We’re going to tell you a little secret. Big Bend National Park is a very cool place, but just next door is a park that’s just as impressive. Big Bend Ranch State Park is a geologic wonder with sweeping desert views and some really, really great hiking! So get your four-wheel-drive-high-clearance vehicle ready, and let’s check out some trails.
Here are four trails that we chose to recommend because they are located in different areas of the park, giving you a good taste for all that Big Bend Ranch has to offer. Each one gives something unique and wonderful back if you’re willing to put in the work. Our first trail is easily accessed off the main park road; however, the other three will require the aforementioned specialized adventure vehicle.
The Closed Canyon Trail is an easy, 1.5-mile out-and-back. You will wind your way down a narrow, slot canyon. Don’t worry about tight squeezes! There’s nothing like that along the way. You don’t need any specialized gear either. Just follow our hiker tips below for walking in desert environments.
The cliff walls sore high above, and there’s plenty of room between them to meander and explore the canyon. You may be rewarded with an up-close look at a tinaja (depressions filled with water) along the way. The Closed Canyon is full of interesting plants and animals seeking shade from the intense desert sun.
As you approach the Rio Grande, the canyon will get more narrow. You won’t have direct river access without climbing gear. Be sure to be aware of the weather. Flash floods are a concern in the desert, and you don’t want to be in a slot when that happens!
For more details, click here.
Ojito Adentro Trail
This is a short, easy 1-mile out-and-back. The challenge is getting there. You’ll need that four-wheel-drive vehicle we mentioned earlier for the next three trails. Well, okay, to be honest, we didn’t have one. But we did have a high-clearance vehicle. You be the judge! Four-wheel-drive is definitely recommended.
This hike is all about the oasis at its end. You’ll hike through some dense brush and clamber over some rocks before reaching a beautiful spring-fed pool and trickling waterfall. The greenery seems so out of place in the Chihuahuan desert that you’ll be surprised and refreshed. It does seem so out of place.
Keep your eyes open for remnants of our ancestors. You may see evidence of rancher fences and tanks. Even farther back, the keen observer may notice middens (debris and depressions from native peoples who inhabited this area). In fact, if you look hard enough, you’ll notice evidence from ancient peoples all over this park. Please practice LNT.
For more details, click here.
Cinco Tinajas Trail
You could make this a really short hike if you just want a killer view of a dramatic canyon tiered with a series of tinajas. Follow the trail (about 1-mile out-and-back) to the scenic viewpoint. From up here, you get an amazing bird’s eye view of the Cinco Tinajas. However, I recommend walking a tad further on the loop to see the prehistoric pictographs. This will make your hike about 2 miles round trip.
For more details, click here.
Fresnos Canyon Camp
This is a moderately difficult hike because it has some elevation, and it is very exposed. We camped at the Pila Montoya Campsite #3, which is wonderful and secluded. From there, we hiked all the way down to Fresno Canyon Camp. This hike offers several remarkable sights: Manos Arriba, Los Portales, and The Flatirons.
It is approximately 12 miles round trip. View the Manos Arriba to see some beautiful handprints from the ancient natives who lived here long ago. Check out the picturesque Los Portales dramatic arches in the mountainside. The grand finale is the absolutely stunning Flatirons. These geologic formations are definitely worth the walk!
- Sunscreen and a desert hat.
- Be cautious of flash floods.
- Proper footwear.
- Water, water, and more water.
For other hiking destinations, click here.
We’re Melony and Travis LaCoss. Better known on the trail as Stretch and RamboJuice, hiker trash bloggers, photographers, and all-around dirtbags.
A few years ago, we took a giant leap away from our conventional lifestyle to backpack in the United States. After spending 5 months on the Pacific Crest Trail, we started our blog Hikerlore to share stories and provide useful information to backpackers, hikers, and outdoor travelers.
We plan to hike as much as we possibly can. During that time, we’ll write articles about our experiences and share photographs. Some of our posts will be narrative in nature, others will review backpacking gear and offer advice to hikers. Recently, we bought an old service van and converted it into a sweet travel van.
We are adventure seekers who hike national scenic trails, visit national parks, and travel around in a van blogging about outdoor travel. We have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (2,200 miles), Florida Trail (1,100 miles), and half the Pacific Crest Trail (1,400 miles). Our adventures have led us to over 50 national parks and monuments.
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