River Hikes

Hiker enjoys the views along Ernst Ridge Trail
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.
Boquilla Canyon Trail River View
Boquillas Canyon Trail River View

Boquillas Canyon Trail

Difficulty: Moderate; Distance: 1.4 miles round trip
Begins at the end of the Boquillas Canyon Spur Road

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 Hot Springs

Hot Springs Historic Trail

Difficulty: Easy; Distance: 1 mile round trip
Begin at Hot Springs parking lot

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
Beaver Pond on RGV Nature Trail

Rio Grande Village Nature Trail

Difficulty: Easy; Distance: 0.75 mile loop
Begin at Rio Grande Village Campground, Site #18

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
Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon Trail

Difficulty: Moderate; Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
Begins at terminus of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

This trail leads into the mouth of stunning Santa Elena Canyon. After crossing Terlingua Creek, and climbing a steep sandy bank, 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.

  • Play it Safe. To access the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, hikers must first cross the bed of Terlingua Creek, and climb a short but steep bank. Conditions change constantly at this location. Depending upon recent rainfall, Terlingua Creek may be dry sand, thick mud, or flowing water. Carefully assess conditions and your abilities before attempting to cross. If water levels are too high, do NOT attempt to cross.
Nautilus Fossil
Nautilus Fossil

Ernst Ridge Trail

Difficulty: Moderate; Dangerous in Summer. Distance: 6 miles round trip
Begins at Daniel's Ranch Picnic Area

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.

  • NOTE: This is NOT the way to access the Langford Hot Springs.
    If the hot springs are your destination, drive to the Hot Springs Historic District, where a scenic 0.5 mile round-trip trail leads to the springs.
    Deaths occur along this trail due to hikers being unprepared for the extreme heat. DO NOT attempt this trail from April through September when daily temperatures regularly exceed 110° F (43° C).

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By giving forethought to your actions you can have a safe, exciting, and rewarding vacation in Big Bend National Park.

Floating the Rio Grande is a unique way to see the park.
Big Bend River Trips

Enjoy a day trip, or plan an extended float through spectacular limestone canyons.

Last updated: January 23, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

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



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