• Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    3 Miles

Family Friendly
Romantic
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Not many people know about this hike, which is especially interesting given the beautiful oasis payoff at the end.

Head south on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive in Big Bend. Just after mile marker 3, you will see signs for the Sam Nail Ranch overlook, and a small opening in the scrub brush will appear on your left... but go slow, it's easy to miss!

Turn left down the dirt road. Follow it for about a mile or two until you reach a remote parking area in the desert. The road is not terrible, but be careful. Ruts can be deep and there can be large rocks you may need to move out of the way. After parking, head further down the road until you see a barricade. Keep walking past the barricade down to Oak Spring split and take the trail right up the hill, not to the left. The left trail will take you all the way up to the Chisos Basin via the Window trail.

The Hike:
Cattail Falls Coordinates: 29.2731, -103.3355

The Cattail Falls trail is only about 1.5 miles or so up into a canyon. When you get through the desert portion of the hike and begin to reach the heavier vegetation, be on the lookout for black bear. They frequent this area, so make noise as you hike.

The trail will go over large boulders toward the end and finish at the pool at the foot of Cattail Falls! I have hiked there dozens of times, and rarely see more than a trickle from the Falls. But if you catch it after a heavy spring rain, you'll be impressed, and it might even be enough for you to take a dip! Be careful when exploring the area as there is quite a bit of poison oak.

Enjoy! It is a special place that only the seasoned Big Bend explorers know :)

Pack List

  • Water
  • Camera
  • Tripod (for long exposures)
  • Swimsuit?
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

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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One update, when I was there this last week, the gate at the main road is now closed, so you have to park at Sam Nail Ranch, and walk in to the old trail head, its about 1.3 miles one way, still an easy hike though.

2 months ago
2 months ago

This is an extraordinary spot in Big Bend! It should be noted that Cattail Falls is no longer found on maps of Big Bend NP, and was removed for a good reason. The falls and surrounding area is a fragile environment that must be protected to the best of our—and the park's—abilities. Due to the sensitivity of the area, visitors should not swim in the pool or creek, stay on established trails, keep hiking groups small and pack out what you pack in! Just a reminder to be mindful of your impact here, and enjoy what nature puts before us in this small but permanent oasis. Keep this in mind, but don't leave your camera behind!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Andrew Slaton Explorer

Andrew is a commercial landscape and active lifestyle photographer living on the road full-time with his yogi wife, Ellen, dog, Islay Blue, and stud cat, Colonel Bubba. Based wherever the wind takes them, and teaching workshops along the way. www.slatonworkshops.com

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