Mule Ears Trail, Big Bend National Park

Texas > Big Bend National Park > The Southwest > Hiking > Mule Ears Trail
Mule Ears Spring
Mule Ears Spring
For a close-up view of the Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend National Park, the 3.8 mile (round trip) Mule Ears Trail is a good choice. It does not pass any 'spectacular geology', as promised by the NPS park brochure but the scenery is interesting enough. The usual destination is the spring of the title, a year round water source at the centre of an oasis of cottonwood trees and bushes - quite a contrast to the hot, arid surroundings - although the path does continue, meeting a much longer trail that connects the Chisos Mountains with the Rio Grande. The land in this part of Big Bend National Park is low, with no shade and temperatures likely to rise above 100°F most of the time from May to September so the trail is best avoided during the middle of the day in summer.


Map of Big Bend National Park.

The Desert

Rock formations
The Mule Ears Trail starts at Mule Ears Overlook, a short spur road on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, 8 miles north of Castolon - the ears are twin pillars of black igneous rock, once part of the core of a volcano, that now rise above the desert several miles to the east. Most of the land hereabouts is undulating, stony hills with sandy ravines, all covered by well-separated desert plants - at least a dozen species of cacti plus the usual sotol, lechuguilla and yucca. The route is across the side of a shallow hillside, along a more level section and down into a wide watercourse, then up the far side, along a flat ridge and across a second dry canyon.

The Spring

The spring is at the far side of the second canyon, at the centre of a large area of greenery. Nearby is the remains of a stone dwelling, with old pipework leading to the stream. Clear, drinkable water always flows, but the volume is reduced to a trickle in dry weather, with a pool a few inches deep. The stream usually sinks below ground after a short distance.

Mule Ears Trail

After crossing typical Chihuahuan Desert land of dry washes, cactus flats and small ridges, this trail arrives at a cool, cottonwood tree-lined oasis

Length: 1.9 miles, to Mule Ears Spring

Elevation change: 100 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Type: One way. Path continues another 1.9 miles to a junction with the Smoky Creek Trail

Usage: Low to medium

Season: Fall, winter, spring

Trailhead: End of a spur road off Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive; 29.166,-103.435

Rating (1-5): ★★★★★
Nearby Trails

Blue Creek Canyon

Boquillas Canyon

Burro Mesa Pouroff

Dog Canyon and Devil's Den

Emory Peak

Hot Springs

Lost Mine

Marufo Vega

Santa Elena Canyon
Back to Top

All Contents © Copyright John Crossley | Comments and Questions | Site Map

Arizona California Colorado Idaho Nevada New Mexico Oregon Texas Utah Wyoming Slot Canyons Travelogue