Explore the most popular camping trails in Big Bend National Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

12 days ago

I did this 14 mile trail with my daughter in May a week ago. The rangers recommended against doing it at this time of year because of the heat and the absence of any shade. We did it anyway, starting at sunrise. We took the south fork and were at the river by 10:30AM, a bit ahead of our estimated 30 minute miles. On the way back and around the 9 mile mark I started having terrible muscle crumbs. Apparently I wasn’t drinking enough water. I had brought 4 liters with me and was pacing myself drinking it knowing the heat would increase as the day went on but then I couldn’t hydrate fast enough. The fact we did another 7 mile desert hike the day before didn’t help. Temperature was 96 degrees and there is no shade and on top of that we were at one of the most strenuous uphill parts of the trail. Happily my daughter had decided to pack a bit more water and with short periodic stops for my muscle crumbs to subside we made it back to the car at 3:15PM just about an hour and 15 minutes longer than we estimated. We were the only ones hiking the trail that day (my car was alone in the parking area when we left and when we got back). I would not recommend doing this trail in hot weather. If you do, hydrate yourself the day before and bring LOTS of water. In the end I ended up consuming 5 liters but that was the minimum. With all the issues, I still enjoyed the trail as there are some beautiful mountain view’s! I would do it again but in winter.

on Marufo Vega Trail

22 days ago

Rugged, beautiful and isolated. Doable as a day trip if you're in good shape.

1 month ago

started hike at 7.30 p.m. reached the chimney just as sun went behind the mountain . cactus was blooming and scenery lovely with the sun low on horizon. trail easy to follow by starlight. did not need headlamps until last .5 mile.

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing trail, stunning views, superb camping spots. Hiked desert part in one day, mountain part in one long day, so did Junniper - Wilson - Rim - Junniper. Initial plan was to do 3 days but the rangers ruined that (see below).

Expect some serious shade from the scare-mongering rangers if you tell them you want to do this trail. They told us :
- the desert part has no trail markers you'll get lost.
- it's going to be 105F tomorrow you're going to suffer and give up
- there is absolutely no shade in the desert part (Dodson trail)
- you saw that trail on the internet you have no idea what you're doing
- 1.5 gallons of water per person per day
- go do the South rim hike instead, you can make it the same length

The truth was :
- there are cairns everywhere on the desert part, you cannot get lost.
- the next day was cloudy and temperatures were around 80F. I was cold, always backpack with a sweat-shirt.
- there is indeed very little shade on Dodson trail
- 1.5 gal pp per day was accurate for us
- South Rim hike is way shorter. We hiked that one in a day and a half then grabbed our permit to do the OML in two days rather than 3.

The advice I would have liked :
- hike it in March, flower season for cactii
- avoiding Chisos is a good idea, keeps all the nice views and makes it a 2 long days hike.
- the road to Junniper canyon trailhead is really shit, even with a 4 wheel drive (SUV not a jeep) it took me 90 minutes to do it one way.
- consider carrying more water and not caching at Junniper to avoid that drive
- get a hiking umbrella, weights very little and provides great shade on desert part.

Long and strenuous, the South Rim Trail took us a little over 7 hours to finish with a few breaks and a 15-minute lunch on the rim. We took Pinnacles to Boot Canyon and climbed down the Laguna Meadows Trail. We left from the Chisos Basin at 8am, but didn’t start climbing down Laguna Meadows until 1pm and the heat started taking a real toll on us. Even though there are three toilets along the way, we really had to go during the last four miles and tried to hustle our way down. People don’t often talk about the after effects of doing hard hikes but our bodies felt overheated and in shock the rest of the day. We felt much better the next day.

backpacking
1 month ago

Just joined alltrails but have done the Outer Mountain Loop twice now in the late October and mid November the past two years. As others have observed, a very challenging hike with tough, long climbs, very little water. Lots of exposure on the Dodson Trail and downright dangerous if it's hot. High dropout rate, but if you have good legs this trail is a real experience to not forget.

Don't do this hike without consulting the very, very well written OML Hike FAQ on the equally impressive and helpful site Big Bend Chat (I belong). Lots of up to date water reports, advice, warnings, etc. There are three main water sources and if you take the time to learn where they are this can be done without hauling too much to wear you out. Here it is: http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/big-bend-national-park-outer-mountain-loop/the-outer-mountain-loop-faq-and-planning-tips/

Like many on the forum there, I recommend doing the hike starting at Homer Wilson Ranch and avoiding the Basin altogether. I've done both. The first few miles out of the basin in either direction are the least inspiring of the total hike by a long shot--my opinion and that of plenty of others. Last late October went counter-clockwise starting from HWR with a stay on the South Rim the second day. Unparalleled beauty and views there.

