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Marufo Vega Trail

HARD 39 reviews
#22 of 72 trails in

Marufo Vega Trail is a 13.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Big Bend National Park, Texas that features a river and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

Distance: 13.5 miles Elevation Gain: 2,660 feet Route Type: Loop

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

bird watching

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

no shade

no dogs

This is a strenuous, potentially dangerous, but spectacular day hike or overnight backpacking trip. There is no shade and no water on this trail and temperatures can exceed 110 degrees. The trail is named after Gregorio Marufo, who grazed goats along the river. Hikers today use the cross country section to join two ends of the popular desert trail making it a14-mile round-trip loop.

hiking
no shade
rocky
scramble
17 days ago

I did this trail for the first time in early May 2018 and wrote a review and my experience about it then. I was not properly prepared then for the heat and ended up being dehydrated and with painful muscle crumps. But I made it back and learned from the experience. Since then, I did the trail again in January 2019 and a third time two do days ago. Although true, this can be a dangerous trail, it can be done safely if one prepares for it. And the views are certainly worth it! So, as others also said before, bring at least a gallon of water in winter and more in late spring. If possible, avoid doing it in the summer. And in any case, do not do it alone. And start early (at sunrise) as it gets hit even in winter with no shade and the sun beating down on you. The trail starts easy enough but turns right (East) in a quarter mile steep climb about 1.5 miles into the it. It gets easier for a while and you reach a split at about 3.6 miles. We took the south fork which had us going down a steep incline toward the river for about 3/4 of a mile. This is one of a couple tougher parts of the trail and one needing caution as it is easy to slip on the loose gravel. Here you will have beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the river. At about the sixth mile you reach another split where you can go right all the way to the river or continue left for 2 miles to connect to the north fork. If you choose to go to the river, this would add another mile to the distance and make the total trail distance 15 miles(AllTrails is wrong to list the trail as 13.5 miles). When you turn left you will go about 2 miles, much of it parallel to the river, after which you turn left, and navigate through a canyon going steadily up. This is another tough part of the trail you should take care with and look for the cairns to keep you on the trail. Once you get back to the split, you reverse the route you took earlier for 3.6 miles to the trail head.

hiking
22 days ago

Really nice primitive trek. Only saw one other group the whole time. I did south fork first, which I highly recommend. I did a short first day, camping up top on the south rim prior to descending into the canyon. The rangers mentioned that the sites down by the river can be a little dangerous, so I opted to camp there instead. Loved my spot, had a great sunset view over Mexico! You’ll notice a large flat area right on the trail just prior to descending into the canyon, and there are a few pre-established tent plots around there. The north fork on day 2 is much more challenging, but very beautiful. Pay attention to carins, as I can see how it would be easy to get turned around. I didn’t have any trouble, but if I hadn’t been paying close attention I would’ve gotten turned around pretty frequently. Significant climb to get out of the canyon, definitely a challenging day 2! Felt longer than 8.5 miles on day 2. No shade on the south fork, so plan accordingly. Also no places to filter water, so pack it all in!

