10 Best Hikes in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park Overview

Located in southwest Texas on the Mexican border, Big Bend National Park is more than just the desert wasteland that it appears to be. River carved canyons and a lone mountain range add beauty to the tough terrain you see as you enter the park. The summer heat here can be exceptionally brutal so be sure to bring plenty of water with you if you set out on foot on even the smallest of trails. It is recommended that visitors drink at least a gallon of water a day to stay properly hydrated. We’ve listed the 10 best hikes in Big Bend National Park below that are worth the workout!

StateTexas
Nearest Metro AreaEl Paso, TX
Area Size801,163 acres
EstablishedJune 12, 1944
Hiking Trails201 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Big Bend National Park

South Rim Loop
Shades of Rust
Shades of Rust, Photo by Adam Baker

Don’t let the distance stop you; this is easily one of the best hikes in Big Bend National Park. If you include the 1.5 mile Emory Peak Trail, this 16+ mile loop makes for an awesome all-day adventure. Complete the loop either clockwise via the steeper Pinnacles Trail or via the more gradual Laguna Meadow Trail. The breathtaking views at South Rim mark the halfway point. There are also plenty of backcountry camping sites along the way if you need to stop for the night. The trailhead is located at the Chisos Basin Visitor Center.

  • 16.6 mile loop
  • 3300′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Lost Mine Trail
Lost Mine Trail
Lost Mine Trail, Photo by Navin75

Located in the Chisos Mountain area, Lost Mine is one of the best hikes in Big Bend National Park offering beautiful views of Casa Grande and the Juniper Canyon only a mile from the trailhead. The rest of the trail climbs up through a forested area to the ridge with more amazing overlooks. The trailhead is located at the 5.1 mile mark on the Basin Road.

  • 4.8 miles out and back
  • 1000′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Window Trail
Big Bend National Park
Along Window View Trail in Chisos Basin, Photo by Jasperdo

This trail winds down through Oak Creek Canyon to the Window in the Chisos Basin framing a spectacular desert panorama. Be sure to be careful at the window’s ledge as the drop-off is significant…the return trip is all uphill. The trailhead is located next to the Chisos Basin Visitor Center.

  • 5.6 miles out and back
  • 900′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Santa Elena Canyon Trail
Santa Elena Canyon
Santa Elena Canyon, Photo by Jonathan Cutrer

Short trail but still one of the best hikes in Big Bend National Park. Hikers will ascend paved steps before continuing into the Santa Elena Canyon where the canyon walls tower on either side of the Rio Grande. The trailhead is found at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

  • 1.7 miles out and back
  • 400′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Dog Canyon to Devil’s Den Loop
Dog Canyon from U.S. 385, Near Dagger Flat, Big Bend National Park, Texas
Dog Canyon from U.S. 385, Photo by Ken Lund

Start by taking Dog Canyon Trail and passing through the canyon itself. The middle portion of the loop is actually off trail trekking south through open terrain…be sure to come prepared with knowledge of the area before beginning this hike. Once you find Devil’s Den, you’ll take the narrow split back to where you parked your car. The trailhead is 3.5 miles south of Persimmon Gap Visitor Center on Main Park Road.

  • 7.4 mile loop
  • 600′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Grapevine Hills Trail
Balanced Rock, Big Bend Nat'l Park
Balanced Rock, Photo by David Fulmer

Although it’s fairly isolated, this is one of the best hikes in Big Bend National Park that you don’t want to miss. The geologic formations will leave your jaw dropped. The gigantic boulders known as ‘Balanced Rock’ are truly a sight to behold. The trailhead is located at the parking area 6 miles down Grapevine Spring.

  • 2.2 miles out and back
  • 250′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Boquillas Canyon Trail
Big Bend National Park
Along Boquillas Canyon Trail, Photo by Jasperdo

A gradual slope takes hikers down into the Boquillas Canyon where it meets with the Rio Grande. This is a pretty short hike but one you should definitely check out if in the eastern part of the park. The trailhead is at the end of Boquillas Canyon Spur Road.

  • 1.4 miles out and back
  • 100′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Tuff Canyon Trail
Big Bend National Park
Tuff Canyon Overlook, Photo by Jasperdo

If you’re on your way out to Santa Elena Canyon (above), be sure to stop off at this quick hike. The 3 overlooks on the trail provide great views into the canyon. The trailhead is located at a parking area off of Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

  • 0.75 miles loop
  • No elevation gain
  • Easy
Hot Springs Canyon Trail
Big Bend National Park
Along Hot Springs Trail, Photo by Jasperdo

This is a great trail next to the Rio Grande and includes some historical significance – historic buildings and ancient Native American pictographs. The hot springs are located right next to the river. This trail is out in the open so bring plenty of water! The trailhead is located near Rio Grande Village Visitor Center.

  • 5.8 miles out and back
  • 700′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Chimneys Trail
Window at Chimneys
Window at Chimneys, Photo by jb10okie

The ‘chimneys’ this trail is named for are actually volcanic dike formations formed thousands of years ago. This hike is out in the arid desert so bring plenty of water to hydrate. The trailhead is located at mile 13 on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

  • 4.8 miles out and back
  • 100′ elevation gain
  • Easy

Featured Image: Big Bend National Park Looking Across the Rio Grande, Photo by Yinan Chen

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