Hike Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend

Santa Elena Canyon Parking Area

Enjoy spectacular Canyon views along this mostly shaded hike in Big Bend. You'll also get to enjoy part of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Santa Elena Canyon is one of the crown jewels of Big Bend National Park, and something you surely don't want to miss if you pay the park a visit. To get here you will take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive from Panther Junction, the park's headquarters. This drive has many pull-offs to take advantage of for.. you guessed it- scenic views! The road ends at Santa Elena Canyon Overlook which is where you will find access to the 1.7 mile out and back trail that takes you into the canyon.

Starting off, you will walk across a sandy area to the river banks of the Rio Grande. It is here that your first views of the mouth of the canyon will come into sight and they won't disappoint. Depending on how much rain the park has had you may have a little trouble getting to the other side of the runoff creek that blocks you from the trail, but don't worry! If you head down a little west you can find an easier spot to cross without getting wet.

The trail is clearly laid out and offers spectacular views of the canyon as it takes you up 160ft above Rio Grande, but still leaves you surrounded by the towering 1500ft canyon walls on either side. If going in Spring or Summer do not forget to bring ample water as temperatures can often rise over 100 degrees!

Pack List

  • Water
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Picnic Supplies if desired
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RT Distance 1.7 Miles
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Picnic Area
River
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Great canyon hike

Beautifull short canyon hike in Big Bend. The walls are impressive and the view is stunning. I tried to be a cowboy and hike in cowboy boots and my advice is: don't do it. Santa Elena is absolutely worth your hiking boots if you are less into longer desert hikes or to cool off a little.

Great Hike to Escape the Heat

This hike is perfect to go for a swim and cool off in the canyon shade. Short and easy

Sunrise/Sunset

Catching sunrise and sunset here is really nice! As dawn breaks you get to see the sun light up the canyon walls and the bats come out to feed! But be wary, after the sun rise and the bats go away the biting flies come out!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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