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Santa Elena Canyon at the Big Bend

Santa Elena Canyon: The Best Hike at the Big Bend National Park

I visited the Big Bend National Park during the summer of 2022, and it was an excellent road trip experience from Houston. Well, summer is the worst time to visit it due to excessive heat (over 100 degrees F). However, we enjoyed it as our primary objective was to have a road trip.


Santa Elena Canyon is the most spectacular place in the Big Bend National Park, and most probably, if you have seen some images of Big Bend NP online, the first few will be of this Canyon.

Santa Elena Canyon is a breathtaking slot canyon carved by the mighty Rio Grande. If you have visited the Narrows at Zion National Park, you may find some similarities, except this time, you’ll avoid the water and hike a mid-level height of the canyon.

The Canyon is close to the Mexican border and at the end of the Ross-Maxwell Scenic road. Just before the last parking area, you will find two more nearby places first: the river access and the Santa Elena Canyon viewpoint.

Here, I have added a photo of the River Access area.

And here is the remote viewpoint.

The Trail

Now, from here, you will have to go down a mile ahead, and you will find the parking area. From here, you will have to hike a 1.7-mile roundtrip way. You can find more trail details in Alltrails.

First, you will have to cross the river, and then you will have a canyon hike up and down before reaching the final endpoint of the hike. Although the canyons reach 1500 feet from the ground, the hike’s highest point will be around 160 feet.

During the canyon hike, you will see mindblowing scenarios and probably the best scenes of the entire trip.

At the end of the hike, only the river trail is left, and probably, from here, you have to hike just like the Zion Narrows through the beautiful slot canyon. The river is shallow but muddy. If you have a canoe or boat, you can go further.

Here, check out my video of the entire hike. I used a GoPro Hero 8 Black and my chest mount to capture the entire hike.


This moderate 1.7-mile hike (3.4 miles round trip) offers awe-inspiring views from start to finish.

When planning a trip to the Big Bend National Park, consider the weather and the best time to visit. The cooler months from November to April offer pleasant temperatures for hiking. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and sturdy footwear for the hike, and always prioritize safety.

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