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Best Hikes Big Bend National Park

Established in the early 1940s, the Big Bend National Park is in West Texas along the Mexican border and the Rio Grande, the longest river in Texas.

Big Bend is one of the best tourist destinations in Texas because it offers many outdoor activities such as camping, climbing, cycling, hiking, horseback riding, rafting, and canoeing.

And Big Bend National Park is the largest and oldest national park in Texas.

The Park includes over 150 miles of hiking trails and is inhabited by more than 1,200 species of plants and animals.

In this post I’m sharing the best hikes in Big Bend National Park including easy, moderate, and difficult hikes.

 

Best Hikes Big Bend National Park Texas.

 

Tuff Canyon Trail

Easy

Desert hike

The Tuff Canyon Trail is an easy hike at 1 mile (1.6 km) roundtrip with only 105 ft (32 m) elevation gain. A nice short family friendly hike at Big Bend.

This hike features beautiful rock formations in the canyon. While hiking Tuff Canyon in springtime you’ll see wildflowers and cactus blooming.

This trail is accessed via the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and features an overlook at the trailhead.

 

Sam Nail Ranch

Easy

Desert hike

The Sam Nail Ranch hike is a super easy half mile loop trail featuring an old homestead, a couple of old windmills, and part of an adobe wall.

This is a wonderful spot for birding in Big Bend, as well as wildlife, watch for javelina in the area.

This trail is accessed via the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, watch for the sign around mile three.

 

Windmill at Sam Nail Ranch in Big Bend Texas.

 

Hot Springs Historic Trail

Easy

River hike

You’ll find the trailhead at the end of Hot Springs Road which is about 18 miles southeast of Panther Junction Visitor Center.

This short hike is only 1 mile round trip and features pictographs, a homestead, remains of an old resort, and of course the hot springs.

At 105°F the hot springs are a popular destination for hikers who want a hot soak after a hike

 

Rio Grande Village Nature Trail

Easy

River hike

The Rio Grande Village Nature Trail is a 1 mile (1.6 km) trail with 61 ft (200 m) elevation gain.

The hike starts out with a boardwalk over the pond with great birdwatching opportunities.

Continuing up the hill you will have amazing views of Sierra del Carmen mountain range in Mexico.

If you are staying at Rio Grande Campground this hike is a wonderful place to watch the sunrise and sunset at Big Bend.

The trail is accessed from the Rio Grande Campground.

 

Rio Grande Nature Trail view of mountains and Rio Grande.

 

Boquillas Canyon Trail

Easy

River hike

The Boquillas Canyon Trail is 1.2 miles (1.9 km)

This popular trail at Big Bend features beautiful views of the canyon walls along the Rio Grande. You can walk right up to the river. Sometimes there are horses or burros grazing near the water.

You may see merchants from Boquillas Mexico selling food or souvenirs. Or they will leave carvings and other gift items with prices marked, and a jar for you to place cash for payment.

 

Boquillas Canyon Trail with view of Rio Grande.

 

Grapevine Trail – Balanced Rock Hike

Moderate

Desert hike

When it comes to best hikes in Big Bend, the Grapevine Trail Balanced Rock Hike is a favorite for many visitors to Big Bend.

Getting to the trailhead involves a 6 mile (9.65 km) gravel road but it’s worth the bumpy ride to do this unique hike in Big Bend.

Hiking the Grapevine Trail, you will arrive at Balanced Rock, and you can walk right underneath it too.

Although Grapevine Hills Trail is rated moderate, most people will find this an easy hike at 2.2 miles (3.5 km) for the loop and a bit of a scramble near the balanced rock.

 

Hiker standing below Balanced Rock at Grapevine Trail Big Bend.

 

Lost Mine Trail

Moderate

Mountain hike

The Lost Mine Trail is one of the greatest hikes in Big Bend because it combines scenic views and an ecosystem of woodland grassland.

Since this is a popular hike and the parking lot is small it’s best to get there early in the morning for the best chance for parking at the trailhead.

This 4.8 mile roundtrip hike has an elevation gain of 1,100 ft (335 m) and it’s uphill on the way out to rewarding views.

 

Panoramic view from Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend.

 

Santa Elena Canyon Trail

Moderate

River hike

What makes the Santa Elena Canyon Trail one of the coolest hikes in Big Bend National Park is that it is just 1.5 miles long but offers stunning views of the canyon.

Thanks to its perfect location along the Rio Grande, this trail is quite popular.

Even if you don’t want to do the hike it’s worth it to walk the boardwalk trail to the Rio Grande and take in the view of the canyon. It’s a great place for a picnic and relaxing by the water.

Please note that you are not allowed to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico at Santa Elena Canyon.

 

Santa Elena Canyon Big Bend National park.

 

The Window Trail

Moderate

Mountain hike

The Window Trail is probably the most popular hike in the Chisos Mountains. If you are staying at the Chisos Mountain Lodge or camping at Chisos Basin Campground you can walk to the trailhead.

Window Trail is 5.2 miles (8.4 km) round trip with 948 ft (289 m) elevation gain. This moderate hike is mostly downhill on the way to the window but save some energy to hike back up.

The Window Trail is a well-marked trail that brings hikers to the V-shaped window in the Chisos Mountains, offering panoramic views of the Chihuahuan Desert.

 

Window View Trail Big Bend with bright blue sky.

 

Chisos Basin Loop Trail

Moderate

Mountain hike

Another great hike in Big Bend National Park is the Chisos Basin Loop Trail, thanks to its spectacular views of the nearby canyons and ridges.

Chisos Basin Loop is 2.4 miles (3.9 km) with 466 ft (142 m) elevation gain.

The trailhead is easily accessed from the parking lot of the Chisos Mountain Lodge.

 

Chisos Basin Loop Trail Big Bend.

 

Emory Peak Trail

Strenuous

Mountain hike

The Emory Peak Trail is a longer hike, at a little over 10 miles (16.7 km) roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2,923 ft (769 m) making it one of the more difficult hikes in Big Bend.

If you want to hike to the highest point in Big Bend National Park, you’ll have to hike the Emory Peak Trail.

At 7,832 feet (2,387 m) you will have extraordinary panoramic views.

Plan on spending about 6 hours to hike the Emory Peak Trail and expect windy conditions at the summit.

 

South Rim Loop

Strenuous

Mountain hike

Another trail that begins at the Chisos Basin near the Chisos Mountain Lodge, this 12.6 mile (20.25 km) loop hike is difficult.

The reward for hiking the South Rim at Big Bend is spectacular views.

Plan on spending around 8 hours for the hike or make it a 2 day hike and spend a night at one of the backcountry campsites along the way.

Chisos Basin Trailhead list of hikes and distances.

 

Enjoy hiking in Big Bend National Park. Remember to bring lots of water, snacks, wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.

The best time of year to hike at Big Bend is fall, winter, and early spring.

Please note there are no pets allowed on park trails. And you probably won’t have any cellphone signal on hiking trails so plan accordingly.

For more fun things to do on your Texas road trip check out these articles:

Things to do in Marfa Texas

Road trip to Alpine, Marfa, Terlingua, and Big Bend

Hike to the desk on top of a hill in Alpine Texas

Things to do in Fredericksburg Texas

Free things to do in Austin Texas

Things to do in Rockport Texas

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