This 12.6-mile loop in Big Bend National Park is a great mountain hike that leads to the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains and provides a view that extends for miles across the boarder of Mexico. The hike is difficult but attainable in a day and leaves one feeling accomplished by the end of the loop. The trail is actually a combination of several trails, and there are ways to curtail it, which would limit the views from the rim, or extend it beyond 12.6 miles.
For hikers starting out early it is best to make the loop starting up the Laguna Meadows Trail and returning via the Boot Canyon/Pinnacle Trail in order to hike a majority of the trail in the shade. Reversing the loop will mean a hike down with no shade. Also, the best time to visit the park is in the winter months because it is extremely hot during the summertime.
Leaving the visitor center in Chisos Basin, the first part of the trail will lead up the Laguna Meadow Trail. Be sure to take the time to look back as the view toward the Window is absolutely stunning. There is a gradual ascent for the first third of the trail, including several series of switchbacks, and the saddle is visible from the trail. Once the first saddle is reached the trail levels off until the rim. The views from the saddle to the junction of Colimia Trail are limited. One can turn left at the junction at Colimia Trail to cut over to Boot Canyon and shave miles off of the loop, but this means missing the ultimate view of the South Rim.
The trail finally opens up to views off the rim, and they are dramatic. Take time to enjoy a snack or lunch before heading back to the trailhead. There are many vistas, and one can hike right up to the edge of the rim. Santa Elena canyon can be viewed in the distance as well as Mexico.
When it is time to return to the trailhead, follow the signs to Boot Canyon. The trail is primarily downhill from the rim, and there are some wonderful vistas over the canyon. For the truly adventurous, once can summit Emory Peak (an additional 1.6 miles to the summit) or keep descending down the Pinnacle Trail back to the trailhead.
The views change as one descends and the sense of accomplishment when returning to camp is incredible. This route can be broken up to multiple days with numerous backcountry campsites along the way. Sunrise along the rim is reported to be amazing, and the best way to see it is to camp in the backcountry.