hiking
no shade
rocky
scramble
25 days ago

hiking
rocky
scramble
26 days ago

hiking
1 month ago

WARNING! WARNING! Dangerous but spectacular hike! This is the most dangerous trail in all of the National Park System, in my opinion. Many people have died on it and tragically, several this year. Experienced and very fit hikers have died on this trail. They get lost, run out of water, pass out and die. It has happened many times. It absolutely must NOT be attempted if over 70 degrees, meaning anytime but the dead of winter. Even then, it can get to 90 degrees on this trail in the winter. For example, yesterday, on 5 December 2019, it got to 88 degrees on the trail and we abandoned attempting the hike purely for safety reasons, because I am afraid of this hike and conditions must be perfect to attempt it. It musty be below 70 degree! Park volunteer trail walkers and Rangers have made a concerted effort this past two years to add many cairns to the trail, so it is harder to get off trail than in years past, but it is still very easy to go off-trail because the trail is crisscrossed with animal trails that are actually much more worn than the trail you must be on. If you get off-trail on this hike it can be catastrophic in this very rough and remote terrain. If you get in trouble, help is very hard to come by and a long time coming. You can easily die if it is hot and you are lost and out of water, as has happened to many people on this trail. When we did this hike, we saw not another human being. Most people that do this hike see very few if any other hikers. You must have reliable GPS and the trail recording so that you do not go off trail. Going off trail on this hike can kill you. I believe strongly that this trail should always have at least 4 people in the group - never hike alone and couples should be extremely cautious and plan well. I believe every group must have a sat phone. That should be an absolute rule in this Park. I believe the park should rent park radios for this trail and demand their use. The distance and total ascent is almost exactly the same as most famous Big Bend hike - the S Rim. But this hike is three times harder than that hike. It is a nerve-wracking hike and one must be alert every step. The trail is nowhere near as groomed as the S Rim hike and involves lite-scrambling on one fairly steep section near the beginning when coming off the creek bed. It also involves some iffy footing on some of the rock surfaces with marbles and loose scree. This is not a trail you want to twist an ankle or knee or break a leg on because you are going to have a long wait for help. If it is hot and that happens, it can be fatal. I was in Big Bend all this week and wanted to do this hike. We did it two years ago. I talked to many Rangers and volunteers who have walked it this season, and I heard the terrible stories of the three deaths this year. I think some Rangers are not specific enough when casually asked about this hike. Any hiker walking up casually to a Ranger and just asking about the hike, in my opinion, the Ranger must tell them "don't do it." If a group really wants to do it and is prepared, the Ranger will smell that out and then provide exact details. But every park brochure and hiking book should list this spectacular trail as dangerous and explain why. One great option is to do just an out and back using the S loop. Just walk 3.5 or 4 miles in and stop at the point where it starts steeply descending to the river. Then turn around and come back. That gives you a taste and it is fantastic. The North part of the loop is much harder and many say the South half of the loop is more spectacular anyway. If you do this hike, be in a group, have a sat phone, plan well, be worried, and take lots of water. Do not do this hike of over 70 degrees. DO NOT DO THIS HIKE IF OVER 70 DEGREES! That leaves maybe 60 days a year that it can be done.

hiking
no shade
rocky
1 month ago

Did this on Thanksgiving because the high was only 65 F or so. Took about 7 hours with only a few short stops. Not sure how people do this enjoyably when it gets much hotter. The trail is somewhat decently marked with cairns. I only managed to get lost once at the top of the North Fork and sure enough there was a cairn I had missed. Also a few lines of stones to say this is a false trail are along the route. The trail also looks a bit washed out at the bottom of the North Fork and I had to be careful scooting into the dry riverbed. Still doable at the moment. Past the first incline there is a ton of thorny vegetation so I'd recommend pants no matter what. I still got stuck with cactus needles a couple times. Light scrambling at the top of the North Fork (if you ascend that way) otherwise not too step anywhere, but very rocky making for slow-going.

hiking
no shade
rocky
1 month ago

Beautiful, isolated rugged, and challenging trail. Doable as a long day hike, as I have done, but it would be a great overnight on the river. Long broad views of the Rio bravo.I saw some things completely new to me Like rocks that look like a giant 3-D jigsaw puzzle,but not one of the person the entire day. An older fellow died on this trail a couple months back around September 2019 And I read a story about a man stranded on a cliff until rescued. I myself got off trail for a while but was able to backtrack and re-find the main trail.

hiking
rocky
washed out
3 months ago

This is a very rugged, unforgiving trail. It’s primarily desert terrain with a small section, 2 miles that runs parallel to the Rio Grande. Along this section there are a few overgrown areas with washouts. As mentioned, it is highly recommended to transverse the south fork first due to a fairly steep decent down to the river. If you do the north fork first you will hit this incline/decent midday straining your water supply and endurance. There have been numerous deaths on this trail. The trail is marked with signs at key points as well as rock cairns along the trail. Occasionally, in the washes the cairns can be lost making it difficult to identify the trail. Water is vital on this trail, I packed 7 liters for this hike and took my last drink as I was in view of my truck. In the canyons, you can use the cliffs for shade. Be prepared to utilize these areas for breaks during mid day. Technically, you should be off the trail from 1200 to 1600 due to the tremendous heat. If you find yourself in the flat country during this time, you can pitch your tent and rest in the shade of the tent, it’s better than nothing. I just did this trail 10/04-10/05/19 and I believe it is one of the most beautiful trails in Texas. If you are not acquainted with desert conditions, I’d think twice about setting out on this trail. If you take the challenge, pack plenty of water (I’d recommend 8 liters).

