January 20, 2021 542 PM
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK — Future park visitors will enjoy another opportunity to get up, get out and enjoy the wide-open spaces of Big Bend when work is completed on a new hiking trail next year. The Lone Mountain Trail will circumnavigate the base of Lone Mountain, an imposing feature just north of park headquarters at Panther Junction.
After a long drive to Big Bend and arrival at Panther Junction Visitor Center to plan their adventure, many visitors seek out hiking in the immediate area, where no trails now exist. The new trail will offer a moderately challenging 3-mile loop through the Chihuahuan Desert, conveniently beginning and ending in Panther Junction. Highlights of the route include spectacular views of the Chisos, Rosillos and Dead Horse Mountains; a wide variety of desert plants and animals; and the interesting volcanic features of Lone Mountain itself.
The National Park Service began planning for a trail in this area in 2010, when it published an environmental assessment for a new trail-based recreational opportunity. The original decision, documented in a Finding of No Significant Impact in 2012, was to build a 10-mile multi-use trail, which would allow mountain bike use.
The NPS decision to build a trail which would allow mountain bike use in the national park was highly controversial. The rationale for the mountain bike trail was based, in part, on the lack of mountain biking options in the Big Bend area. Since 2008, however, nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park and Lajitas Resort have opened over 135 miles of mountain biking trails. Big Bend’s 181 miles of unpaved 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive roads are also open to bicycle use and provide outstanding backcountry bicycling opportunities.
The need and context have changed since the original decision but the benefits of an opportunity for visitors to stretch their legs after a long drive to Panther Junction remains, hence the NPS decision to terminate the environmental assessment process for the revised environmental assessment to “Construct New Multi-Use Trail at Panther Junction.”
“With over 200 miles of trails, Big Bend is a world-renowned hiking location,” says Big Bend National Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker, “and we’re proud to add this new opportunity for visitors to enjoy their park even more. I’m delighted to make this decision, concluding a planning process which took far too long, and move forward in building this hiking trail.”
Construction of the new trail will occur in 2022 by the Big Bend National Park trail crew and volunteers. Initially, no additional parking area or facilities are planned, but if usage warrants it, the NPS will consider alternative parking or trailhead configurations at a future date.