Stay at Ten Bits Ranch and discover the beauty and tranquility of the Santa Elena Canyon Trail.
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Santa Elena Canyon is located just 50 minutes from Ten Bits Ranch. The Santa Elena Canyon trail is a beautiful, relaxing half-day trip in the Big Bend National Park. The trail is easy to find. Just take Route 118 south out of Study Butte. You will want to fuel your vehicle and pick up drinking water and food while in Study Butte. There are no supplies available after you leave this little oasis. Drive past the Cottonwood Grocery store and turn left into the Big Bend National Park entrance. You’ll be greeted by the friendly National Park Ranger and be given a helpful park map and informational packet. Watch closely, the very first road on the right is the Old Maverick Road. Turn right onto this unpaved, dirt road and travel 14 miles (approximately 35 minutes).
On your scenic drive in, be sure to stop and see Luna’s Jacal, the home of a long-time Chisos Basin resident and his family. You’ll cross several river bed runs and see the incredible canyon walls grow taller as you drive closer to the Santa Elena Canyon Trail entrance. Take photos as the sun paints the mountains and rocks different colors during the day. Do be mindful of other travelers coming North on Old Maverick Road. Some spots are nearly one-lane and you may need to pull to the roadside to accommodate oncoming vehicles. Take it slow (25 mph is the posted speed limit) and you shouldn’t have any problems. The tell-tale dust cloud kicked up by other travelers will be a clear sign that you are not alone on the dusty old road.
After about 35 minutes of enjoying the picturesque drive, you will arrive at Santa Elena Canyon and Trail. There is paved parking, picnic tables and restrooms for you when you arrive. There is no running water or electricity available. Park your vehicle and gather your drinking water. The Santa Elena Canyon Trail is 1.5 miles and an easy hike. Head past the facilities and toward the beautiful sheer walls of Santa Elena Canyon and the Rio Grande River. There is a clearly marked pathway to the trail, complete with an old west boardwalk. Easily cross the little river inlet over the bridge of sticks and wood. Proceed along the board walk to the dusty trail that winds along the Rio Grande and into the canyon. There’s a cool, stiff breeze all along the trail. There are switchback steps that guide you up into the canyon and level off at a dirt trail. This path leads further into the lush canyon and ends with the rushing Rio Grande lapping up onto the rocks and trail.
Once you’ve enjoyed the marvel of the canyon and river, hike back to the trail entrance and enjoy the rush of the Rio Grande. If you like, there’s a beautiful clearing where you can sit by the river and watch the sun continue its painting of the mountains. A camping chair is suggested as the busy Texas ants are as large as chipmunks and as plentiful as the night stars!