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Date(s) - 11/25/2015 - 11/29/2015
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Big Bend Chisos Basin Campground

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Thanksgiving Big Bend Trip–Chisos Campground

Wednesday Nov. 25 – Sunday Nov. 29, 2015

Optional Trip Extension: Also offered is a trip extension, running from Sunday Nov. 22- Sunday Nov. 29.  Please contact David Holloway if you are interested and for pricing information.

Chisos or Rio Grande Village: We will have two different meetup announcements for this trip for the two different campgrounds, the Chisos and Rio Grande Village (RGV). Be sure to register for your preferred campground.

Chisos will have a maximum of 16 people. The campsite is located in the beautiful, rugged mountains in the Chisos basin (5400 feet elevation). In the evenings we will enjoy spectacular sunsets coming through the Window (a large rock canyon that cuts through the Chisos Mountains rim, allowing drainage from the Basin to the Chihuahuan Desert.) There are several hikes we can take directly from our campsite. The restrooms and water spigot are very close to our campsite. We will make at least one trip to the showers at RGV during our stay.

Nov 25 – Nov 29 Price: $324 for Sierra Club members, $349 for non-members  ( join the Sierra Club and save!).

The price includes transportation, park entrance fee, camping fees, guided hikes, all meals in the park (4 dinners, 3 lunches, 4 breakfasts).

Co-Leader: David Holloway

Co-Leader: Kim Dean


It’s important to note that a simple RSVP on Meetup does not reserve you a spot. 

1) Download the medical and individual liability waiver forms. These forms can also be found under “More/Files” . Fill them out and either mail them to David Holloway (send message via meetup requesting address) or email the scanned copies to David. If you email scanned images, please bring original copies to the pre-trip meeting.

2) Mail a check (made out to Austin Sierra Club) for $324 for members (or $349 for non-members) to David.

Note: The Chiso price is slightly higher than the Rio Grande Village as the price includes one additional dinner in camp.

If you prefer to use PayPal, the price is $334 for members and $359 for non-members.  Use the Donate button on this page.

3) You will not be registered until your check has been received and the medical and liability forms are approved.

Cancellation Policy

After all forms have been received and approved, and payments received, the following cancellation policy will be in effect.

*  $50 will be non-refundable
*  75% will be refundable if cancelled before November 1 at 8:00am CST
*  50% will be refundable if cancelled after November 1 but before November 18 at 8:00am CST
*  No refunds for cancellations made after Wednesday, November 18 at 8:00am CST

Pre-Trip Meeting Nov. 16, 7:00-8:30 pm

We will have a pre-trip meeting to discuss the trip details, transportation, and gear list at the Gateway REI meeting room (9901 N Capitol of Texas Hwy).  If you cannot attend this important meeting, please contact David Holloway (via message in meetup).


Welcome to the 2015 Austin Sierra Club Thanksgiving Big Bend trip.  Those of you who have been before know the special appeal of the mountain, desert, and river country that makes up the Big Bend. We will be visiting one of the largest and most remote national parks in the country. Since Big Bend contains over 1,200 square miles, many hiking trails, and an unlimited number of off-trail routes, it would require many months to fully explore the park, but we have planned hikes to many of the park’s best features. The South Rim hike is widely considered to be the best hike in Texas!

Most of the park is near desert (the official annual rainfall is 13 inches; a true desert gets fewer than 10 inches). The central region is dominated by the Chisos Mountains and its very different mountain plants, animals, and environment. The Rio Grande (or Rio Bravo del Norte) lies on the southern border of the park and the United States.

Photo: View of Santa Elena Canyon.

The desert is full of life and each hike, whether it takes us through the desert or mountains, reveals several unique features. Plant and animal life are abundant in the desert and we will stop to look and listen for ourselves. Waxy leaves, surfaces for reduced evaporation, and thorns are characteristic of desert plants. Thorns may range from 3-4 inches. Some plants may contain long spikes; one such plant is the indicator plant of the Chihuahuan Desert, lechuguilla; it is not found anywhere else.

