The Rio Grande creates a distinct environment in Big Bend National Park. Countless bird species can be found in the riverbank vegetation. The river provides water for many desert animals; look along the muddy shoreline for tracks, signs, and scat.
Boquillas Canyon Trail
Difficulty: Moderate; Distance: 1.4 miles round trip
The Boquillas Canyon trail climbs from the parking to the top of a cliff overlooking the Rio Grande. On this bluff, mortar holes from ancient inhabitants can be seen. Continue down to the river's edge and into the canyon until the canyon walls meet the river.
Hot Springs Historic Trail
Difficulty: Easy; Distance: 1 mile round trip
This trail passes remains of a resort, pictographs, homestead, and hot springs. Trailside exhibits provide a glimpse into the history of the area. The 105°F springs are a popular destination (0.5 mile roundtrip), but one can continue to where the trail forks, leading to spectacular views along the top of the bluff and an easy loop back to the parking lot. The hot spring is subject to flooding at higher river levels.
Rio Grande Village Nature Trail
Difficulty: Easy; Distance: 0.75 mile loop
Although short and easy, the trail is very scenic and has fantastic opportunities for wildlife viewing, especially birds. The first 100 yards is wheelchair accessible and crosses a boardwalk through a spring-fed wetland. Then the trail gradually climbs a limestone hill with panoramic vistas of the Rio Grande, and the Chisos and Del Carmen Mountains. This trail is great for sunsets.
Santa Elena Canyon Trail
Difficulty: Moderate; Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
This trail leads into the mouth of stunning Santa Elena Canyon. After crossing Terlingua Creek, the trail ascends on paved steps to a vista, then descends back to the water's edge, continuing into the canyon until the canyon walls meet the water. A Big Bend classic. Be prepared for mud. Trail is impassable when Terlingua Creek floods.
Ernst Ridge Trail
Difficulty: Moderate; Dangerous in Summer. Distance: 6 miles round trip
This trail steeply ascends to the rim of a scenic limestone canyon, offering incredible vistas of the Rio Grande below and Sierra del Carmen, and Chisos Mountains in the distance. From there it winds through rugged desert, gradually descending to the river over three miles. If you are looking for a shorter hike with spectacular views, hike the first 0.4 miles to the river overlook. No Shade, no water.
One app, every park at your fingertips. The NPS App offers tools to explore more than 400 national parks nationwide.
By giving forethought to your actions you can have a safe, exciting, and rewarding vacation in Big Bend National Park.
Big Bend River Trips
Enjoy a day trip, or plan an extended float through spectacular limestone canyons.
Last updated: September 21, 2023