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Hiking up Boquillas Canyon in Big Bend National Park

Boquillas Canyon Trail
Boquillas Canyon Trail

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

– MODERATE –

  • Hours: Always Open
  • Trail Length: 1.4 Miles Round Trip
  • Elevation Gain: 229 Feet
  • Pets: Not Allowed On Trails
  • Restroom Available
  • No Glass or Alcoholic Beverages
  • No Camping
  • Large Parking Lot
  • Located in Big Bend National Park
  • Located in a Border Area

Boquillas Canyon
Wildflowers in Boquillas Canyon

THINGS YOU MIGHT NEED

  • National Park Pass
  • Water
  • Trail Map
  • Athletic Shoes/Hiking Boots
  • Swimsuit
  • Towel
  • Sunscreen
Boquillas Canyon Trail

Desert Cactus in Big Bend National Park

ABOUT THE AREA

Boquillas Canyon is located along the Rio Grande within Big Bend National Park. The closest towns are Marathon and Terlingua, both of which are over an hour drive away. Within the park there are several gas stations, convenience stores, and campgrounds if you need supplies or a place to stay. One of the most impressive aspects of the park is that it encompasses over 800,000 acres. Outdoor enthusiasts visiting Big Bend National Park have many other recreation options as well, including rafting on the Rio Grande, hiking, biking, fishing, and stargazing in some of the darkest skies in the USA. Other highlights of the park are Santa Elena Canyon and the Chisos Mountains. One item of note, is that during the Months of May- October, several of the visitor centers are closed due to the summer heat and low visitor numbers during that time.


Quick Stop at Boquillas Canyon Overlook

FINDING THE TRAILHEAD

Heading east the the Rio Grande Visitor Center will bring you first to the Boquillas Canyon Overlook. This short detour will bring you to an overlook of the Rio Grande, the canyon, and nearby Boquillas Del Carmen. A short drive further brings you to the large parking area, with parking for large RVs and over 15 vehicles, and the trailhead for Boquillas Canyon Trail. All roads to this point are paved, and easily accessible for all vehicles.


Boquillas Canyon Trail
Boquillas Canyon Trail

HIKING TO BOQUILLAS CANYON

The beginning of your hike will take you up the side of a bluff to an overlook of the Rio Grande. If you explore the top of this bluff you can find ancient morter holes from previous inhabitants. Watch your step on the hillsides, as they are covered with different types of cacti. Continuing ahead on the trail will take you down the other side of the bluff, and into a grove of small trees and shrubs.


Crafts and Trinkets from Boquillas del Carmen
Crafts and Trinkets from Boquillas del Carmen

Boquillas del Carmen

Upon entering the grove, we encountered “Mexican Singing Jesus”, who will sing you a song for a small donation, he even takes requests. Normally, you would find him singing on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande near the border crossing, but due to the crossing being closed during the government shutdown, he is on the move to make a living. Boquillas del Carmen, relies on visiting tourists from the National Park as their primary source of income, and they are receiving no legal visitors during the shutdown. Along numerous trails in the National Park, you may find crafts and trinkets on display. These items are considered illegal to purchase, because the vendors are illegally crossing the border to place the items and collect payment. So “donate” at your own risk. We were really hoping to venture to Boquillas del Carmen for lunch, but due to the crossing being closed, we were unable to during our trip.


Boquillas Canyon Beach
Boquillas Canyon Beach

As you emerge from the grove of trees, you will find the rocky trail transition to sand. It will lead you along the Rio Grande to a rocky beach as Boquillas Canyon begins to rise on both sides of the river. During the extremely hot Texas summers, this beach and the shaded grove of trees would make a great place to cool off and escape the heat. For some parts of the day, this entire section of the canyon is shaded by the rock walls.


Boquillas Canyon
Boquillas Canyon Walls

BIG BEAUTIFUL WALLS

Boquillas Canyon is the longest and deepest canyon in Big Bend National Park. Here you can see the sheer rock walls rising hundreds of feet from the riverbed.


Boquillas Canyon
Boquillas Canyon

Continuing your hike down stream, and into the canyon, you will find the canyon walls becoming closer together. A small beach will emerge on the Mexico side surrounded entirely by the canyon walls, this day we found three burros made their way to the beach and were resting in the shade. The views in the canyon are constantly changing as the sun moves across the sky. At midday in winter, the river was still shaded, and produced wonderful reflections of the canyon walls.


Turtle Basking in Boquillas Canyon
Turtle Basking in Boquillas Canyon

Keep an eye out for wildlife on your hike. We found this turtle right on the banks of the Rio Grande basking in the Texas sun.


Boquillas Canyon
Boquillas Canyon

Wonderful views will present themselves during all seasons along the 3/4 mile hike up the canyon. Near the end, the trails will become less evident, and will end at the point where the canyon is only wide enough for the river to flow through. Be alert during certain seasons to water levels on the river. It was average height while were were in the park, but is known to be several feet higher after rainstorms, which could make sections of the canyon dangerous and inaccessible.


Boquillas Canyon Trail
Sandy Trails in Boquillas Canyon

Hiking Back to the Trailhead

Your return hike to the trailhead will take you back down the canyon, and onto the same trail that you arrived on. After spending time in the canyon, remember you will need to hike back up the trail and over the bluff again, so be sure to bring extra water on warm days. Be sure to pack out all that you brought with you and practice leave no trace principles at all times. 


PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR USED

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