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Pine Canyon Professional Review and Guide
"This trail provides expansive views of high desert grasslands and the drier desert below before leading into a densely wooded canyon of the Chisos Mountains. Because Lloyd Wade once had a ranch here, the canyon was called Wade Canyon at one time. The trail crosses part of an ancient collapsed volcano, or caldera. The hike is hot in summer, but still considerably cooler than the desert lowlands. Get an early start during the warm months of the year, and carry lots of water. Plenty of shade on the last 0.6 mile makes the hike pleasant even on hot days."
--Laurence Parent, Hiking Big Bend National Park (Falcon Guides).
We camped at the Pine Canyon primitive site closest to the trailhead the night before embarking on our trek, and enjoyed a magnificent sunset reflected off the clouds and the cliffs of the Sierra de Carmen, topped with their prominent ‘shot tower’ formation. Morning brought the hike, and the landscape began as high desert but gradually changed over to grassland before we passed a few, lone, scraggly pine trees and dropped into the canyon. There, we were enveloped by lush flora including a huge number of peeling Texas Madrones. The route crossed and recrossed the dry streambed as we inched upward. Soon, we found ourselves doing a bit of scrambling up steeper parts of the rocky trail. As we emerged in the clearing below the falls, the mosquitoes began their feast. Note to Self: ALWAYS PACK BUG REPELLANT. The spot was otherwise beautiful, despite the lack of water. The basin had received close to an inch of rain the day before, but either none fell in this watershed, or it hadn’t trickled its way here yet. One week later it was running. If properly embalmed with mosquito repellant, this would be a great place to take a nap or catch some high noon rays. We were driven back down the trail, though. The spectacular view that we enjoyed on the way down was reminiscent of trails I’ve hiked in the San Juans of Southwest Colorado. All in all an enjoyable hike, but take some bug repellant!
The only thing that would make this hike better would be to see the waterfall at the end running. After taking a short drive through the beautiful Big Bend back country you find the trailhead starting at the mouth of Pine Canyon, surrounded by Hayes Ridge to the South, Nugent Mountain to the East, Crown Mountain to the West, and many other peaks to the North. Pine Canyon starts with a gradual, easy incline toward Lost Mine Peak, which can be seen in the Northwest. After about 2 miles you enter the canyon. From here on you are surrounded by trees and brush. Late in the day the sun disappears behind the mountains leaving a cool, shady hike. The trail becomes uneven and there are a few sections that you may even need to use you hands. The reward for the hike is a dramatic wet season waterfall that must look amazing when it is running.
My trip was in mid February this year. The trail from the parking area follows a closed roadway for about a mile or so in toward the canyon. Easy walking and great views of the canyon as you enter. The lack of rain has left most of the region fairly parched so unless some rains hit pretty soon the first half of the hike will by your classic "desert hike". As you near the canyon the trees begin to provide wonderful shade (a rarity in Big Bend) and the temps drop nicely from the direct sun. The trail winds through the canyon at a steady climb in elevation crossing over creeks and rocks. Fall would be a perfect time of year for pictures to pick up the color in the leaves. Despite the canyon name, you wont see many pines along this trail. A couple at most. The Pines grow along the higher reaches, but your trail wont take you there. The trail ends at a pretty spectacular water fall site. Dry as a bone during droughts like this, but I can imagine what it would look like with water cascading down. The trail is suitable for most people. There are some steep sections, especially as you get near the end, but there are plenty of trees to grab and drag yourself along.
We highly recommend this hike. It was very enjoyable. Getting to the trailhead took us about 1 hr.driving on Glen Springs Rd. and Pine Canyon Rd. We have a high-clearance vehicle (recommended) but did not need to use 4-wheel drive. From the trailhead we had a pleasant walk through the desert grassland for the first mile. Then we came to the canyon entrance ~ you can feel the temperature difference almost immediately. The flora change was spectacular; from prickly pear cactus and a few small pines & mesquites to every type of tree you can imagine, as well as Agave. There were even some you may not be familiar with, such as the Madrone(a very unique tree). The canopy was cool and colorful all the way through the canyon. We steadily climbed as we went further into the canyon(steeply in some places). Upon reaching the end of the trail we were greeted with a magnificent waterfall. It is well worth the hike!
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