Blue Creek, Pinnacles, Juniper Canyon and Dodson Trail

hard 15 reviews
#25 of 72 trails in

Blue Creek, Pinnacles, Juniper Canyon and Dodson Trail is a 31.6 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Big Bend National Park, Texas that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from October until May.

Distance: 31.6 miles Elevation Gain: 6,958 feet Route Type: Loop

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

bird watching

views

wild flowers

no shade

historic site

no dogs

OML is a 30-mile loop that connects the Pinnacles, Juniper Canyon, Dodson, Blue Creek, and Laguna Meadows trails. Do yourself a favor and add in the Emory Peak and South Rim trails.

backpacking
no shade
over grown
rocky
2 months ago

This was a tough hike. We did this trail in a clockwise direction with an additional detour of sleeping on the South Rim for our last night. Total of 4 days hiking, 3 nights, and 38 miles. Fresno creek was available for water. That was THE ONLY WATER SOURCE on the trail. We carried between 5-7L each of water, and cached at Homer Wilson. We elected not to cache at Juniper because the length of time it was going to take to drive in. We planned to not see water until Homer Wilson, with the "pleasant surprise" of having water available at Fresno. This is tough, and we did a significant amount of planning to make sure that it was enjoyable with minimal dangers. Not for the faint of heart! Definitely pack light, except your water source, and know your limits. We saw almost no one. The park emptied out from the Thanksgiving crowd and it was desolate on the trail. Weather was great. 60-70 during the day, maybe down to 40 on the coldest night. Thanks BiBe for the mental reset!

hiking
no shade
off trail
over grown
rocky
Fri Feb 22 2019

On 2-22-19, three of us set off from Chisos Basin Lodge to complete the OML. We set off with the plan to move West to East, finishing with the Pennicle Trail. Mileage reports for this trail vary, as All Trails reported 34.8, while other GPS put us just over 40 miles. (I'm not convinced All Trails tracks the switch backs accurately) Either way you go from the Basin Lodge, expect a 3-4 mile climb out of the Basin followed by a 3-4 mile decent. I recommend stashing water at Homers Ranch ( bear box about a 1/2 mile climb off the trail) as well as Juniper Junction ( Bear box on the trail). Moving east from Homers Ranch, alot of the trail is in the river bed, marked only by rocks stacked or placed in a way that is obvious. We lost the trail twice, which required extra water, but all trails app saved us by tracking our course even while phone was in airplane mode. This is not flat land, as it has several ups and downs over and around the mountains and fingers. Very Rocky with transition s to shale at times. Fresno Creek was flowing, and is about 1/4 mile east from the first little trickle Creek you cross, moving from west to east. We were able to refill water and press on. After Juniper Junction, you will have about 3 miles of flat land, or very low grade before climbing out of the canyon. Expect another 3-4 mile climb up to Boot Creek, which had stagnant water, so we avoided it. We camped at Boot Creek, and finished the last mile or so climb to Emery peak junction. From there, expect 3-4 mile decent back to the Basin Lodge. The trail up the Pennicle, and down to the Basin is very Rocky and narrow at times. From Boot Canyon to the Basin, we did mostly in the dark, very doable. I would not recommend traversing the trail from Juniper to Boot Creek in the dark, very narrow at times. We did not do this for the scenery, but it was beautiful. We did this as a challenge and that it was! One heck of a kick in the rear end! Good luck

hiking
Sat Feb 16 2019

February 15, 2019: did this entire hike in one day - started at 6:00AM and finished around 9:00PM, averaging 2.5 miles/hour. Do not recommend doing this in one day if you have a low pain threshold for blisters, pain, and get thirsty too quickly. However, if you want a challenge and to test yourself, give it a go, but have a plan for water, and to touch base with someone at certain points in the day if you’re doing it by yourself (as I did). Cellphone service is not bad throughout. Oh, saw a black bear near the visitor center where I stopped to refill for water.

Mon Nov 05 2018

Started the OML 10/12/18 from Homer Wilson Ranch going CCW. I cached water at the Juniper Canyon parking lot(Although, the drive there sucked, it was needed). Fresno Creek was pretty full 7 miles in, but I filled up again .3 miles past the Smoky Creek intersection. In the future, I plan to knock out majority of the Dodson by starting before sunlight. Second night, maybe stay at JC1 because of the cool weather and since it’s right next to Boot Springs. I didn’t add the rim to this trip as I was solo. I was a bit worried about water on the 4th day, but the Blue Creek Trail back to Homer was so fast and enjoyable it didn’t matter anyway.

backpacking
Sat Mar 17 2018

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
Wed Feb 28 2018

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.

backpacking
Thu Jan 04 2018

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.

backpacking
Fri Dec 29 2017

What a great loop backpack trip with a lot a changes in elevation. Great views with lots of variety of habitats. According to my mapping software the total climbing elevation was 11,324 feet. At least 1 water cache is required by the NPS. It's a very demanding multi day backpacking trip. Give yourselves plenty of time to complete each day. There were groups that didn't complete the first day until 10:30 at night ran out of water halfway through the second day.

hiking
11 months ago