Texas Hiking Trails

Map shows trailhead locations
The two main hiking locations in west Texas are the Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains national parks. Also along the Rio Grande, Big Bend Ranch State Park has a few maintained paths, and many off-trail routes. Two other good locations are Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyons, both state parks.

1. Bear Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Length 1.5 miles (2.4 km), elevation change 2000 feet (610 meters)
Difficulty Strenuous
Rating (1-5) ★★★★

Bear Canyon is a steep drainage east of Pine Spring Canyon; the path up the ravine is a less used alternative to the Tejas Trail for reaching the Guadalupe Mountains backcountry. It starts along the Frijole Trail in the desert foothills and ends at a junction with the Bowl Trail, in cool pine woodland at 8,000 feet. Although steep and rocky, much of the route is shaded by trees and in shadow during the morning, unlike the more exposed Tejas Trail.

Bear Canyon
2. Blue Creek Canyon, Big Bend National Park
Length 1.5 miles (2.4 km), elevation change 240 feet (73 meters); to the red rocks
Difficulty Easy, to the rocks
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

A disused but well preserved ranch building and a group of pointed red rock formations are the two attractions of the first 2 miles of the trail along Blue Creek Canyon, a route that continues upstream for several more miles, gaining height steadily, into the high country of the Chisos Mountains, where it meets the Laguna Meadows segment of the inner loop trail.

Blue Creek Canyon
3. Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend National Park
Length 0.7 miles (1.1 km), elevation change 40 feet (12 meters)
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

The entrance to Boquillas Canyon, one of the three great river gorges within Big Bend National Park, can be reached by a short trail that climbs over a ridge then passes through a riparian area close to the Rio Grande, ending at a pebbly beach. At times of low water it is possible to continue some distance downstream, by a combination of walking along sand banks and wading in the river.

Boquillas Canyon
4. Bowl, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Length 4.7 miles (7.6 km), elevation change 600 feet (183 meters); (loop)
Difficulty Easy to moderate; a few steep sections
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

High above the desert lowlands, the sheltered pine and fir forest of the Bowl is circled by a loop trail that connects the Bear Canyon and Tejas trails and has a 0.3 mile spur to the summit of 8,368 foot Hunter Peak. Another junction is with the Juniper Trail, an alternative connector to the Tejas Trail for continuation trips further north.

Bowl
5. Burro Mesa Pouroff, Big Bend National Park
Length 0.5 miles (0.8 km), elevation change 50 feet (15 meters)
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

This well used path to a narrow pouroff crosses sandy ground then follows a dry wash to the base of the cliffs; the drainage continues high above (reached by the separate Upper Burro Mesa Pouroff Trail). The lower path is accessed from a paved side road, forking off Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

Burro Mesa Pouroff
6. Closed Canyon, Big Bend Ranch State Park
Length 0.8 miles (1.3 km), elevation change 0 feet (0 meters); to the dryfall
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★

Short route along a deep, enclosed, sheer-walled canyon through dark, metamorphic rocks. The gorge meets the Rio Grande though ropes are needed to overcome a dryfall near the end.

Closed Canyon
7. Devils Den, Big Bend National Park
Length 3.5 miles (5.6 km), elevation change 300 feet (91 meters)
Difficulty Moderate
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

A primitive, cairned trail forks south off the well-used route to Dog Canyon after about 1 mile, following dry washes to the Devil's Den - a narrow slot-like canyon through limestone cliffs, where upstream progress requires scrambling over small dryfalls and other obstacles.

Devils Den
8. Devils Hall, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Length 2.1 miles (3.4 km), elevation change 750 feet (229 meters)
Difficulty Easy to moderate
Rating (1-5) ★★★★

Devil's Hall is a narrow, 200 foot deep, vertical-walled ravine through thin-layered limestone strata, and may be reached by a fairly level trail up Pine Spring Canyon. The last mile is over pebbles and boulders along the streambed.

