Mule Ears - Smoky Creek Trail is a 7 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Big Bend National Park, Texas that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, birding, and horses and is accessible year-round. Horses are also able to use this trail.
Directions from Ross Maxwell Drive: Travel along the road until mile 15
Lots of down and up crossing washes. Typical desert flora. Nothing too interesting, besides the mule ears.
(We only did the four-mile round trip to Mule Ears Spring and back.)
If you've ever driven through the desert without taking the time to actually get out and walk the desert floor, then try this one. It was wide open with almost zero shade. You must bring plenty of water and you MUST take hats and sunblock! I enjoyed being out on this hike only because there were no other people on it. They probably knew better, or someone told them at least, to avoid this one on a hot morning.
The spring at the turnaround point is pretty cool, though tiny. We sat on a rock in the midst of reeds and cattails and had dragonflies zooming around us constantly, while a frog sat in the middle of the spring below us waiting for prey to present itself.
I don't recommend this hike for people inclined to complain about the heat.
We hiked this to try to get closer to the Mule Ears but it does not get much closer than the viewing spot by car. Desert hike with not a lot of variation in scenery.
Moderate hike across the desert floor, but ends at a tiny, beautiful oasis. Very cool hike.
Enjoyable hike, to see the ears up close. Like just about every hike in Big Bend, great views and great desert energy.
Mule Ears Spring is right at 2 miles down the trail. Beyond this, the trail leads to some scenic camping spots and eventually connects with the Smoky Creek trail. This is listed as a moderate hike, but it does not contain any technical climbs. A must do for first time Big Benders!