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Santa Elena Canyon

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend + Davis Mountains, Texas

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Santa Elena Canyon

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  • Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park.- Santa Elena Canyon
  • Hiking into Santa Elena Canyon along the short, easily accessible trail.- Santa Elena Canyon
  • The canyon walls tower over the trailside flora.- Santa Elena Canyon
  • Santa Elena Canyon.- Santa Elena Canyon
  • The canyon narrows to the width of the Rio Grande near the end of the trail.- Santa Elena Canyon
  • The canyon narrows to the width of the Rio Grande near the end of the trail.- Santa Elena Canyon
  • Looking across the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park.- Santa Elena Canyon
  • Cacti are common along the banks of the Rio Grande.- Santa Elena Canyon
  • Hiking in Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park.- Santa Elena Canyon
  • Boating on the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park.- Santa Elena Canyon
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Wading in the river.
Cons: 
Congested.
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Region:
Big Bend + Davis Mountains, TX
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
160.00 ft (48.77 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
1.70 mi (2.74 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

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This easy 1.7-mile round-trip hike in Big Bend National Park lets one get up close with the Rio Grande River and the Santa Elena Canyon. The Rio Grande is the boarder between the United States and Mexico throughout the park, and Mexico is just a few steps away from the trailhead on the other side of the river. 

The trail meanders down to the river from the parking lot and trailhead, and one can wade out to the river. It is feasible to walk all the way across the river, and it makes a great spot to take a dip after hiking in and out of the canyon. It is important to be knowledgeable about the regulations regarding crossing the boarder before entering into Mexico. 

The hardest part of the trail is a series of switchbacks about a quarter of a mile into the hike. But once the series is over, the trail levels out and follows the banks of the Rio Grande. Hikers can spend the rest of their time on trail admiring the walls of the canyon.  

The majority of the hike is level, and there is plenty of flora to observe along with the geology of the canyon. The walls rise above the hikers, and the Mexico side of the Rio Grande has no bank to stroll on; instead, the river presses up to the canyon wall.  The trail finally ends when the canyon narrows and the Rio Grande takes over the river bank and from wall to wall. At that point hikers can turn around and exit the canyon. 

There are plenty of intriguing views on this relatively easy hike.  Hikers are treated to an intimate view of the canyon and an insight to the U.S. neighbor to the south.

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Field Guide

Field Guide

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Adventures

(8 within a 30 mile radius)

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