Santa Elena Canyon Trail

EASY 137 reviews
#4 of 67 trails in

Santa Elena Canyon Trail is a 1.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Terlingua, Texas that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October.

DISTANCE
1.3 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
177 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

kid friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

views

wildlife

no dogs

This trail begins at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Although a short trail, it is one of the grandest spectacles in the park. After crossing Terlingua Creek, the trail climbs several short switchbacks and then gradually descends along the banks of the Rio Grande. Hikers are surrounded by lush riparian vegetation and 1,500-foot towering vertical cliffs of solid limestone. The trail ends where canyon walls meet the river. Take a lunch and enjoy the scene. Note: Following rains, flash floods, or periods of high water, Terlingua creek can be impassable, effectively closing the trail.

16 days ago

Amazing views. My favorite part of the hike was the nice beach in the shade. Cool boulders along the way too.

hiking
20 days ago

Absolutely breathtaking. The drive up to Santa Elena canyon is amazing and once you park and start walking towards the canyon, your jaw just drops at the sheer majesty of it. Definitely a Big Bend must see/do hike.

hiking
23 days ago

Just a beautiful view of the Rio Grande river flowing through the canyon. One of my favorite parts of Big Bend NP.

1 month ago

Beautiful hike! The whole family loved this one.

hiking
1 month ago

Perfect hike to start our time in Big Bend with. Upon reaching the end we went barefoot and walked up the river until we reached the first bend in the canyon. That probably added another mile to our hike. River was shallow (no deeper than 3 feet) and slow but did become rocky the further we pushed. Definitely be aware of weather conditions and be careful wading if you choose to go barefoot. Views in the river and around the bend are awesome, and really made the trail worthwhile!

hiking
1 month ago

love this hike ...short with so much to see

hiking
2 months ago

An easy walk which goes into the canyon, following the Rio Grande river. Some great views at the start of the walk. A nice change of scenery from the other, mostly dry desert walks.
https://hikingtheworld.blog/2017/10/28/the-best-of-big-bend-texas/#Santa-Elena-Canyon

2 months ago

We walked in Dec. 2017. Very worthwhile walk. Great look at the canyon.

3 months ago

Beautiful and easy trail.

3 months ago

This was my favorite trail in Big Bend! Very heavily trafficked but was still worth it to get views and pictures deep in the canyon. There is a pretty steep footpath at the beginning but other than that it was relatively easy. I would definitely recommend this to beginners. Great way to get hooked on America’s National Parks!

hiking
3 months ago

Very beautiful! Cooler temps in the canyon and tons of shade. Tight on the hill and stairs the first part of the hike but beautiful and green once in the canyon. I preferred Boquillas Canyon as the views were more abundant and their was more room to explore in the canyon.

hiking
3 months ago

Was a cool hike. Must do while in park.

hiking
3 months ago

Very beautiful area. The views here are incredible. Well worth the drive from the visitor center.

4 months ago

It’s definitely a drive to get to this trail (more than 30 miles from the park headquarters), but it’s worth it, as this is probably the most photographed part of the park. It’s a short walk down to the river from the parking lot, then the trail crosses a makeshift bridge over a small stream and climbs the cliff side. After a steep (slightly dangerous) trek along the cliff, the trail drops back down to the river about a half mile in. I took my three boys (ages 10, 7, and 5), but had to keep them reined in during the steep section, as it was at least a hundred feet above the water in some parts. When you get to the end, the canyon’s thousand foot cliffs tower above the Rio Grande and are absolutely incredible. If you only have a short time in the park, make sure to do this hike!

4 months ago

Amazing view as you drive up.

4 months ago

Neat little trail with nice views at the beginning once you ascend the initial staircase.

hiking
5 months ago

Realy cool view of the canyon and river. Very easy and short trail. Bring good shoes for sandy surfaces

6 months ago

Amazing view overlooking this canyon

hiking
6 months ago

Nice quick hike. When you're in the canyon and looking straight up it really is a site to behold. It's also really cool to know that one half of the canyon is Texas, but right across the river is Mexico. I do wish when you got to the end of the trail there was a better "payoff" view, where you could see clearly both sides of the canyon, but that's me being picky. Just seeing the Rio Grande and the towering canyon walls was worth the trip.

hiking
7 months ago

Gorgeous views. There is a massive boulder on the trail the size of a small house that is nice to sit under on a hot day. The rock formations rising on each side of the rio are mesmerizing. Make sure to bring more than enough water--it was 114 F the day I went and I ran out before the day was up.

hiking
8 months ago

Great, short hike with opportunities for rock climbing and fantastic views. My son loved it.

9 months ago

The canyon walls on this hike are spectacular. Must see when in Big Bend.

10 months ago

Great views of the Canyon. Can continue walking in the river once the trail ends.

hiking
11 months ago

Absolutely beautiful views of the canyon walls, easy trail for the whole family.

hiking
11 months ago

Fairly easy walk into the Canyon with the Rio Grande several hundred feet below. Requires an initial climb then levels out. Popular hike so expect to see lots of people. Great views of the Chisos looking back out of the canyon.

hiking
11 months ago

I'm obsessed with this canyon. Be prepared that you may have to wade across the river to get to the trail. Bring a separate pair of shoes.

hiking
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Realitively easy for all age groups. We saw very young children through seniors doing this walk. Bring water & wear good shoes. No flip flops. The first section is paved going up with a few steps. Then it levels out to sandy, rocky dirt. Beautiful. Fews of the river & canyon walls. Some shaded areas. Best early or lateday.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Beautiful hike!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

I loved this hike. The views into the canyon are amazing and it was fun to see people canoeing down the Rio Grande.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Beautiful, short and easy hike on the Rio Grande

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