River Hikes

Hiking the Hot Springs Canyon 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

NPS Photo/Cookie Ballou

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. Sandy slopes in the canyon are fun for children.
Nautilus Fossil
Nautilus Fossil

NPS Photo/Reine Wonite

Hot Springs Canyon Trail

Difficulty: Moderate; Distance: 6 miles round trip
Begin at Daniel's Ranch or Hot Springs

This 3 mile trail (either direction) connects Daniel's Ranch and the Hot Springs. In places, it runs close to the river; in other areas along the rim of Hot Springs Canyon. This trail offers beautiful views of the Rio Grande, Chisos Mountains, and Del Carmen Mountains.

  • No shade makes this trail dangerous in the heat of summer. Do NOT attempt this trail during the afternoon.
  • NOTE: If the hot springs are your destination, an easier option is to drive to the Hot Springs Trail, where a 0.5 mile round-trip trail leads to the springs.
Hot Springs
Historic Hot Springs

NPS Photo/Jennette Jurado

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; a brochure at the trailhead offers more information. The 105°F springs are a popular destination (0.5 mile roundtrip), but one can continue to where the trail forks, leading to the top of the bluff and back to the parking lot.
Rio Grande Village Nature Trail
Beaver Pond on RGV Nature Trail

NPS Photo/Cookie Ballou

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

NPS Photo/Blake Trester

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, 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. 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. Follow trail signs for the correct crossing location. Crossing at other locations up the creek is dangerous, damages vegetation, and causes erosion. If water levels are too high, do NOT attempt to cross.

Last updated: April 3, 2023

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



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