Sam Nail Ranch

A dirt path passes through the shade of pecan trees at Sam Nail Ranch.
A bench, shade, and the sound of the windmill pumping water create a peaceful place to rest.


Quick Facts
Drive south on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, towards Castalon. At 3.4 miles, a pullout on the right marks the trailhead. Parking at this popular trail can fill during busy times.
Historic ranching, birdwatching, trail

Benches/Seating, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Trailhead

In 1916, Sam Nail built a two-room adobe house on the banks of Cottonwood Creek. He soon married, and he and his wife raised a family there. Today, you can wander through their homestead. Look for the remains of the original house, its adobe walls melting back into the desert. Sit in the shade of the orchard and look for remnants of their garden. Find the chicken coop shaded by soapberry trees. Imagine a day when the old, wooden windmill  pumped water up to a tank on the top of Burro Mesa for the Nail's cattle. 

The Trail

An easy, well-maintained walking path loops through the Nail homestead. Most of the trail passes through desert scrub vegetation. At the bottom of the loop, you'll enter an oasis created by the shade of giant pecan, walnut, willow, and soapberry trees. Water, pumped to the surface by a windmill, spills out on the ground, attracting birds and other wildlife.


The rocky, dirt trail gently descends from the parking lot to the windmill. Steps occur on the north and south end of the trail.

No dogs on trails.

Trail Information
Roundtrip Distance: 0.5-mile loop
Average Walking Time: 30 minutes

Big Bend National Park

Last updated: October 30, 2020