The hike can be done roundtrip in one VERY long, tiring day, but most spend at least one night along the trail. Backcountry camping is strictly regulated in the High Chisos to protect the dozen bear and two-dozen mountain lion that reside there. During the March spring break rush, the campsites are ALWAYS booked, and it will be impossible to hike the South Rim, so just don't try.
The best way to see the South Rim is to leave The Basin on the Laguna Meadows trail, which climbs steeply to the South Rim over 6.3 miles, with 1,875 feet of elevation gain. Then follow the 3.3-mile route along the South, Southeast, and Northeast Rim of the Chisos Mountains, with eye-popping views all the way. Return to The Basin via the Pinnacles Trail, 5.3 miles down.
This loop takes in every spectacular mile of the entire "South Rim" complex. It is 15 miles in length. At least one night should be spent at one of the many backcountry sites along the South Rim. Sunsets up here are spectacular.
Free permits must be acquired in person at Panther Junction. None are given over the phone, internet, or mail.
Day hiking to the South Rim and back is possible without a permit, and is easiest via the Laguna Meadows trail, 12.5 miles roundtrip.
In the past, water has been available at Boot Spring, on the Pinnacles Trail. However, the spring has been dry in recent summers due to drought. Carry all the water you'll need. The park recommends one gallon per person per day.
by Ben the Grate
February 3, 2004
From journal The Unknown National Park