The Chisos Mountains are home to trees and plants which are very different the desert plants. Arizona cypress, oaks, junipers, pines, and madrones are abundant in the cool mountains. Bear and mountain lions sightings have been more frequent in recent years. You probably won’t see either, but if you do you should keep your distance. If a bear should approach, you should yell loudly and wave your arms around in an attempt to look large to the bear. Do not run.

Getting There

We’ll travel to Big Bend in rented 15-passenger vans (or similar) with the rear seats removed to accommodate 10 passengers and gear.  Due to limited space, please restrict your gear to one large duffel bag and a day pack.  The duffel bags will be loaded in the rear of the vans or in a covered trailer.  Keep your daypack with you in the van and keep a flashlight handy since some of the vans may be arriving in the dark.  Each van will have a small cooler on board with limited space for food and drink and the vans will be stopping for gas/restroom breaks along the road.

We’ll leave Austin early in the morning so we can arrive and set up our tents before it gets dark. It’s 490 miles to the park, so it will take about 10 hours with a stop for a meal along the way, and it will get dark about 6 pm. Final van assignments and the points of departure will be set at the PRE-TRIP MEETING.

At Camp/Meals

Our campsite will be the Chisos Campground nestled in the beautiful, rugged Chisos basin (5400 feet elevation). Our group will be small; the maximum number of people we can accommodate is 16. Potable water is available from spigots near our campsite. The restrooms have cold running water, sinks, toilets, and electrical outlets. Hot showers are available at the Rio Grande Campground store and showers. We plan on visiting the showers at least once during the trip. Bring quarters for the $1.50 showers. Note: The store and showers are open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. There is also wireless available at the store/showers.

Breakfast and dinner are prepared as group meals by trip participants and leaders. Everyone should sign up for three kitchen crew assignments.  Each person prepares his/her lunch from the group lunch supplies.

Breakfast and dinner will be warm, nutritious and tasty. We accommodate vegetarians and will make reasonable efforts to provide gluten-free meals for those who request them, although we cannot promise 100% gluten-free meals in a campground environment.

Photo: Pancakes for breakfast. (Photo courtesy of D. Terpack)

Alcohol is permitted in moderation and wine will be served with at least one meal; however as campers are in shared open campground, with posted quiet hours, we strive to be considerate of those in our own campsite who may be tired from a long day’s hike as well as other neighboring campsites. For those who enjoy socializing in the evening, please observe the park quiet hours from 8 pm to 8 am.

Visits to the Hot Springs will sometimes be offered. Park rules prohibit the use of soap in the springs, but a soak is a great way to relieve tired muscles.

Photo: Hiker resting at the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains.

Border Patrol Check

Even though Big Bend National Park is inside the United States, it is very close to the border with Mexico.  As a result, when we return for Austin on Sunday, Nov. 29, we will go through a border control checkpoint as we return from Big Bend.  This is minimal stop, however it is necessary for those on this trip who are not U.S. citizens, you need to bring your passport, visa, green card, and/or whatever other documents are required for you to legally re-enter the United States.


The official average minimum/maximum temperature as measured at Panther Junction (3750 ft) in November is 43/68°F. However, the possible temperature range is from below freezing to the 90s. Since there is always the possibility of a cold front coming through, you should be prepared for nighttime lows in the 20s.  Be sure your sleeping bag is adequate for the cold nights. Although rain is unlikely (November averages about 0.70 inches), bring rain gear and make sure your tent has a rain fly. Hypothermia is no joke and a cold, wet, windy day can turn a good trip into misery and a health hazard.

*** More trip info, including a packing list and hike list will be located in the Meetup Files directory.  This can be found by clicking “More” at the top of this page, then click “Files”. Look for documents which apply to Big Bend Chisos 2015.