Truly one of the best hikes of my long hiking career.

backpacking
1 month ago

We took the LMT to get to our camp site SW4. To us and some of the Park Rangers it seemed to be more fitting to get to the South Rim than the other routes. It was a slow incline but def still an incline. We took plenty of breaks as well. We had our packs for overnight and two days of water, so the weight added to the experience. Most of the trail was in the shade which made it much more enjoyable and less stressful to our bodies. We had done Lost Mine Trail two days prior and got torn up by the sun, it made the trail more miserable than it should’ve been. Neither of us trained, I’m in good shape but it didn’t matter on the trail! Well it didn’t seem like it did. The LMT was about 4.8 miles not the 8 like it says. After the 4.8 we crossed over to the South Rim trail for 2.5 to our destination for the most AMAZING views I’ve ever seen. Like I said we had a whole day, so we took our time and rested as much as possible. It took us a total of 5 hours to get to the top. 9am-2pm. I would recommend this trail to anyone that has time. It can def be done! The way down was much faster totally three hours. We did use walking sticks which helped the accent and decent tremendously! We’ve backpacked before without any and it was much more miserable! Either way, we loved the trail and views! Happy hiking!

Went counterclockwise since we did Emory Peak last spring break, so wanted a new experience. Started at 8am and didn't see any people the first 90 mins, but did come across deer 3 miles in. Had a nice long lunch on south rim. 7.5 hours including lunch and several breaks for photos. Great day hike and not too strenuous. Enjoy!!!

This is the trail to do if you come to Big Bend. We did Emory Peak along the way. Started at 7 am, took 3 hours to Emory Peak. Trail gets rough near the peak, but it's there. 2 more hours to the Rim from there, then approximately 3 more hours back to the trailhead. Including stops and lunch, about 9 hours to complete the 15 miles.

As far as preparation, we did bring toilet paper as there are bathrooms along the trail. 25L of water between 5 people was way more than we needed. Probably 2.5-3L per person would have been right. Admittedly it was cool and cloudy when we hiked, so warmer weather should warrant more than that.

The views are all there, just come prepared and it'll be a great hike!

Completed the OML 3-13-18 to 3-15-18 three days two nights during spring break week. I would not recommend attempting this hike during spring break for those planning ahead next year it was a zoo. If you must do it during spring break then go towards the end of the week it was much less crowded no line to get into the basin.

Would also recommend bigbendchat.com to learn more about the trail and get excellent advice and updates on water locations that can be found on the trail. I was able to filter 4 L of water from a spring on the trail that I learned about from this website.

Overall it is a gorgeous, but tough hike so be sure to pack as light as possible since you’ll be carrying a lot of water with you. Additionally, stay the night at the lodge or perhaps in Alpine Texas and get to the panther junction station early next day so that you can get desirable campsite locations. We did not get to panther Junction until around 1:30 PM so were stuck with zone camping in Juniper Canyon first night and blue Creek zone camping the second night making day two a long 15.5 mile day.

Lastly, as other reviewer‘s have mentioned this trail is hard and not for the beginner backpacker. Unfortunately, we ran into a group of young men in their late teens early 20s who were ill prepared for this trail. They had started on the Dodson trail. One person had a day pack and was carrying his sleeping bag in his arms. I don’t know if the group made it past the basin, but he did not look like he was having a good time when we caught up to them midway on the Dodson trail.

Best advice for the OML is to plan ahead and have the right gear.

Fantastic hike!

hiking
2 months ago

This trail is NOT moderate, and is extremely difficult and can be very dangerous for the inexperienced or anybody does not go in the Nov-Mar timeframe. Very high failure rate due to the challenging terrain, heavy water carry, and elevation changes.

I think the route that includes the Chisos Basin may be more common, look for the other trail that says "includes pinnacles".

Strongly recommend you don't do this without including the South Rim which is the best view in the area.

Toughest Hike I have ever done.... YOU MUST PREPARE! Recommend bigbendchat.com and read everything.

Extremely demanding loop with a very high failure rate, and not for the inexperienced. Couple of thoughts/lessons.

