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Santa Elena Canyon Trail, TX

Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Distance One Way 0.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,165 feet
Elevation Gain 107 feet
Accumulated Gain 221 feet
Avg Time One Way 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 1.24
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2021-02-17 markthurman53
8  2012-09-17 PatrickL
5  2007-04-23 gummo
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   Feb, Nov, Dec, Jan → Any
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  5:55am - 7:56pm
Official Route
1 Alternative

Rio Grande 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.


The Rio Grande River enters the park on the west side, passing through Mesa De Anguilla through a canyon called Santa Elena Canyon. The Ross Maxwell Scenic Road ends where this river exits that canyon. The Santa Elena Canyon Trail is a short 1 mile in and back trail that follows along the river, and its endpoint depends on how high the river is. The canyon walls are impressive at up to 1500 feet straight up. This is a must-see canyon if visiting the park and doesn’t require a full day to do it, just a portion of your morning to go and hike this short trail.

The Santa Elena Canyon Trail starts at a parking area where the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive ends. From the trailhead, it is a short walk to the river with Mexico on the other side. When I was there, the river wasn’t too deep, and you could almost cross it on rocks without getting wet. Once you have checked out the river to the west about 100 yards, the trail takes a well-groomed path via switchbacks high up on the river bank, maybe 100 feet. The trail stays high for the first quarter-mile before dropping back down to river level. Some pretty impressive rockfalls give cause to ponder how long ago and what it must have been like when these fell from the cliffs above. The vegetation is thick along the river, but the popularity of this trail seems to keep it well trimmed from the trail. Since you are walking along the river bank at this point, how far in you can go depends on how high the water is. When we were there, it went quite a ways into a point where the trail has to end because there is no bank on either side of the river, just 1500 foot cliffs (I believe our GPS said 1.2 miles round trip). If it had been raining or the river was recently high, this trail will be extremely muddy and slippery.

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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 2:36 am
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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