Planning trips is a favorite of mine, I love over analyzing details. Finding the perfect places to go & making the most of each trip our family takes. And I hope that my over researching helps others out too & today I am sharing our top favorite hikes in Big Bend National Park. This should go without saying, but all hikes are “family friendly” since we are a family we two children.
Lost Mine Trail (4.8 miles round trip/out & back) – This trail is one of the most popular & the parking near it fills up QUICK during busy season, so get there early. Once parking fills up for the Chisos, they will shut down the road to it & allow one car in as one car leaves (this happened to us on our first trip to Big Bend).
This trail climbs steeply in and out of juniper, oak, and pine forest with breath taking views at every turn. Although there are views of forest around you, the trail itself is very exposed to the sun. The trail quickly levels out at the ridge with views of Pine Canyon and the Sierra del Carmen in Mexico.
Note: No restrooms/water stations at the trailhead.
Mule Ears Spring Trail (3.8 miles round trip/out & back) – A trail through a rocky dessert that started at the foothills of the Chisos Mountains, there are lots of steps & ups/downs through this trail that makes it almost comical at the lack of elevation that is marked on this trail. You’ll be going up a few flight of “stairs” & then right back down, this isn’t a flat hike at all. The spring was overgrown but had a very nice shaded spot to sit for a rest after trekking through the exposed dessert trail.
Window Trail (5.6 miles round trip/out & back) – Although 5.6 miles may seem like nothing to some, you’ve got to take the extreme change in elevation & the return being uphill into consideration when taking this trail. With over 1000 ft of elevation change (with the return hike being uphill) it can be a rough hike but the view at the drop off is something that will have you smiling from ear to ear and your heart racing. If you want the same beautiful drop off view but want to shave off almost 2 miles & 500 feet of elevation you can opt to start at Chisos Basin campground instead.
Grapevine Hills Trail (2.2 miles round trip/out & back) – To get to this trail you first drive 6 miles down a rocky dirt road & I’ve got to say, every drive is a very scenic route in this park. The trail follows a gravel wash & then the real fun in the last quarter of the trail where you get to climb this gorgeous boulder to see the balanced rocks.
Santa Elena Canyon Trail (1.7 miles round trip/out & back) – This was the only trail that we couldn’t quite figure out where it started since we had to trek through the Terlingua Creek & up muddy overgrown areas to find the trailhead. Be patient when looking for this trailhead if water is running (some have had it completely dry) & be aware you might be getting wet. The water was knee deep when we explored this trail which was fine because we had already planned to let the kids play in the Rio Grande. This trail leads into the stunning Santa Elena Canyon & after crossing Terlingua Creek, the trail ascends into paved steps & then descends onto the rest of the hike that includes ridges that hug the Rio Grande. There is a spot that leads right into the Rio Grande at the turn around of the hike.
Planning a trip to Big Bend National Park? Visit my full overview of our first trip to Big Bend National Park.
What to bring to Big Bend National Park
Camelbak – I don’t care how small my hike is, I find it easiest to just strap on my Camelbak (since I keep it stocked on hiking trips) filled with water. It also gives me a place to store anything I might want to store for the hikes (don’t forget to put a map in it). I opted for the 100 oz Camelbak while both of my kids have the Camelbak scout hydration pack (for more ideas for kid’s hiking gear check out this post). I fill my hydration pack every chance I get!
Snacks – I always have snacks in my backpack since I’m always with my family, so I like to be prepared. Even if I was on my own, I would still pack nuts, fresh fruit & a few protein bars.
Sunglasses – These are a must for desserts or near waters, the sun bounces & is extremely harsh on your eyes.
Sunscreen – ALWAYS use sunscreen, even an overcast day can leave your skin vulnerable to the sun. Two sunscreens I like that don’t break me out or feel heavy are this Alba sunscreen & this one from Sunbum, I also keep this stick sunscreen in my bag.
Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes, I usually opt for my Patagonia baseball cap that’s worn well. If you want to keep the sun off your neck, a bucket hat is great for hiking too.
Hiking poles – Hiking poles are great for steep hikes, hikes that tend to have snow/water & for those with bad knees.