1. This trail is no joke, water is a big issue, and I can see this trail flat out being very very dangerous for inexperienced or unprepared backpackers.
2. I can't imagine doing this trail much past mid-march, the Dodson was pretty brutal in the afternoon already
3. I wore shorts which was stupid, although I enjoyed the coolness, zipper pants for flexibility in the desert would have been better
4. We added both Emory Peak and the South Rim (at SW3) to the trip (total mileage ended up being 43 miles due to some side trial action. Unless you have been or plan to return I cannot imagine doing the OML without adding the South Rim, it was far and away the best part of the whole trip.
5. The trail is rough, very very rocky, and suggest you put a lot of time in prep into your shoe/sock/feet/knee plan as I think those issues are most likely to cause a stoppage.
6. I carried a 4.5L water capacity and drank at least 2 litrer before every fill up (beginning, upper juniper, and Homer Wilson). That was enough, although I wish I had probably 1 more liter on the Dodson and going up Blue Creek in the afternoon.
7. Make sure you have a plan for lots of electrolytes, I think that is a game changer vs. just plain water.
8. Pack light! My pack was 10-15 lbs lighter than my buddies and I think was the difference in finishing/not finishing. I also cowboy camped with only a groundsheet and emergency tarp (that I needed one night) which saved a good amount of weight.

OK let me say first off, I have never backpacked before so this was pretty tough for me and my buddy with me.

We got started at about 11, and got to Colima campsite at about 6. Going up Pinnacles with a 25lb pack was brutal, I wouldn't have tried Emory Peak had there not been a bear box to store my pack. Laguna Meadows Trail going down was pretty easy. All trails are easy to follow and all campsites and splits have signs. All in all awesome hike, with great views. Only saw one piece of trash the entire hike, and I picked up.

My wife and I went out via Pinnacles (more elevation change) and returned via Laguna Meadows and I would recommend it.

We hike slightly faster than average but are by no means 'speedy.' The whole loop took us 5 hours of hiking with an additional 0.5 hr lunch break at the Rim. (We did not go to Emory Peak or take the NE Rim).

Trail Difficulty: Moderate (mainly just long)
Exposure: Moderate, plenty of shaded areas.

It was an ~80F day, I had about 2 L of H20 which seemed reasonable. However, I had at least one already that morning before starting.

Beautiful trail. Strenuous, but manageable. Will definitely be back!

backpacking
3 months ago

The loop is 35 miles long, not 25. Unless you do a shortened version not listed by the park or elsewhere. And to call it moderate could kill people, as that trail has. I hiked the AT starting in Maine, and it was not nearly as difficult as the Outer Mountain Loop.

hiking
3 months ago

I had hiked Chisos Mtn several times in my 20's and returned 25 years later with my son, Cullen, to do the OML! Not in the best shape, I found our 4+ day, 38 mile trip extremely challenging! I proved what I always tell my high school soccer players, the mind can push the body far past its limits when it tries to convince you it's done! Cullen planed our trip and downloaded the map - a must. In early January, temps ranged from upper 20s on the mountain to 80 on the Dodson. The trails are rarely calm and groomed. Surfaces include loose, rocky scree, large rocks, steps, and beds of deep, crushed river rock . There's also plenty of scratchy pokey plants lining narrow trails, so poles were invaluable. Not just for climbing and descending but also to push thorns out of the way. Day 1, Chisos Basin to SE rim. Cost us an extra 3 miles, but seeing the sunrise from the rim was too beautiful to describe! Day 2, back to Juniper Canyon Tr, some climbing and lots of descending on rocky stuff - enjoy using your downhill muscles! Picked up our water cache at the junction of Juniper Canyon and Dodson (needed a 4x4 to cache there). 1.5 gallons each. Camped about a mile up the Dodson from there, real nice Zone camp site off the trail. Day 3 was a butt kicker! Warm for January, in and out of the sun. Filtered about 2-3 liters of water out of the Fresno creek. Enjoyed about .5 miles of easy, groomed trail out of camp, but the last 10 miles was all up/down, up/down. Gorgeous scenery, though, through endless canyons! Picked up our 2nd cache (3 gals.) of water at Homer Wilson Ranch (bear box, near a paved road .5 miles off the trail). Zone camp was within sight of the ranch buildings. We didn't see many suitable zone campsites around the ranch. Day 4 sounded easier - Blue Creek Tr, 2.500 foot climb over six miles, but my legs were rubber. Spent 3-4 miles slogging uphill in the creek beds, then some steep climbs to Laguna Meadows, were we camped at 6700' at site LM4. The compost toilet there was a welcome experience (if you know what I mean)! The night was really cold and windy, glad I had warm socks and a light down coat. Most hikers go from the ranch back to Chisos in one day, but we decided to break it up. The last leg down Laguna Medows Tr to Chisos was an easy downhill cruise - finally some smooth, non-technical trails. At the end, just a quick, steep climb to our truck as if the trail was saying, "Remember who's boss, and get in shape before you come back!" Summary:
Permits: get your free back country hiking permit and any mountain tent sites ($6) at Panther Junction. Campground tent sites at Chisos Basin or Rio Grande Village are FCFS and $14.
Water: averaged 4 liters per day each. Highly recommend caching at both points. Don't count on streams.
Food: Cliff bars, tuna, rice, beef jerky, nuts and dried fruit did well. Brought a little too much
Pack Weight: go light as possible. Big mistake bringing items like survival knife, cribbage board and cards (too tired each night to play), binocs (never used), brick cell phone chargers (only needed one), etc. Bring more toilet paper than you think you'll need. Once home, we weighed all the stuff we didn't use - 5 lbs!!
Clothing: wicking long sleeves, wide-brim hats, shorts, sunscrean, warm items for cold nights
Trail markers - only an issue on the Dodson and Blue Creek. Spot the cairns, and you're fine
Fitness - this trail is for the lean and fit! If you're not, prepare to suffer. On steep climbs, I often had to rest every 35-100 steps or so, but I finished with my pack, and it motivated me to get back in the gym. Luckily I had my son - he had zero pity for me, mind you - but he did carry most of our water saving me 5-8 pound over a lot of the trek! He also paced me up some climbs when looking at his heals was healthier for my minds then looking up!
Overall, it was a fantastic experience! This park has incredible views, changing ecology, variety of bird life, and animals (saw plenty of white-tail, but not much else. Havelinas, coyotes, cougars, black bears are out there, but no sightings.
Other attractions: we made a beeline for the Hot Spring next to the Rio after we finished the loop! Boquillas Canyon was also breathtaking! We made a new friend there, too - Jesus, the singing Mexican cowboy!