hiking
11 months ago

This is a fantastic trail IF you love chihuahuan desert scenery. If that's not your thing, I don't think you'll enjoy it. A word of caution: I did this hike in late Feb; I'm in good shape (the previous day I did a 12 mile hike in the Chisos that had 3000 ft of elevation gain, and felt fine to do Marufo the next day) and it was wonderful. Took me about 7 hours, including a 30 min lunch break and other breaks to enjoy the scenery. So, probably 6 hours of hiking only. The vistas of the rio grande, the desert flora, are all great; plus, the geology of this hike is great: you're walking on an ancient coral reef from the dinosaur (cretaceous) era. How cool is that?! The temps got up to around 75 and I consumed about 1.5 gallons, and probably around 1000 calories, to complete this hike. I brought 2 gallons (yes, even in Feb) and probably around 2000 calories just in case. So bring water, AND calories so you don't bonk out. HOWEVER: I think if the temp is above 80 - 85, you should consider something else if you plan to do this in 1 day. If it's 90 or above, forget it, again if you plan on a 1 day adventure. If you split it up, into 2 days, *maybe* you can avoid the heat, though be advised that there is no shade out there. Seriously. It gets hot out there very fast, even in Feb. You're not superman. You're asking for trouble if you're hiking this trail in that kind of weather. The desert *will* punish you, all the more so if you're not used to desert hiking. I know the NP rangers tend to urge caution too much, but on this trail, if they advise you not to do it, you should listen. Finally, as others have suggested below, take the south fork rather than the north (i.e., go right at the forks). It is much easier to descend into the rio grande if you take the south fork - the trail is steep there, sure, but the north fork's descent has one part right off the bat that is treacherous if you are descending it (ascension is fine and quite fun). And as a canyoneer who's downclimbed and rappelled into many slot canyons, I can guarantee you that I wouldn't do the north fork unless I could handline or rappel down that one part. Sure, most people don't, but all it takes is one slip, and you're hike is going to be hell. Better safe than sorry.

hiking
11 months ago

trail took me just over 7 hours. I did the south loop first then continued back via the north loop. on way back I came back via steakhouse trail through a cool slot canyon. trail was well marked with cairns. only saw two other hikers near the beginning. great views of boquillas canyon and el pico

hiking
no shade
rocky
Thu Jan 17 2019

hiking
Wed Dec 19 2018

My boyfriend and I hiked this trail over Labor Day weekend 2018 (first week of September). I would not recommend hiking it at this time of year as the heat and the exposure were very extreme. We also did not pack enough water which made the hike less enjoyable. We were dying to make it back to our car to drink more water and cool down. That being said, if you come well prepared with snacks and a ton of water this is a good trail. You get a good view of the river (although it is short lived). The trail is VERY easy to lose so either bring a GPS or pay close attention. We got off trail multiple times but thankfully people had built rock stacks to indicate where the trail was. We did not see another person on the trail when we did this hike. We did this as a day trip and it took us about 5 hours total. We started right at sunrise which I definitely recommend to avoid the heat. If this is your first time to Big Bend I would recommend South Rim Trail over this trail.

backpacking
Tue Nov 20 2018

My husband and I hiked this trail the first week of November. Temperatures were very pleasant, probably 85-90 degrees in the desert and 5-10 degrees cooler in the mountains and along the river. The trail is easy to lose so I highly recommend a GPS unit or app on your phone and a paper map backup. The cacti are vicious, be prepared to pull needles and barbs out of legs, arms, hands. Don’t skimp on the gallon of water a day per person suggestion—we carried 3-1/2 gallons between us for the overnight and drank or used every drop. The first couple miles are an easy hike through the desert. Then you climb about 500’ in about a quarter mile and continue through the mountains to the split. We hiked the south leg first, descending to the connector trail and camping at the first campsite we found. The descent was brutal, it just goes more or less straight down the side of a mountain. I was ready to drop my pack at the first sight of a campsite, but there is a second location further down the connector trail with what seemed like 2 spaces for tents. The first campsite was flat and relatively free of rocks. There were some ants, but they didn’t bother us. The view of the river was great, and the cliffs surrounding our camp on all sides made for a beautiful sunset and an even more beautiful sunrise. The connector trail continues north along a ledge overlooking the river, then crosses a wash out so deep we had to drop our packs, lower ourselves down, heave the packs up over the other side, and climb back out. The trail then climbs up and back into the mountains through a rocky sloped pass requiring a little bouldering and climbing up short but pretty sheer rock faces with a few places to place hands and feet. It was a bit of a scramble at times! A pleasant hike through the mountains and back to the connection with the main trail leg, back down out of the mountains and into the desert to get back to the car. We hiked about 6 hours each day, covering a little over 6 miles the first day and closer to 8 the second day. A very enjoyable trail!

hiking
Tue May 29 2018

water. water. water. I started this hike solo on May 27th at 9:30am aiming for a day trek. The heat wave set the temperature to around 115 deg. I ran out of water around mile 9 and had to resort to survival techniques (drinking piss and cactus juice. Waited till midnight breeze to kick in to contiinue hiking. came back to the trailhead around 4:30am.I do not recommend this trail for a solo during summer time. Winter is the best time for this trail. The views you get along the way are spectacular!

