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Here Are the 7 Best Hikes in Big Bend National Park

When it comes to hidden gems, Big Bend National Park may be the best ultimate destination. The park is awe-inspiring in the cooler months and is a great destination to avoid the chilly weather blues. Plus, for hiking fans, the list of best hikes in Big Bend National Park is long.

Located in the far west corner of Texas, the park has endless miles of desert landscape, towering mountains and the Rio Grande carving rock walls that create the border between the U.S. and Mexico. With such a diverse ecosystem, it’s hard to choose the best trails, but these seven hikes are ones you’ll want to cross off your bucket list.

Grapevine Hills Trail to Balanced Rock

best hikes in big bend national park
(Source: Mark de Leeuw / Getty Images)

This casual desert trail is an excellent warmup for hiking in Big Bend. No matter where you come from, Big Bend is a long drive, and the 2.2-mile roundtrip Grapevine Hills Trail is a great way to stretch your legs. The trail ends at Blanaced Rock, a tethering rock creating a window. It’s a great photo opportunity.

The Window Trail

the window in big bend

There’s a good chance the Window Trail is the most popular hike at Big Bend National Park. Located in the Chisos Mountains, the trail drops down from the campground and visitor center and goes through a canyon to the edge of the mountains. That’s where hikers will find slick rock where water runs, eventually dropping off and falling to the desert floor below. Watch your step. The hike is 5.5 miles roundtrip and is well worth the fantastic view at the end.

Lost Mine Trail

hiking in Chisos mountains

The Lost Mine Trail takes you higher into the park’s mountains with amazing views. The hike is a little trickier as hikers head uphill to the summit. The trail gains more than 1,000 feet of elevation over the 2.4-mile hike. Keep in mind you’ll be hiking the same distance back down.

Emory Peak Trail

hardest trails in Big Bend

You’ll get the most bang for your buck with the Lost Mine Trail, but Emory Peak is perfect for anyone looking for an adventure in the mountains. The roundtrip journey is 10.5 miles and summits at Emory Peak, the highest point in Big Bend National Park. To get there, hikers start from the Chisos Basin and take the Pinnacles Trail for nearly four miles before reaching the Emory Peak Trail, which will take you to the summit. 

Santa Elena Canyon Trail

best trails in big bend
(Source: Mark A Paulda / Getty Images)

Besides the Window Trail, this is Big Bend National Park’s next quintessential hiking trail. Although the entire Santa Elena Canyon Trail hike is only 1.6 miles, the view is almost unbeatable. The views are spectacular, with sheer rock cliffs carved through by the Rio Grande, even with the river occasionally appearing very low.

Pine Canyon Trail

hiking in the desert
(Source: NPS)

As mentioned, Big Bend is a diverse landscape, and one of the best ways to see the mountains and deserts is on the Pine Canyon Trail. This trail is less popular compared to others on the list. The four-mile roundtrip hike starts in the desert and slowly descends to the base of the mountains. The best part is watching the landscape go from desert flora into pine trees as you gradually gain elevation.

Hot Springs Trail

hot springs in big bend
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This route is barely a hike and more of a short walk, but the destination makes it worth it. Sitting in the Rio Grande, you’ll find a hot spring you can relax in after a long day of hiking. According to the National Park Service, a geothermal process heats the spring, and the water emerges at 105 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s also a legend of the water carrying mineral salts with healing powers. It’s only a quarter mile in each direction from the trailhead to get there.

Park Rangers want to remind all visitors to the park to pack plenty of water. The park has limited water resources, and many of these trails are exposed to the sun.

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