Outer Mountain Loop is a 25 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Big Bend National Park, Texas and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and camping and is best used from November until April.
Great trail. Very scenic and lightly traveled. Take care to bring enough water. Carry what you think you need then add 25% more. Cache water at both cache points. Do not count on springs for water. Be preparers for the sun as there is no shade. This being said it's worth every step.
Fantastic hike! It's tough, be sure to plan and read weather forecasts. Definitely cache water! We put 2 gallons per person in the bear boxes at Homer Wilson Ranch and used all of it. The scenery changes every day from wooded mountains on day one, desert on day 2 to hoodoos and a stream bed hiking trail on day 3. I think the hardest part of this hike is pack weight due to the amount of water you have to carry. Practice around your neighborhood or local park carrying at the very least 5 liters along with everything else you plan to bring. It will help you decide between absolute needs and wants. There will be a variety of weather, you can bet on it. We had rain on the last day, downhill part of the trail, that was cold. Temp in the low 40s after a dry day in the desert in the 80s in February.
This trail will show you what you are made of. It took us 4 days and 3 nights to complete the 30 mile journey with a group of 4. It took us a little longer than normal because we were beginner backpackers (this trail was my first backpacking experience, go big or go home right?) This trail is both mentally and physically challenging. It is steep loose rock trail that goes up and down mountains with cacti about to poke you on one side and cliff on the other side. We experienced weather as cold as 25 degrees on top of the mountain and as hot as 100 when we were running out of water trekking to the cache. This trail is ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING!! The scenery was always changing. Despite the level of difficulty this outer mountain loop presents it is 100% worth your time and effort. Make sure to do your research before you come and don't forget to hit up the hot springs by the Rio Grande. (you wont regret it especially after trekking this outer mountain loop)
Crazy awesome experience. A lot longer than expected due to all the switchbacks. Well worth it though. Bring water and store water. Fresno was the only suitable place I was able to get water filtered at.
Here's my quick, down and dirty story of hiking the Outer Loop, AKA what NOT to do!!!!! After being talked out of hiking the Outer Loop by a Park Ranger in March 2015, I spent a few days hiking through the Chisos Mtns. It was absolutely beautiful. However, over the next few months I became more and more disappointed in myself that I let the Park Ranger talk me out of hiking The Outer Loop. So I headed back at the beginning of June 2015, bound and determined to do it. I started at the Chisos store and made it to juniper springs no problem. Juniper springs was flowing pretty good so I was very confident in the other springs along the Outer Loop Trail. Just my luck, they weren't flowing at all. So I was out of water, my body was way too hot and I was only a few miles into The Outer Loop Trail. Thank goodness there was a full moon because I pretty much had no choice but to hike through the night so as to avoid the heat of the day. Throughout the night, after hiking uphill, I would practically collapse from the heat and being exhausted. My body literally would just shut down and I would fall asleep from anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. I would awake cooled down and feel much better, only until I had to hike up a few more hills and repeat the whole process again. I pulled into Homer Wilson Ranch about 7:30 that morning and drank a gallon and a half of water. I didn't pee for over 3 hours afterwards. I left Homer Wilson about 10:30 and started the big ascent up into the Chisos Mtns. All the while repeating the "get too hot, pull over and take a nap" scenario. After one 30 minute nap, before I even moved a muscle, I measured my pulse........ 120 while lying down in the shade!!! Once I crested the Chisos Mtns and started my descent into the Chisos Basin, I had no problems whatsoever. In a huge twist of irony, Mother Nature decided to turn on the faucet and it rained on me the last mile. Ha!
I did this loop in 3 days/ 2 nights with 2 other girls. We cached a gallon of water each at Homer Wilson Ranch. I drank about 2 liters before starting and carried an additional 3 liters and 1 gallon. The first night we camped about 1.5-2 miles past the Juniper Canyon bear box. The second night we camped about 1.5-2 miles past Homer Wilson Ranch. The trail was well marked with cairns--especially at points where the trail crossed creek beds. This was my first time hiking in the desert and I also coordinated and lead the trip. We finished on Christmas day. It was such a delightful and welcome surprise to find out that the lodge was having a Christmas buffet! What a treat after days of trail mix and pb&j. :) The views were spectacular and I loved every minute of it. Big Bend will always have a special place in my heart. It is a true Texas treasure.
I did this loop in 3 days. It was an amazing experience and Big Bend has become one of my favorite national parks. I started from Chisos with 10 liters of water and a gallon at the Homer Wilson ranch. I used every bit of it. The first night I camped about a half mile into the Dodson from the Dodson/Juniper Canyon intersection. At that intersection there is a bear box with emergency water and could maybe be used as a water cashe (you'd probably need 4wd to get there by vehicle). The second night I was maybe a mile up the Blue Creek Trail from the Blue Creek/Dodson intersect. The water cashe at Homer Wilson, near this intersection, is right off a paved road and easily accessible. I had back country permits for both nights and I found it difficult to find good campsites that complied with he rules of being out of sight of the trail and in an undisturbed area. Its wasn't impossible, but it took a bit of effort after the long, almost 10 mile, days I was doing. That being said, I found the distance and terrain to be quite strenuous for a 3 day trek. Some people would find this loop more enjoyable by adding a third night. The last hike back to Chisos was the shortest of the three days. I started around 8 am and was back to my car around 1230 pm. The other days lasted from 8 till about 430 or 5. Overall, I had a great time and won't hesitate to go back for round two! Stay safe out there, do your research and Be Prepared. -Peace
We did this trail in Nov 2011. Most begin this trail in the Basin, however, we chose to encounter as few others as possible and began at the Dodson trail head at the end of the Juniper Canyon road. This route consists of the Dodson trail, Blue Creek trail, Laguna Meadow, South Rim, Boot Canyon and Juniper Canyon. It was 28.1 miles long. We took our time and took 5 nights to complete this trail; we cached water, food and clothes at the cache box near the Homer Wilson Ranch House. It was simply glorious to spend the amount of time we did in this remnant of The Garden. Prepare yourself with other trips to Big Bend first and read what the NPS site has to say about this trail before taking it on.
Check out the link I have provided for a detailed report on this hike with many photos and video!