South Rim Trail

Big Bend National Park, Texas 79834

Distance2.0mi
Elevation Gain1,044ft
Trailhead Elevation7,017ft
Top7,352ft
Elevation Min/Max7001/7352ft
Elevation Start/End7017/7017ft

South Rim Trail

South Rim Trail is a hiking trail in Brewster County, Texas. It is within Big Bend National Park. It is two miles long and begins at 7,017 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 3.4 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,044 feet. Near the end of the trail are information guideposts. This trail connects with the following: Laguna Meadow Trail, Boot Canyon Trail, Southeast Rim Trail and Colima Trail.

South Rim Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"This hike is the second half of a South Rim Loop route that begins at the Laguna Meadow trailhead and ends at the Pinnacles trailhead, starting and ending hikers at the same location in the Chisos Basin. After an overnight along the Southwest Rim, hikers should be refreshed and ready for another day of incredible scenery.

Bypass the junction with Boot Canyon Trail and continue around the Basin via the Southeast Rim. Terrific views continue as you complete this section and then promenade around to the Northeast Rim. Weather can be wild and unexpected among the Chisos peaks, so remain vigilant—a fairly straightforward effort, aided by the trail’s uninterrupted line of sight."

"The South Rim Loop provides hikers with an opportunity to traverse some of the most outstanding scenery in the state. The loop hike makes a perfect overnight backpacking trip, but can also be accomplished in one long, arduous day hike.

While training for marathons I’ve run the loop, including a knee-pounding detour up Emory Peak and down, at a poor snail’s pace of just under 6 hours. However, rather than running the trail, I recommend hikers take the time to enjoy the high-elevation environment and stunning views from on top of the world."

"The South Rim is probably the classic hike of Texas. Although the trip is fairly strenuous, almost any Texas hiker worth his or her salt will someday try to hike to the South Rim. Few other hikes in Texas can surpass the quality and sheer quantity of views along the trail. On clear days, the views cover most of the Texas Big Bend country and far into Mexico.

To fully enjoy the trip, try to allow two or three days on the trail. People in good shape can do the round-trip hike in one day, however. Not surprisingly, the hike is popular. Although there are many designated primitive campsites, it may be difficult to obtain one during Thanksgiving or college spring break.

This route to the South Rim is less steep than the other primary route using the Pinnacles and Boot Canyon Trails, although it still requires the same net elevation gain. Often the two routes are combined into a loop trip. Water can sometimes be obtained in a pinch at Boot Spring, but do not count on it without checking on the spring’s status before you start; it does dry up at times. It is best to carry all the water you will need."

"The Pinnacles Trail climbs into the Chisos Mountains to the South Rim, a sheer escarpment on the south side of the high section of the mountains. Views encompass thousands of square miles of desert and mountains, making this one of the most impressive hikes in the park.

From the Basin, the Pinnacles Trail climbs steeply through oaks, pines, junipers, and madrone trees to a high saddle between Toll Mountain and Emory Peak. At this pass, the trail levels out. From here, spectacular views of the Basin, the Window, and the desert far to the west attract the eye. The junction with the Emory Peak Trail lies about 0.1 mile down the trail from the saddle; bear left unless you wish to climb Emory Peak.The right-hand trail, a 1-mile spur, leads to the summit of Emory Peak, the highest point in the Chisos Mountains. It climbs steeply and requires a bit of rock scrambling at the end. Sheer, vertigo-inducing cliffs drop off from the summit on several sides. Views from the summit cover 360 degrees and encompass almost the entire park and far beyond."

