Santa Elena Canyon Trail

Big Bend National Park, Texas 79834

Distance0.7mi
Elevation Gain885ft
Trailhead Elevation2,161ft
Top2,311ft
Elevation Min/Max2150/2311ft
Elevation Start/End2161/2161ft

Santa Elena Canyon Trail

Santa Elena Canyon Trail is a hiking trail in Brewster County, Texas. It is within Big Bend National Park. It is 0.7 miles long and begins at 2,161 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 1.5 miles with a total elevation gain of 885 feet. Near the trailhead there are restrooms.

Santa Elena Canyon Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"This brief hike to the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park’s westernmost region is perhaps one of the most rewarding, offering an opportunity to enjoy shade, a beautiful riparian area, and the soaring 1500-foot tall canyon walls that make Santa Elena Canyon so splendid.

In an easy hike of less than a mile, hikers can take an up-close look at the mouth of the grandest canyon in the state. The canyon is a popular rafting destination, so you may get a chance to see paddlers exiting the mouth in often stunning light. It is also one of the most unforgiving waterways. Its sheer cliffs dominate paddlers immediately upon entering the canyon, giving them little opportunity to beach their craft until the Rio Grande spits them out miles later at the mouth."

"This hike takes you into the mouth of one of the three major canyons of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. Because the 1,500-foot-deep canyon is spectacular and the hike is easy, this trail is one of the most popular in the park.

Summer temperatures frequently exceed 100°F, so hike early in the morning from about April through October and carry water. Fortunately, there is shade in the canyon. Although there is little net elevation change in the hike, the trail does require a short 80-foot climb up the canyon wall and back down to river level."

Santa Elena Canyon Trail Reviews

4
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
icon13 Total
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
3/3/2018
easy hike with breathtaking views of the canyon
0
Comments
3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars
3/1/2011
This is easy and very pretty canyon trail with the Rio Grande being next to you. We hiked this around 10 am. Although it was a cool day the climb up and over into the canyon was quite warm. Once in the canyon it was lovely.
0
Comments
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
7/23/2010
I've done this hike numerous times. It's an easy hike. Access is not available when the river is up.
0
Comments
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
3/24/2009
Short easy trail (at least during good weather) into the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon along the Rio Grande. Enjoyed watching the vultures sun themselves along the canyon wall.
0
Comments
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
1/3/2007
This trip was quite a bit more of an adventure than the milage indicates - at least when rain is coming down heavily! We drove down to the trailhead through fog, rain, hail and lightning. The dramatic maw of the canyon as you approach it in the fog and rain is quite beautiful. There was a drizzle at the parking lot, and Terilinga creek was 3 fast moving boot deep streams through the wide flood bed. While being well warned of the danger of flash floods we decided to try it. We crossed over and enjoyed the short muddy water filled trail up the canyon. We had it to ourselves, and felt privledged, However, upon return the creek had risen and coalesced into 2 VERY fast moving and wide grit filled torrents. While this should have not been unexpected, I immediately regretted our frivolous behavior. We managed to cross back in the knee deep rushing water, my wife clinging to my arm. This was a 4 star experience because of the solitude and the wildness this canyon wears in a storm. In the sun it would be less, but still something to see.
0
Comments
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
9/29/2006
Having just seen a rainstorm in this area the day before (from the Southern Rim), we realized that we had to cross the Rio Grande Tributary, in our boots. Wet, but fun. The "bridge" was no longer present and the trail was NOT marked, nor easily found. Made for a bit more fun than anticitpated. The trail is also not well groomed. It did provide for some amazing pictures. Well worth the trip, though temps did reach 95 on this date.
0
Comments
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
2/19/2005
This well traveled trail is worth every step. To get a more wilderness experience we (me and my 55 year old out of shape father) scampered up the cliffside. With minimal climbing you can experience the rock face of the outer canyon area (not the canyon itself). We traversed about a third of the way up to the top before the cliffs started. From this elevated vantage point we spotted two foxes playing just above the established trail. This side excursion really added the too easy handrail footpath.
0
Comments
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
3/28/2003
Beautiful views!!! Keep going until you run out of places to walk - the trail looks like it stops, but there are little paths that can take you further. Beautiful area - but keep your valuables locked up - high % of car break-ins in the parking area.
0
Comments
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
7/7/2002
Santa Elena Canyon is one of the best day hikes in Big Bend. The short hike starts at the end of Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and takes you into at canyon of 1500 ft walls carved over thousands of years by the Rio Grande. To get there you must first cross Terlingua Creek, which was running when I was there in July. (When the creek is running, the trail is closed.) Then climb the short switchbacks for a great view of the Rio Grande and Terlingua Creek. The trail heads down to the lush banks of the Rio Grande where the shade of the vertical walls cools the air. I always enjoy climbing one of the large boulders on the bank; sitting back and watching the birds fly overhead. If you are lucky, the other people on the trail will not be too loud to let you enjoy the sound of the river and the wildlife.
0
Comments
0 out of 5 stars0 out of 5 stars0 out of 5 stars0 out of 5 stars0 out of 5 stars
1/26/2002
This canyon seemed to attract people easily, we knew this by the number of folks we encountered on the trail. If you can walk up a few flights of stairs or ramps then you can hike this trail. Once at the top of the trail it descends easily down to the river. The air is very cool and comfortable. The view of the canyon walls, river and sky above made a very nice picture. It just wasn't a challenging hike, which is what we were looking for.
0
Comments

Santa Elena Canyon Trail Photos

Trail Information

Big Bend National Park
Nearby City
Big Bend National Park
Parks
Easy
Skill Level
Big Bend National Park
Local Contacts
USGS Castalon
Local Maps