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Tuff Canyon Trail, TX

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Difficulty 2 of 5
Distance One Way 1 mile
Trailhead Elevation 2,378 feet
Elevation Gain -102 feet
Accumulated Gain 82 feet
Avg Time One Way 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 1.27
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
16  2021-02-17
Tuff Canyon Trail
Author markthurman53
author avatar Guides 162
Routes 683
Photos 7,885
Trips 532 map ( 4,888 miles )
Age 67 Male Gender
Location Tucson, Arizona
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jan, Dec, Feb, Nov → Any
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  5:55am - 7:56pm
Official Route
1 Alternative

not so tough walk
by markthurman53


The Rio Grande River comes down out of Colorado, heads south through New Mexico, and passes through El Paso Texas where it now becomes the border between the United States and Mexico. The river flows 1254 miles in a southeast direction toward the Gulf of Mexico, but before getting there, it turns to the North East, creating a momentary bend in the river; this Is Big Bend National Park. The mountains in this park are a continuation of a mountain range in Mexico that will continue into the US through Guadalupe National Park and New Mexico. The highest point in this park is Emory Peak, at 7800 feet. This park is probably one of the remotest parks in the contiguous United States. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, it has a lot to offer in hiking, camping, and general sightseeing.


Tuff Canyon is a short hike through a narrow canyon composed of volcanic tuff. The trail is along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive just before Castolon Historic site. The map shows this as a 0.5-mile hike one way but venturing upstream further; you can easily make this a 1-mile one-way trip. There are vistas along the first part of the trail that looks down over the 50-foot sheer walls of the canyon to where the trail is below in the canyon. This short trail is worth the stop and doesn’t take up a huge portion of the day. This is a good side trip to do after visiting Santa Elena Canyon and the Historic Castolon district, and still have time left in the day to do the Mule Ears Trail.

The signed trailhead is along the Ross Maxwell Road and has parking for about a dozen cars. The trail is well-groomed until you get down to the wash, then it just follows the sandy wash. Before dropping into the wash, there is a small loop trail that takes you to 2 vistas overlooking the canyon. It is worth the little side trip to see what you are getting into first. Take the trail down to the wash and just follow it upstream. The walls of the canyon are quite impressive, composed of volcanic tuff and every so often huge volcanic bombs that came down with the fine-grained tuff. I always thought it would be a real bummer to have one of these big boulders dropping out of the sky on you, but then I remember that these bombs would be the least of your worries as you are inundated with very hot ash and gasses. After traveling through this pinkish white ash, if you choose to go further upstream past the end of the trail, the canyon gets even more interesting. Just past the narrows, the canyon cuts through black basaltic rock. You have to kind of find your own route at this point. Like one of those Chinese mazes, there is one way through. After the basaltic rock, you enter another area of pinkish-white ash and eventually a 20-foot waterfall that spans the canyon that is about 50 yards across at this point. These falls look like a dead end, but if you backtrack a bit, there is a route along the west side that will get you above these falls. After getting around the falls, you can continue along the creek for another 0.5 miles before coming to another 20-foot falls, and this one is more difficult to get around. We called it quits here and turned around, making this a 2-mile round trip hike. Quite an impressive canyon.

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2021-05-22 markthurman53

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$

    Big Bend National Park
    Big Bend Fees and Registration

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From the West
    Along Interstate 20 at Van Horn, exit south on hwy 90 to Alpine, Texas. Take 118 south to Big Bend National Park entrance. Follow park road to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Road.

    From the East
    Along Interstate 20 at Fort Stockton, take 385 south to Marathon, Texas. Continue south to Big Bend National Park entrance. Follow park road to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Road.
    page created by HAZ_Hikebot on May 22 2021 2:50 am
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