South Rim Trail Reviews

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11/9/2013
Did these trails for the first time. The day before we started this hike it rained pretty hard in the park and on the morning we started the hike it was really foggy. The muddy trails added to the difficulty of the hike. We camped on the southwest rim. I was exhausted and sore that night and the next day but I would do it again in an instant. All the views are worth it.
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1/5/2007
This was an extremely solemn and beautiful hike in winter. I chose Laguna up to the South Rim because it is less steep than Pinnacles. I would later find coming down that Pinnacles had a lot of ice on it, so I was glad I chose my route through Laguna meadows. The steady incline was nice, but the Meadows themselves were beautiful - the long golden grass was glorious. Once you come up upon the breathtaking rim you MUST spend some time sitting down and soaking it in - there are some wonderful sites to sit, complete with backrest, and admire the desert below. As I worked my way around the rim, I saw deer and Mexican Jays. Going all the way around is probably a must because one never knows when one can make there way to this remote park.
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9/28/2006
This IS in the top 2 hikes I have ever done. It was also the most difficult. If you have problems with plantar fascitis, tape up your feet! The four of us were in a bit a pain by the end, and it was worth every step. The views were absolutely breathtaking. The terrain and flora change every couple of miles. The flowers were in bloom, and it was butterfly migrating time! It can be done in one day, but be prepared to sleep so afterwards. One word to describe this hike - wow.
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2/20/2005
I did this hike in ten hours with my 55 year old father (who exercises rarely) so it definitely can be done as a day hike. The South Rim was amazing. Unfortunately Mexico has established pollution (a.k.a. power) plants causing a discernable haze. Water was available from several streams. Deer were present, but I saw little wildlife. This area is well traversed so don't expect a wilderness experience. I added a solo trip to Emery Peak, which added a good challenge (very worth the additional 1.2 miles). All in all this was an excellent trail.
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9/27/2003
A friend who had never visited Big Bend wanted me, a veteran of the region, to join him on an extended weekend of hiking to serve as a tour guide of sorts. I’m used to hiking in the hot sunny conditions characteristic of that part of the country, and warned him in advance that the weather could be harsh, despite the fact that we had planned our trip for late September. Just prior to arriving, a rare, early season Pacific cold front descended on the park, dumping over an inch of rain in the mountains and dropping daytime highs into the upper 60’s. Embarking the South Rim trailhead via the Pinnacles, the towering Chisos were enveloped in a halo of ethereal clouds. Our environ had the feel of the Elfin village in The Lord of the Rings; clouds spilled up and over the North and West edges of the Basin, pouring in through the Window to envelop the camp area below us. Climbing to the Emory Peak trailhead we ascended into the dense, sound-deadening mist. I exclaimed to my friend that this was just not normal as we approached Boot Canyon. Collecting mist dripped from leaves. Water streamed beside and along the trail. A distant, muffled sound grew louder as we approached what is normally a dry streambed. Now it had the appearance of an Appalachian stream, waterfalls dotting its course between clear, shallow pools. We waded across and continued to hike along and through the flowing creek, up the canyon towards our destination. As we approached the South Rim, the stream split into three or four headwaters, each running swift and clear. Stepping to the Rim edge, the clouds momentarily broke, revealing a breathtaking view descending two thousand feet to the Chihuahuan desert floor below and stretching nearly a hundred miles into Mexico. As quickly as the clouds broke, they enveloped us again, muffling all sound and leaving us standing on a ledge that fell away into nothingness. It was as if we had entered a dream.
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3/15/2003
A look at your map will show two routes for this loop and the Laguna Meadow trail has the easiest grade, but one drawback, no water. Regardless of what the rangers tell you, I have always found lots of water at Boot Spring and for the next few miles upstream from there. For that reason, I prefer to lighten my pack in the beginning and hike the Pinnacles Trail first, filtering water above Boot Spring. The crowds thin greatly after the Emory Peak cutoff. My suggestion for a day hike is to start in the morning to get the slog up the steep part out of the way, fill up your water bottles at Boot Spring, watch the sun set on the South Rim and hike back via Laguna Meadow by moonlight. The trail is unmistakable a night except by the rawest of flatlanders. I’ve seen Mountain Lions often near the South Rim, so keep your camera handy and not in your pack.
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6/15/1998
This is a the rest of the story. We had completed the Pinnacles, Boot Spring trails and camped the night. It required us to keep a close eye on our daughter since we had heard of cougar attacks in the park. Plus, we did find some tracks late in the afternoond in the sand where a cat had crossed the trail. The next morning we moved out down the Colima trail. The elevation was not bad and it was a trail that allowed us to take in the juniper trees and interesting variation of botanicals. We were impressed at how cool the nights were and the breezes were pleasant. It was not the hot desert experience we had encountered the day before. We made our way down the Laguna Meadows trail. The views were incredible. The way out was much less strenuous than the Pinnacles way in. In retrospect we should have taken this route in. It would have been more manageable with the loads of water we had to carry. Coming out on the Pinnacles trail less the water weight would have been a bit more tolerable.
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South Rim Trail Photos

Trail Information

Big Bend National Park
Nearby City
Big Bend National Park
Parks
Difficult
Skill Level
Big Bend National Park
Local Contacts
USGS Emory Peak, The Basin
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Nov 2018