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Big Bend National Park


Activities, 1-day schedule, Hiking, Mountain Biking

Following is a schedule suggestion if you plan on being only one day in the park:

  • If time allows, drive to the Chisos Mountains Basin to take in the spectacular mountain views. Walk the 0.3-mile self-guiding Window View Trail to get a feel for the mountain scenery.
  • A trip along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive will give you a taste of the Chihuahuan Desert and will lead you to the Rio Grande. (Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive)
    There are scenic overlooks and exhibits along the way. Sotol Vista, Mule Ears Overlook and Tuff Canyon are all worthwhile stops. The short walks to the Sam Nail Ranch and Homer Wilson (Blue Creek) Ranch and a visit to the Castolon Historic District will give you a glimpse into Big Bend’s past.
  • A highlight of the trip is the short (1.7-mile round trip) walk into Santa Elena Canyon — one of Big Bend’s most scenic spots.
    Drive to the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to access the trailhead. You may return to the main road by returning on the Ross Maxwell Drive or on the Old Maverick Road, a 13-mile gravel road linking the Ross Maxwell Drive to the Maverick (west) Entrance. Be sure to check on road conditions first.


Big Bend National park is a hiker’s paradise containing the largest expanse of roadless public lands in Texas. More than 150 miles of trails offer opportunities for day hikes or backpacking trips.
Elevations range from 1,800 feet at the eastern end of Boquillas Canyon to 7,832 feet atop Emory Peak in the Chisos Mountains. These elevation changes produce an exceptional variety of plants, animals, and scenic vistas.
Short Hikes: Big Bend has hiking experiences for just about everyone! For introductory hikes, you might consider one of the Self-Guiding Trails.
Day Hikes: Big Bend is a big park; to make it a little easier, we divide the park into geographical areas: East Side Hikes, West Side Hikes, Mountain Hikes, and North End Hikes.
For something a little out in the desert, if you have a high-clearance or four-wheel drive vehicle, you might consider one of our Backcountry Dayhikes.

The Lost Mine Trail is a popular dayhike in the Chisos Mountains on Big Bend National Park. A 4.8 mile roundtrip, the trail ascends 1,100 feet to a spectacular view to the south; on clear days you can see the Rio Grande and mountains in Mexico.

Mountain Biking

Lightly traveled roads and varied terrain make Big Bend a premier bicycling location. Over 100 miles of paved roads, and 160 miles of backcountry dirt roads provide challenges for riders of all types and abilities. Bicyclists must be extremely cautious and well-prepared, but bicycling allows outstanding panoramic views, unobstructed by a windshield. It also allows the bicyclist to see and hear some of the smaller wonders of Big Bend from a more intimate viewpoint.

Old Ore Road

A 26 mi tour which will take between 4 and 6 hours. Old Ore Road is a dirt road.

Glenn Spring Loop

Being in good physical condition is a must for this approx. 1-day tour.

Santa Elena Canyon / River Rafting

Santa Elena Canyon, downstream, is the most popular overnight or three day trip, not only because the put-in and take-out are easily accessed by car, but because it is often considered the most dramatically beautiful. Santa Elena has the tallest cliffs forming the canyon wall—up to 1,500 feet.
The first 13 meandering miles from the put-in at Lajitas give you a good look at the contrast between the riparian and desert ecosystem. The river becomes more technical in the last seven miles when you have entered the actual canyon. Two miles into the canyon, the largest rapid, the Rock Slide is classified as a Class IV rapid at certain water levels.

Santa Elena Upstream An enjoyable day trip consists of paddling upstream, from the Santa Elena Canyon Trailhead, a few miles into the canyon, and then returning back downstream (also known as a "boomerang" trip). If the water level is low, you do not have to fight the current much going upstream, making this trip quite leisurely. It is an ideal trip if you only have one vehicle, or if you do not want to pay for a shuttle back to your starting point. A good destination is Fern Canyon, a beautiful side canyon approximately two miles upstream, which has ferns growing where water is seeping out of the canyon walls. A backcountry use permit is required for all river trips; no fee is charged for day-use trips.

Operators are e.g.:
Big Bend River Tours: 800.545.4240
Desert Sports: 888.989.6900
Far Flung Outdoor Center: 800.839.7238

See following also the Weblink list with Tour Operators.

Visitor Center, Directions, General info, Park Website, etc.

Data & Facts

Old Ore Road
Old Ore Road



GPS Coordinates

1 -- Panther Junction, Big Bend National Park
Decimal Lat: 29.328265 / Lon: -103.205577

2 -- Old Ore Road, North
Decimal Lat: 29.487714 / Lon: -103.098042

3 -- Old Ore Road, South
Decimal Lat: 29.202203 / Lon: -102.988061


Document Information
Source: National Park Service; magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20080908
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