Devils Hall
9. Dog Canyon, Big Bend National Park
Length 2 miles (3.2 km), elevation change 40 feet (12 meters)
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

Dog Canyon is a short but narrow and steep-walled limestone gorge cutting through the Santiago Mountains, near the northern park entrance at Persimmon Gap. The easy trail to the mouth of the canyon crosses desert flats filled with many species of cacti.

Dog Canyon
10. Emory Peak, Big Bend National Park
Length 1 mile (1.6 km), elevation change 900 feet (274 meters)
Difficulty Moderate; strenuous for the full hike (4.5 miles)
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

The trail to the summit of Emory Peak, the highest point in the national park, climbs steadily up a mostly forested ridge, ending with a short scramble up a near-vertical cliff. The path is reached by the 3.5 mile Pinnacles Trail, making the round trip to the summit about 9 miles (2,450 foot elevation gain).

Emory Peak
11. Guadalupe Peak, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Length 4.2 miles (6.8 km), elevation change 2940 feet (896 meters)
Difficulty Moderate to strenuous
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

The highest peak in Texas rises nearly 3,000 feet above Pine Spring campground, starting point for the strenuous trail to the summit. The path is very steep in places but well maintained and has fantastic views all the way.

Guadalupe Peak
12. Hot Springs, Big Bend National Park
Length 3 miles (4.8 km), elevation change 250 feet (76 meters)
Difficulty Moderate; strenuous in summer
Rating (1-5) ★★★★

The Hot Springs alongside the Rio Grande can be reached either by a gravel track (not for RVs), leaving Hwy 118 a few miles from Rio Grande Village, or by a pleasant 3 mile trail, crossing desert land with many and varied cacti, and frequent views of the river gorge (Hot Springs Canyon). The trail starts a little way west of the village, at the end of the spur road to Daniels Ranch.

Hot Springs
13. Lighthouse Trail, Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Length 3 miles (4.8 km), elevation change 900 feet (274 meters)
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

Mostly level route along a fairly wide canyon to one of the best known formations in the state park, a red rock pillar at the edge of eroded cliffs.

Lighthouse Trail
14. Lost Mine, Big Bend National Park
Length 2.4 miles (3.9 km), elevation change 1200 feet (366 meters)
Difficulty Moderate
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

From a pull-out along the Chisos Basin Road near Panther Pass, this often busy trail climbs a tree-covered hillside and a bushy ravine to a high, narrow ridge separating the upper ends of Juniper Canyon and Pine Canyon, providing an excellent introduction to the scenery of the Chisos Mountains.

Lost Mine
15. Marufo Vega, Big Bend National Park
Length 14 miles (22.5 km), elevation change 1000 feet (305 meters); (loop)
Difficulty Strenuous, especially in summer
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

Perhaps the most difficult day hike in Big Bend, the Marufo Vega loop trail crosses hostile, mountainous terrain, exceedingly hot and dry during the summer months, and descends steeply down a canyon to the banks of the Rio Grande, deep within Boquillas Canyon. The route follows the river bank for a mile then returns via an equally steep climb up an adjacent ravine.

Marufo Vega
16. McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Length 3.4 miles (5.5 km), elevation change 2700 feet (823 meters); to the Grotto
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

McKittrick is the most scenic canyon in the national park - a shallow stream flows year-round, and the lower few miles have abundant vegetation and wildlife. Two possible destinations for a day hike are an old wooden cabin after 2.4 miles and a limestone grotto after 3.4 miles; both have a small picnic area nearby. Beyond the grotto the trail climbs very steeply above the valley, up to 7,716 foot McKittrick Ridge, (location of a backcountry campsite), then crosses more undulating terrain along the edge of an escarpment to a junction with the Tejas Trail.

McKittrick Canyon
17. Mule Ears, Big Bend National Park
Length 1.9 miles (3.1 km), elevation change 100 feet (30 meters); to Mule Ears Spring
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

The Mule Ears Spring trail winds over typical Chihuahaun Desert land of small peaks, sandy flats and dry washes, to a cottonwood tree-lined oasis. Start point is Mule Ears Overlook, along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive 8 miles north of Castolon. Past the spring, the trail continues to a junction with a backpacking route linking the Chisos Mountains with the River Road.

