Santa Elena Canyon Trail

EASY 105 reviews
#5 of 66 trails in

Santa Elena Canyon Trail is a 1.4 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
1.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
137 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.

hiking
15 days 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
16 days ago

Was a cool hike. Must do while in park.

hiking
24 days ago

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

26 days 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!

1 month ago

Amazing view as you drive up.

1 month ago

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

hiking
2 months ago

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

2 months ago

Amazing view overlooking this canyon

hiking
3 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
4 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
5 months ago

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

6 months ago

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

7 months ago

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

hiking
7 months ago

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

hiking
7 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
8 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
9 months ago

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.

9 months ago

Beautiful hike!

9 months ago

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

9 months ago

Beautiful, short and easy hike on the Rio Grande

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