hiking
3 months ago

A rather long and monotonous hike through the desert, to reach some Indian petroglyphs and rock outcrops. The petroglyphs are at he base of the southern-most pinnacle, with an unmarked but distinct path leading to it.
https://hikingtheworld.blog/2017/10/28/the-best-of-big-bend-texas/#The-Chimneys

Great hike with stunning views for just about the entire route. Rock scrambling required at the end to reach the Emory Peak summit.
https://hikingtheworld.blog/2017/10/29/emory-peak-big-bend/

Long day way, but worth the effort for the stunning views. Do the full South Rim circuit (Southeast and Northeast Rim trails). Camping sites available along the South Rim. If there's one walk you do in Big Bend NP, do this one...
https://hikingtheworld.blog/2017/10/29/emory-peak-big-bend/

Backpacked overnight, not terribly strenuous. Views were spectacular. Will definitely be back.

Awe-striking hike through forests, deserts, and plains. I took a lot of pictures but it seemed a little nutty after a while. The whole place is just beautiful and picturesque.

Everyone says it and yes it applies to you who claims to be naturally good at hydration, you need water on this hike. Lots of it. I recommend 6 liters a day (1.5 gallons). Boot Canyon spring is promising but you may only have the option of sitting foul-tasting water and that's after filtering it. We were really lucky and found a few pools of water in a spring on the Dodson trail too.

Keeping on the trail going back into the Chisos Mountains from Homer Wilson ranch may be a little tricky. Look out for stacked rocks to lead the way. We were attracted to all the canyon rock structures and ended up walking a quarter of a mile up the wrong creek bed. It was worth it though. We took the best photos in that area where we were lost. There was a lot of bear droppings though (more than what you usually see on the trail), so it probably wasn't the safest place to be. We know where they all hang out now.

Must do. Took Pinnacles to Emory Peak, Boot Canyon down around SE Rim, around South Rim back up Laguna in one day. ~17 miles in ~10 hours. Made for a long day but was incredibly worth it.

Really tough hike for me, but well worth it! A picture can’t do justice to the views. Recommend staying in SE 4 campsite.

Loved every minute of it! I camped at SE1 and to say I was a happy camper is putting it lightly! The views were incredible. A saw enough people, but had plenty of alone time as well. It was perfect.

Awesome views and very challenging! Loved every minute! My new favorite trail. Going down just a scenic.

Ran it in 2:20 excluding ~20 minutes of picture taking. Nice trail with a variety of scenery & terrain. Really loved the Boot Canyon. The view is a big payoff

A tough hike with outstanding views lots of snow on the mountains which was refreshing to see. Took almost 6 hours to do 12 miles, stopped for snacks and views of amazing landscape a couple of times. Would highly recommend comfortable boots that you have trust in. Loved the Hike and the park.

Great views, campsites.

Excellent hike. Very demanding. Can be done in two days, but recommend three. Well marked. No water, have to cache. Primitive campsites few and far between. Zone camping allowed once past the main trails in the park, but the terrain is very rugged, so plan carefully.

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