Hike Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend



1.7 miles

Elevation Gain

610 ft

Route Type


Added by Sarah Vaughn

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!

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Know for

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Picnic Area



Leave a Review


over 5 years ago

Easy hike

Fairly easy hike for a great view. Last time I did this we also saw a beaver! Lots of wildlife so be on the lookout.


🥇Top Contributor

over 5 years ago

A short, steep hike that lends some spectacular views of the canyon and overlaying land of Big Bend. I wish there was a way to get in the canyon on foot, but I'll just have to plan a canoeing trip to do that!

Great fun for a quick trip if you want to knock out a few of the shorter adventures Big Bend offers. We went during a rainy season (in Texas, believe it or not). However, the mud on the banks of the Rio Grande made enjoying the river/canyon difficult if you were knee deep in thick and sticky mud. The views and the sheer size of the canyon made ever lost shoe worth it.

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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