The Window Trail at Big Bend is a walk that’s probably very busy at certain times of the year, but as I set out an hour before sunset there’s no-one else around. Although late in the day, I was looking for a trail that might provide a good sunset vantage point. The trail starts at the Basin car park – although you can also start at the Basin Campground (making it a slightly shorter route).
The well-made Window Trail soon starts descending, with the destination visible in the distance: the V-shaped gap at the of the valley (to the immediate left of the gap is Carter Peak, and to the right is Vernon Bailey Peak). There’s no marked track to the top of Vernon Bailey Peak, but you can hike to the top and the views are said to be among the best in Big Bend.
Catching the last of the sun’s rays is Pulliam Peak (or Pulliam Bluff) – one of the two main peaks making up the northwestern rim of the Basin along with Vernon Bailey Peak.
The trail is fairly exposed for the first mile as it crosses the middle of the Basin, until it reaches Oak Creek. It then enters a forest of pines, oaks and juniper.
The trail follows Oak Creek, and after 2.3 miles (3.7km) there’s a junction with the Oak Springs Trail. This trail leads to a look-out, and continues down toward Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive – The Window can also be reached via this track, which I’ve read is a more scenic route (but a 4WD is recommended to reach the trailhead). Just after this junction the trail enters a rock canyon, carved by Oak Creek. The creek is the only drainage point for the entire Basin, so while rainfall is low, when there is a storm considerable water is funnelled through the canyon.
Near the end of the canyon there are stone steps carved into the rocks, and Oak Creek is crossed several times.
The Window marks the end of the canyon: a narrow crevice carved by Oak Creek, with a sheer, vertical drop to the desert floor below. The canyon floor is smooth and slippery, so caution is needed.
Facing almost directly west, it’s not a bad spot to photograph the sunset, with “The Window” framing the distant Chisos mountains.
I stay at The Window half an hour or so, as the sky gets gradually more orange… there’s no-one else here, and the photos don’t really do justice to the view and serenity.
Eventually I need to get going – not so much as it’s starting to get dark (I have a head-torch), but because I’m getting pretty hungry, and I’ve got a 2.8 mile hike back out I need to do before the restaurant closes…