South Rim Trail

A view from the edge of a high cliff, looking down onto lower deserts and far away mountains.
View from the South Rim

NPS/J. Jurado

Quick Facts
Trailhead is near the Chisos Basin parking lot

Scenic View/Photo Spot, Trailhead

Roundtrip distance: 12.5 miles (20.2 km)
Elevation change: 1,700 feet (518 m)
Average hiking time: 6 to 7 hours

The hike to the South Rim is one of the most strenuous in the park, but well worth the effort. On clear days, the views encompass a good portion of the Big Bend country as well as mountains in northern Mexico. A loop can be completed by combining the steeper Pinnacles Trail with the more gradual Laguna Meadow Trail. It is best to get an early start for the strenuous hike out of the Basin. Plan on carrying all the water that you will need for this hike, as Boot Spring is not reliable year-round. 


Both the Pinnacles and the Laguna Meadows trails switchback up and out of the Basin and lead to the South Rim, but the Pinnacles trail is steeper with more log steps. Some people choose to make a loop by combining the two trails. An easier alternative involves both ascending and descending the Laguna Meadow trail.

Hike Smart

Bring plenty of water!
Carry 1 liter of water per person per hour that you plan to hike. The importance of carrying enough water in this hot, dry climate cannot be overstated!

Your body needs food for energy and salts and electrolytes to replace what it's losing from perspiration. The dry climate at Big Bend means that sweat often evaporates almost instantly; your body is likely losing lots of moisture and salts without you even realizing it. Eat plenty of salty snacks to keep your body's salt-to-water ratio in balance.

Sun protection
Carry sunscreen and use it liberally. Hats are also strongly recommended. It may seem strange to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants in hot weather, but many hikers choose lightweight, breathable clothing which covers their arms and legs to protect themselves from the sun. 

Don't leave people behind
If you're hiking in a group, make sure the person in the back always has someone to help.

Be aware of wildlife
Keep an eye out for snakes, and remember to maintain a safe distance between yourself and all wildlife. Animals in the park are wild and should never be approached, harassed or fed.

Don't stack rocks
Cairns are stacks of rocks which are sometimes used to mark trails in areas where they are hard to follow. Randomly stacked rocks can lure hikers off the correct trail.

Big Bend National Park

Last updated: April 5, 2021