Thu May 10 2018

I did this 14 mile trail with my daughter on May 3, 2018. 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 cramps. 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 cramps 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.

Tue May 01 2018

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

hiking
Wed Dec 27 2017

This trail is a day hiker’s dream. We hiked it on a warm day in December, the temps hovered in the 60s and the skies were overcast. I would NOT hike this trail in any kind of heat. We found the trail well-marked with cairns, and we never lost our way over the course of the 14 miles. Recommend hiking the loop counter clockwise. The South Fork is difficult and steep, but it was much better hiking down than up. Hiking up the North Fork is beautiful and breezy. It’s a great trail the whole way around, highly recommend it!

hiking
Fri Nov 24 2017

did this as an overnight solo recently, taking the south fork and pitching on the RG on day 1, then hiking out via north fork the following morning. it was a pretty crappy trip for several reasons, and i wouldn't do this hike again. the heat/sun exposure are a given, as is the need to hump in water, but footing on the trail is what makes it rate any harder than easy/moderate day hike. the trail starts in a wash and the footing doesn't ever really get much better - 90% of the trail is on various sizes of broken rock that makes for relatively slow progress, a reasonable amount is overgrown with thorny bushes/cactus (sort of similar to the Dodson), etc. this could all be fine if the pay off were fantastic, but frankly, 70-75% of the trail is ass ugly. 10% gives you the same view of the sierra del carmen as you have from the road, and 15-20% is pretty but not spectacular (i.e., no south rim or emory peak). the ugliness is probably part of what give the hike a remote feeling, because you think "nobody in their right mind would do this, of course i'm alone!" but on a per-mile basis, i actually saw more people here than on the OML. you'll get equal/greater feelings of solitude and magnitudes greater desert beauty in grand canyon, some of the utah parks, etc. finally, as one other person noted - beware the wind. i bumped into some rangers who noted that extreme winds stir up "every time a cold front comes in." the wind down at the RG bent the poles of my copper spur 1, and the "sand" down by the river is actually very fine powdered clay that will blow right through tent mesh and coat everything / sting your eyes / make breathing normally impossible. of the three groups camped by the water while i was there, i and at least one other group were both up tinkering with stakes/tie-outs at 1am, and i and another group both left at 6am to GTFO.

Tue Jan 17 2017

The trail was magnificent! It has all you could ask for, the meandering river, deep canyons, and beautiful panoramic views! We did this as a two nite trek so could camp at various spots along the way and it was worth all the extra weight in water.

backpacking
Fri Oct 21 2016

Yep. Trail is beautiful. Trail is remote. We almost died on this trail. Rangers suggest taking a gallon per person. That advice is no sh!t. Water water water. Saw a bear. Saw a gigantic snake in the Rio Grande. Experienced hurricane force winds during an epic electrical storm. None of this was enjoyable due to the fact we ran out of water in the first 6 hours of our hike and 2 of our team members had to go get water. They got lost. We thought they were dead. We linked up the next day. Had to go on another water mission. We eventually succeeded but not without drama and issues. On our way out we got caught in a huge storm with winds so strong we couldn't walk DOWN a mountain. Will probably never do it again because of its remote location, but every year we talk about it. Looking for an adventure? This might be the trail for you!

hiking
Mon Apr 04 2016

This might be the finest long hike in Big Bend - I'd have trouble choosing between this and South Rim. Marufo Vega winds majestically through 14 miles of desert. The trail is primitive, marked by cairns and is often rocky and uneven. Most of the path is flat, but there are several long, tiring ascents, including coming back up from the river. A grueling hike, and worth every minute. The silent, monolithic Deadhorse Mountains watch you as you walk. Across the river there are grand, towering cliffs. You are unlikely to see many people - I saw four (three were in the same group). I did this as a day hike in January. I would recommend against trying it in summer - there is no shade anywhere and people can die of heatstroke out here in the hot months.

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