Explore the most popular wildlife trails near Big Bend National Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

We made the hike mid-day in 110 degree weather, it is advised you make the hike early in the morning for you summer hikers. Trail ends at the Rio Grande Hot Springs (great muscle relaxer). Be sure to take a dip in the Rio Grande!

hiking
2 months ago

Pine Canyon Trail head is at the end of a 6 mile primitive road. The park recommends 4X4 drive, however we made the trek in Desmond out Honda CRV without noticeable damage. The trial is a easy-moderate 4 mile in and out. The first 1.6 miles are in the sun. Beware of flies, their presence is overwhelming at times. This is where you encounter first of many ecosystems. Next the trail come to a moderately wooded area, and slowly becomes more dense. This is where we encountered two black bear cubs, and momma bear. We never made it to the waterfall due to the presence of the bears. Despite the bears, the changing of ecosystems were exhilarating. Great hike!

A short walk in the desert. I hesitate to recommend it to families however, because there's a lot of cacti surrounding the trail. If you take your kids beware. This hike is at Dugout Wells picnic area & it's a neat place. We walked the paths in the oasis as well.

hiking
2 months ago

Not one of my favorites, but an ok trail. Good for families. You can't get into the canyon like the Santa Elena canyon trail. Also, you have to fend off a persistent Jesus "the singing Mexican".

A ranger told my husband this was his favorite trail. Very easy to find. Just drive through the campground to site 18. park on the side of the road. I liked the small wetland you walk through & the hike around the hill was great too. Views of the Rio Grande & Mexico. Great family hike.
This was a popular place at sunset. Everyone camping there walks up the hill for a great view.

hiking
2 months ago

Paved & accessible, this is just a .3 loop to see the window. Has a bench & lots of information boards. Nice to see if you don't have the time or inclination to take the longer trail.

awesome trail to hike... bring lots of water, it gets hot

3 months ago

More of a walk than a hike, but beautiful views particularly at sunset.

Hiked with a couple friends and we enjoyed being alongside the river.

Starts at the hot springs and leads to rio grand “village” which is actually just a picnic area. Can also be done in reverse but we wanted to finish and take a dip in the hot spring which was a treat. Be sure to bring a lot of water! There is no shade on this trail whatsoever. Great views of the river and canyon and across the river to Mexico!

Hot/exposed at first but leads into a wooded area with lots of shade!

hiking
3 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
3 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.

This was a fun hike for the kids. Lots of big rocks to climb over. Started to get a little warm in the afternoon sun but that is to be expected

This was a great hike and our kids (6 and 9 years old) loved running through the canyon. We decided to hike up and out of the canyon at the end rather than backtrack. The rock was a little loose but we all made it up to the road without incident.

on Pine Canyon Trail

4 months ago

Lovely canyon. Green oasis in the desert. Few visitors. Bear present.

hiking
4 months ago

Easy trail. Perfect for those with mobility difficulties. Location near restaurant and store make it a great pre-or post-meal walk. View at sunset unbeatable.

hiking
4 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.

We stopped short of The Hot Springs to enjoy the Rio Grande on our own. Even in February it was warm. As with all trails in this region you need plenty of water. Take a day pack with river shoes and a swim suit.

My family hiked this trail in early February. It was great for hiking with a nine month old in the backpack and a five year old. I love how it goes along the cool Rio Grande and the cliffs that have sand dunes at the base that can be explored. Just beautiful.

There are a few sites along the path that Mexicans have crossed the river and set up sales of art pieces (bead figures, walking sticks, and this year “No Wall” koozies). My five year old enjoyed being able to see the horses and men across the river who readily waved back. A couple of road runners who seemed to be well fed by hikers let us see them for more than the usual run across the road.

We took a snack and tested by the river for a few minutes, played in the sand and the hiked back.

Great family hike.

backpacking
5 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
5 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!

Really surprised at the end. The rock formations out shown the water hole in the rocks. Stunning and intriguing.

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.

This short easy hike is worth it, parking is limited but there is a bathroom near. The hike is easy, nice view of the rio Grande and it was cool to see the Mexican ranchers and horses across the river. Shade is limited until you get closer to the river. Great for kids. The canyon is beautiful, when we went there was a Mexican vendor singing beautiful songs into the echo of the canyon as well as selling handmade souvenirs. I don’t understand the low ratings, it’s short and worth the view inside the canyon.

*we went In January (lovely in the daytime) but I can imagine it gets hot in the summer*

backpacking
6 months ago

Well maintained trail that covers everything from low desert to high mountain with lots of trees.

hiking
6 months ago

Beautiful hike that offers a glimpse into different habitats. If you’re looking for a nice quiet trail with some potential to see wildlife, this might be your ticket. We saw some deer, signs of javelina, and more birds than we could count.

Less traffic than other parts of the park due to challenging road getting there. Fair warning, the road out could be rough or impassable in low clearance vehicles. 4x4 May be required if it rains.

Pack twice as much water as you think you'll need and reapply sunscreen every 45 minutes to an hour.

Nice trail with great views of the Rio Grande!

Preferred this hike over the Santa Elena Canyon. Beautiful views with more space to explore once in the canyon. Must see!

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