Mule Ears
18. Pinnacles, Big Bend National Park
Length 3.5 miles (5.6 km), elevation change 1600 feet (488 meters)
Difficulty Strenuous
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

The Pinnacles Trail provides one of the two routes southwards from Chisos Basin into the high country of the Chisos Mountains. It starts by crossing the south side of the basin - bushy, sloping ground with somewhat limited views - then climbs steeply to a plateau between Emory Peak and Toll Mountain. From here the Boot Spring Trail continues further south while the Emory Peak Trail branches off westwards.

Pinnacles
19. Rancherias Canyon, Big Bend Ranch State Park
Length 2.4 miles (3.9 km), elevation change 400 feet (122 meters); to the spring
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

Typically scenic and unspoilt Chihuahuan Desert canyon, alternating between enclosed and more open sections, with springs and a short stream towards the lower end.

Rancherias Canyon
20. Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park
Length 0.8 miles (1.3 km), elevation change 40 feet (12 meters)
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★

Santa Elena is most spectacular canyon in the national park, formed as the Rio Grande cuts through the 1,200 foot cliffs of Sierra Ponce. The mouth of the canyon is reached by a popular trail that crosses the lower end of Terlingua Creek (wading may be necessary), climbs up and over a rocky outcrop and ends on a sandbank next to the river; beyond here the water covers all the canyon floor, but the river is often shallow enough to allow continuation hikes upstream.

Santa Elena Canyon
21. Smith Spring, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Length 2.3 miles (3.7 km), elevation change 220 feet (67 meters); (loop)
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

This easy loop first leads to Manzanita Spring, in a grassy clearing close to Frijole Ranch, then climbs up open hillsides below Frijole Ridge to the larger Smith Spring, set in shady maple/oak/pine woodland in a small canyon. The return is via another path a little way west. The first section to Manzanita Spring (0.2 miles) is paved and accessible to wheelchairs.

Smith Spring
22. Summit Trail, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Length 0.5 miles (0.8 km), elevation change 425 feet (130 meters)
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

This trail provides an easy, fairly direct route to the top of the highest rock in the state park, initially over partly overgrown slopes with boulders, then across bare rock.

Summit Trail
23. Tejas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Length 3.3 miles (5.3 km), elevation change 2100 feet (640 meters); to the Bowl Trail
Difficulty Strenuous
Rating (1-5) ★★★★

The longest trail in the Guadalupe Mountains links the park headquarters at the mouth of Pine Spring Canyon with the northern entrance in Dog Canyon - 11 miles in all, across a succession of ridges and valleys. The steepest but most used section is the southernmost 3.3 miles, which form part of the 9 mile loop to Hunter Peak, also involving the Bowl, Bear Canyon and Frijole trails. There are three primitive campsites along the way, and junctions with several other paths including the Marcus, Juniper and McKittrick Canyon trails.

Tejas
24. Tuff Canyon, Big Bend National Park
Length 0.2 miles (0.3 km), elevation change 0 feet (0 meters)
Difficulty Easy
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

There are many box canyons in Big Bend - shallow but sheer-walled ravines, cutting across the desert plains. Tuff Canyon is a good example, located right next to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and viewable by a very short trail.

Tuff Canyon
25. Upper Canyon and Haynes Ridge Overlook Trails, Caprock Canyons State Park
Length 7 miles (11.3 km), elevation change 650 feet (198 meters); round trip
Difficulty Moderate
Rating (1-5) ★★★★★

Circular route up a narrowing canyon to a cool, sheltered grotto (Fern Cave), followed by a steep climb to the top of the plateau, a traverse of open country and a sharp descent back to the trailhead; varied scenery, and good views.

Upper Canyon and Haynes Ridge Overlook Trails
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