5 Best Hikes You Need to Take at Big Bend National Park

Established as a national park in June of 1935, Big Bend National Park comprises 1,252 square miles of land located along the Texas-Mexico border. 

Due to the disparate geography, with elevations peaking at 7,832 ft, weather can vary. During the winter months, snow and sub-freezing temperatures are sometimes found at higher elevations. Summers feature hot and dry weather with low humidity, but afternoon thunderstorms are not unlikely. Spring and fall temperatures are milder, making these months the best time to visit Big Bend. 

Visitors will find 600 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians; 450 species of birds and 1,200 species of plants. Fish thrive in the Rio Grande River, which cuts through the canyons of the Chisos Mountain.

Big Bend offers some of the best hiking, camping, and scenery in the country. The remoteness of the location ensures a most spectacular stargazing opportunity.

Broken down by geography, and with a variety of difficulty levels included, here are five of the best hikes at Big Bend:

Desert Hikes

Hike #1. Chimneys Trail

This trail treats hikers to a view of some prominent volcanic dike formations featuring Native American rock art at the base. It is a flat 2.5 hour walk on a gravel trail and there is no shade. The chimneys at the end are spectacular and make this worth the walk in the sun.

Total Distance: 4.8 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: Flat

Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Out & back


Hike #2. Tuff Canyon

This trail begins at Tuff Canyon overlook on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and leads around the edge of the canyon. It is a short hike with lots of shade, cactus and wildflowers. At the end, there is a rock/boulder scramble hikers can climb before turning back.

Total Distance:  1 mile round trip

Elevation Gain: 104 ft

Difficulty: Easy

Route Type: Out & Back

Other Info: Viewing platforms and exhibit featured

For more information visit All Trails.


Mountain Hikes

Hike #3. South Rim

Hikers can start at the Pinnacles Trailhead or the Laguna Meadows Trailhead. The Laguna Meadow Trailhead is the easier of the two, but either way, it’s a good idea to get an early start. The average time for completion is 6-7 hours. There are also camping sites available along the trail. From the rim, hikers are treated to fantastic views of the mountains of Northern Mexico. Bring plenty of water.

Total Distance: 12-14.5 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 2,657 ft

Difficulty: Strenuous

Route Type: Loop

Other Info: At the top of the Pinnacles, there are lockers and a compost toilet. Hikers can lock up belongings and hike the one mile to the top of Emory Peak from here. This will add two miles to the already long hike.


River Hikes

Hike #4. Hot Springs Historic Trail

This historic trail begins at the Hot Springs parking lot. It  features hot springs that were once the bathhouse of J.O. Langford's Hot Springs resort. The trail is good for all skill levels and accessible year-round.

Total Distance: 1 mile round trip

Elevation Gain: 144 ft

Difficulty: Easy

Route Type: Loop

Other Info: This area is subject to seasonal closure due to weather conditions. High river levels have had them temporarily inaccessible from time to time.

Hike #5. Santa Elena Canyon Trail

This trail features a river and is good for all skill levels. Prepare to get your feet/legs wet and muddy as you’ll have to cross the river to get on to the trail. Hiking sandals are recommended for this hike as it can be quite muddy and rather slippery. After getting through the muck and mud, hikers are treated to breathtaking views provided by the magnificent 1,500-foot vertical cliffs of solid limestone canyon walls.

Total Distance:  1.7 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 610 ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Out & Back

Other Info: Some agricultural runoff; do not put your head under the water. Heavy rains can make the river impassible.

Big Bend National Park charges a fee to enter. Park entrances are open 24 hours daily, all year. Entrance fee stations have variable seasons and hours.

Pets are NOT ALLOWED on trails in Big Bend National Park. 

All Big Bend hikers and backpackers must follow Leave No Trace principles.