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Prepare to be rocked!
Rocked! All shapes, sizes and colors .... tremendous views and finally one amazing rock frame on a classic Big Bend vista! Don't miss this one ....
Quick Summary: Grapevine Hills Traill takes you to Balanced Rock - a rock window that frames a great Big Bend Vista - one you should not miss. The trail is a fairly level easy 3/4 miles along a sandy wash weaving in & out of the wash with a very graducal elevation gain. The last bit angles off to the right as it climbs strenuosly got 1/4 mile to reach Balanced Rock. Very hot hike with little shade in summer.
Geology in a Nutshell: Big Bend National Park showcases both sedimentary & volcanic geological regimes. Grapevine Hills are the eroded remains of a large dome shaped magma intrusion that lifted the overlying sedimentray rocks. The magma cooled down & formed a laccolith- a large dome shaped body. Millions of years of weathering has stripped away the overlying sedimentary rocks, exposing the granite. Granitic rocks were subject to spheroidal weathering producing rounded shapes that line the trail. The granite here is composed of a mix of quartz, feldspar & mica - the differential weathering causes the layering effects seeing in the weathering rocks, rough surface hoilds rain water which furthers the chemical erosin of these rocks into holes & pits. The rocks in this area show wonderful color & textures and are just plain fun to explore :)
Hike: Trail starts of at a signed TH with a quick description of the geology of the area & a topo map of the trail. The obvious trail follows the wash, staying off the sandy botton for much of thw way but meandering in & out of the wash multiple time for the 1st 3/4 mile. Sandy wash is braided and you will see footprints of hikers along the washes as well. You can stay on the trail or explore the wash - they all lead uphill and will eventually converge as you head up. You will be walking in the sand for some parts of the trail. It is best to stay on the trail as this will put you in the right place to find the metal markers that direct you up the last 1/4 mile of rock scramble up to the Balanced Rock. If you miss the turn off you will eventually come up on a saddle & will have to head right to find the balanced rock. Recommend you play attention as the traill heads up & find the marker. This makes it a simple. It is a delightful walk in the Chihuahuan desert vegetation - creosotes, acacias, cacti as you head into the Grapevine Hills. On your right you have some towering rocks that follow the trail & soon coverge to canyon's end. YOu will be looking up at a rocky 270 degrees in front of you with valley behind you. Higher reaches of the trail start having Yuccas as well. Once you reach the metal merkers, the trail goes up hill rather streneously, scrambling over rocks. You will be using your hands to assist as you head up steeply for the last 1/4 mile or so. Each turn in direction is signed with metal markers so watch for them. You will quickly reach a low saddle & trail continues hard right winding through some rock formations. Watch for foot prints & trail wear to get you thriough the last 100 yrds or less till you reach the balanced rock view point. You have long views South/southeast. You can see Nugent mountail through the rock arch. There are a number of use paths from here that take you to different locations in the area. The wonderful rocks are fun to explore. This is a great place to just sit and take in the wide open spaces & silence of Big Bend. Return the way you came to the trail head.
This trail has very little shade - some limited shade can be found in the rocks atthe end but the 3/4 mile is open with no shade. Ther is no water or restrroms at the TH. It can be very hot in summer months. Make sure you have adequate water with you.
This is a popular trail that leads to a classic Big Bend view - it will get busy!