.

          It may have just sounded like a good name for a trail and applied for marketing reasons.

          Or maybe it was a misunderstanding of a tale of someone who went crazy up there and was actually the Lost Mind trail.

          Anyway, if I did find a secret horde of gold I wouldn’t post about it here one way or the other. Unrelated to this, I will be traveling on my new Yacht for the next few months and may not be around as much.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. I understand there is no cure, but there are a few treatments. You can administer a big box of Kleenex, for instance. And sarcasm can reduce the symptoms. But when all else fails, you can always spray them down with a fire hose.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. I would say that someday I am going to throw that syndrome back at you, but being that I can’t ever remember how to spell Tippy’s langianape word, I won’t be able to remember this one either. Doolally and PUNderhead are at least easier to remember. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. I see that i missed these beautiful photos yesterday. Just the thing to help me wake up this morning! I agree that the tree photo is the best! I really like the close up of the blue jay as well.
    How nice that you could walk the same trails as your grandmother and be thinking of her as you hiked. I am sure that added to the pleasure of hiking there.

    Liked by 1 person

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