Santa Elena Canyon Trail is a 1.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Terlingua, Texas that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from September until May.

Distance: 1.5 miles Elevation Gain: 610 feet Route Type: Out & Back

kid friendly

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

beach

rails trails

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

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.

hiking
27 days ago

Another must do in the area. Easy fun hike going into the canyon. Completed December 2016, January 2019

hiking
2 months ago

Nice hike along the river close to some different plants. It’s cool to be so close to Mexico. Lots of people were wading or swimming but we weren’t prepared. Very hot at times with some shady spots later on along the trail.

Loved this trail and incredible cliffs on each side

hiking
2 months ago

Easy walk along the Rio Grande into a narrow section of Santa Elena Canyon. Several vistas give various angles for pictures. Can be very hot with little wind and of course - bugs since the trail runs along the water’s edge.

hiking
2 months ago

Must visit when in big bend. Short and easy with a small rigorous section. Allow extra time to wade in the water or climb the rocks

hiking
2 months ago

Very nice hike. Short and easy but you do have to hike up a little. It’s not bad at all. The last part was my favorite

hiking
2 months ago

No mud! Great scenery.

3 months ago

Easy hike with a great view, however it is short lived and anti climactic. Make sure you go for one of the most picturesque views in Big Bend.

hiking
muddy
3 months ago

Beautiful trail, partially paved, and busy. River crossing involved with muddy areas. Your feet may get a little wet. Good view of the river and canoers. Would recommend.

hiking
3 months ago

Easy, relaxing trail. Depending on water flow there may be a shallow stream crossing near the beginning - bring appropriate shoes! Most of the hike along the Rio Grande faces an imposing rock cliff on the Mexican side which provides welcome shade. For a different view of the Mexican side (i.e. not a big rock wall), about 2 miles down the road there's a river access point where you can see clear into Cañon de Santa Elena National Park on the Mexican side, and even stare straight down the middle of the Rio Grande US-Mexican border at a bend.

hiking
3 months ago

Easy fun trail; great views!

hiking
3 months ago

Great easy trail. You must hike the trail to get the true beauty of the canyon. It was muddy crossing the creek to get to the trail but fine after that. There is an alternate route that avoids the mud if needed. We had been before and didn’t hike the trail; it is so much more beautiful from the trail.

hiking
muddy
3 months ago

They prepared to get muddy crossing turn lingua Creek! Unless you’re willing to wait through ankle deep mud you really cannot get on the trail at all.

hiking
off trail
scramble
3 months ago

Incredible views. The water in the tributary was kinda high so I crossed farther up and took the alternate route. Was some slightly difficult terrain but made it a fun challenge!

hiking
4 months ago

Just down to the river and back

muddy
off trail
rocky
scramble
4 months ago

The trail itself is beautiful and definitely worth the troubles to get to the trailhead. the views from up top are gorgeous and walking through the reeds of the Rio Grande is surreal after being surrounded by desert moments before. Like many others have said, if it has rained recently the entrance is either flooded or knee-deep muddy. Some people choose to traverse the mud, and I even saw one girl doing the hike barefoot with muddy feet since the hike after that point is truly that easy. There is a non-muddy option that requires a lot of climbing up and down very vertical slopes with unsteady shale as the only thing to grab onto. My buddy and I decided to do this option both up and back, but there were some scary moments where we could have easily fallen all the way down to the creek below. The amount of time you save trekking the mud is actually wasted on washing your feet after. Keep that in mind. With that said it was worth it and I'd do that climb again to hike the trail.

hiking
4 months ago

We stopped here after a morning hike. Didn’t do the whole trail, just walked to the river. So pretty!

hiking
scramble
4 months ago

hiking
scramble
4 months ago

Epic hike! I would think a morning hike would be even better for pix. Stay away from Old Maverick Road (unless you can off-road)

hiking
flooded
off trail
scramble
4 months ago

It rained the day before, so we had to go around the creek and up a pretty difficult scramble, which made the whole trail a lot longer, but it was still really cool!

hiking
flooded
off trail
rocky
scramble
4 months ago

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