Outer Mountain Loop

Red Rocks in Blue Creek
Red Rocks in Blue Creek

NPS Photo/Reine Wonite


Difficulty: Strenuous; significant elevation changes and primitive trail
Distance: 30 miles (side-trips to the South Rim or Emory peak add up to five additional miles).
Time: Allow at least three days

The "Outer Mountain Loop" refers to the 30-mile circuit that combines the Pinnacles, Juniper Canyon, Dodson, Blue Creek, and Laguna Meadows trails. Although you can start/end this trip in the Chisos Basin, Juniper Canyon, or the Homer Wilson Ranch, most hikers begin from the Basin and hike the trail in a clockwise direction. Sections of this trail are extremely steep; there is limited flat or level hiking. The route is extremely strenuous and is not recommended for inexperienced hikers. It includes a wide variety of habitats and scenery including, the piñon/juniper/oak woodlands of the Chisos, and stark, rugged desert vistas.

Safety Concerns

  • Each year, park rangers are called to respond to medical emergencies along this route. Most are the result of severe dehydration and heat-related conditions.
  • Backcountry permits are required for all overnight backpacking in Big Bend National Park.
  • Cell phone service is limited in the park. Always have a friend who knows your itinerary and can call the park if you are overdue.
  • Please, do not attempt this hike during the summer months. From early May through early October, it may be physically impossible to carry enough water to safely hike this trail.


Water is always a concern on this trail. Do not rely on seasonal, intermittent, or ephemeral springs. We recommend that you carry a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day. Caching water at one or two locations along the loop, in addition to packing all you can carry before setting out on your hike, is the key to success on the Outer Mountain Loop. Water can be cached at the end of the Juniper Canyon Road (requires high clearance or 4WD) or at the Homer Wilson/Blue Creek Ranch. A storage box is available there for caching water. When caching water, remember to mark each bottle with your name and the date you plan to pick up the water. Please pack out empty bottles. Only water can be stored in the storage boxes. Food and supplies left in the boxes are subject to removal.

Suggested Itinerary

Outer Mountain Loop Route

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129


(432) 477-2251

Contact Us