Best Hikes in Big Bend National Park

Explore 200 miles of hiking trails!
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Best Hikes in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is home to some of the most spectacular hikes. I thought I’d share what I’ve found to be the best hikes in Big Bend National park. The region sprawls forever, across prickly deserts, into rugged canyons, and up towering mountains. There are over 200 miles of hiking trails throughout Big Bend National Park.

Weather in Big Bend

It can get as hot as 115-120 degrees F along the river during late May and June. However, the temperatures will normally be in the range of 88-110 degrees F during the hottest time of the year – the lower end of that range being in the Basin, the hotter temperatures along the river. Some trails are not accessible during Monsoon season due to flash flooding.
The winter months (December, January, and February) can bring cold weather, dropping temperatures down into the thirties, and occasionally bringing snow.
Please make sure to check the weather conditions in Big Bend National park before planning your travel dates.

Top 8 Hikes in Big Bend

There’s something for everyone, from easy hiking trails to moderate and strenuous hiking trails. Majority of hiking trails are either in the Chihuahuan Desert, the Rio Grande River or the Chisos Mountains range.

“Where to start? That’s tough, but I’ve picked some of my favorite trails in the park to add to your bucket list. “

01 — Balanced Rock

Activities: Photography, Hiking
Difficulty: Easy Mountain Hike
Season: Year Round
RT Distance: 2.2 Miles

The hike to Balanced Rock is pretty easy, although there is some rock scrambling towards the end. It’s an interesting rock formation that is both impressive for adults and for children alike. The trailhead starts near Grapevine Hills trail parking area. The hike offers surreal landscape dotted with strange rock formations.
It is best to take this hike in the morning or late afternoon since there’s little shade on the trail.

02 — Lost Mine Trail

Activities: Photography, Hiking
Difficulty: Moderate Mountain Hike
Season: Year Round
RT Distance: 4.8-Miles

The Lost Mine trail is perhaps the best choice for a half day trip in the Chisos Mountains. The trailhead starts near the end of the road into Chisos Basin. The trail offers views over several different sections of the mountains such as Juniper Canyon and Pine Canyon. This hike provides a great opportunity to explore plants and some of the geological formations seen in the Big Bend region.

03 — Emory Peak

Activities: Wildlife viewing, Hiking
Difficulty: Strenuous Mountain Hike
Season: Year Round
RT Distance: 10.5 Miles

Emory Peak trail is an all-day hike that offers some of the finest viewpoints in all Texas. The 7,625 foot, Emory Peak is the highest peak in Big Bend National Park.
The trailhead starts at large parking lot near Chisos Mountain Lodge. The trail starts in the Chisos Basin with partly wooded slopes and goes up the volcanic cliffs. The peaks are also home to black bears and mountain lions.

04 — Mule Ears Spring Trail

Activities: Hiking, Wildlife Viewing
Difficulty: Easy Desert Hike
Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
RT Distance: 3.8-Miles

Mule Ears Trail is a good choice for a close-up view of the Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend National Park. The mule ears are twin pillars of black volcanic rock seen across several miles in the desert.
The trailhead starts at the end of a spur road off Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. It is best to start this hike early morning and avoid it completely during summer as there is no shade.

05 — Window Trail

Activities: Hiking, View of Sunset/ Sunrise
Difficulty: Moderate Mountain Hike
Season: Year Round
RT Distance: 5.6 Miles

The Window Trail is one of the most popular hiking routes in the Chisos Mountains. It is an easy trail to hike during sunrise or sunset and a great photo-op when colorful light paints the desert in stunning beauty. Deer are often spotted in the surrounding woods, while other wildlife that may be present include mountain lions, black bears, and many species of butterflies.

06 — Santa Elena Canyon Trail

Activities: Hiking, Kayaking, Canoeing
Difficulty: Easy River Hike
Season: Year Round
RT Distance: 1.7 Miles

The majestic Santa Elena Canyon is the best hikes in Big Bend National Park and something you surely don’t want to miss. You can access this 1500ft deep vertical gorge by taking the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive from Panther Junction, the park’s headquarters. The road ends at Santa Elena Canyon Overlook which is where you will find access to the 1.7 mile out and back trail that takes you into the canyon.
The Santa Elena trail is well marked and easy to follow with moderate climbs and heads into the Santa Elena Canyon along the Rio Grande.

07 — Hot Springs Trail

Activities: Soaking in Hot Springs
Difficulty: Easy River Hike
Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
RT Distance: 0.5 Miles

This amazing just under a mile hike takes you into one of the most dramatic features in Big Bend National Park, the Langford Hot Springs.
The trailhead starts at the end of a spur road west of Rio Grande Village. The naturally 105°F heated spring water is renowned for its healing powers, where petroglyphs (rock art) coat the canyon walls nearby. The setting is remote and unusual, and well worth a visit.

08 — Nature Trail

Activities: Hiking, Wildlife Viewing
Difficulty: Easy River Hike
Season: Year Round
RT Distance: 1 Miles

Rio Grande Village Nature Trail is one mile moderately trafficked loop trail. The trailhead starts near the Rio Grande Village campground. The trail provides access to the Rio Grande and amazing views of the river valley. The nature trail crosses a beaver pond and provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.

“Have you been to Big Bend National Park? What is your favorite hiking trail? I’d love to hear about it.”

I hope these tips are helpful. Let me know in the comments below. Happy Traveling!

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