Outer Mountain Loop is a 24.1 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Big Bend National Park, Texas that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, camping, and birding and is best used from November until April.

DISTANCE
24.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
5,708 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

birding

camping

hiking

walking

forest

views

wildlife

rocky

no shade

no dogs

Though a favorite of many experienced hikers, this beautiful backpacking loop is a challenge. Many people do not complete the loop due to the heat, lack of shade, and the amount of water required to be packed ahead of time. Make sure to read up and be prepared for this hike before hitting the trail.

hiking
1 month ago

This hike is difficult but rewarding. Some choose to hike the trail clockwise which takes them down Juniper Canyon trail the first day. I would advise this, as I have done the trail counter clockwise and day 3 up Juniper Canyon can be extremely strenuous. Personally the second day down the Dodson was the most difficult. We made out hike in early spring but the lack of shade and the extreme temperature swing in the afternoon really made the last half of the day MISERABLE. This was all replaced after the camp was set up and the stars came out. Hands down the clearest I have ever seen the stars in my life.

I would recommend caching water at Homer Wilson and Juniper Canyon. We ended up with extra water in the end but as many of you know the weather in Big Bend can fluctuate rapidly. Weather forecast for the day we hiked the Dodson called for highs in the low 80's but it was easily 100 degrees in the afternoon. So a little extra water isn't going to hurt. It actually makes for a pretty refreshing cool down before the final stretch back down into the basin.

This trail is very rewarding with spectacular views and solitude but can be very dangerous if you go in unprepared. Carry plenty of water, and KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS!

hiking
7 months 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.

backpacking
7 months 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.

hiking
8 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.

backpacking
9 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
9 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
9 months ago

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.

hiking
10 months ago

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
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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.

backpacking
Thursday, March 16, 2017

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.

backpacking
Thursday, March 02, 2017

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)

camping
Monday, December 19, 2016

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.

hiking
Tuesday, July 14, 2015

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!

hiking
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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.

hiking
Friday, April 04, 2014

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

hiking
Saturday, April 14, 2012

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!

http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/your-trip-reports/doing-it/

backpacking
5 days ago

hiking
1 month ago

6 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

hiking
9 months ago

Monday, November 13, 2017

hiking
Saturday, March 26, 2016

Friday, March 04, 2016

hiking
Tuesday, January 20, 2015