There are many canyons formed by the Rio Grande in Big Bend. One of the largest and most impressive is the Santa Elena Canyon on the west side of the national park. The hike starts off in a little wooded area with small trees and grass that have grown on the banks of the Rio Grande.
Afterwards you hop down onto the little beach and cross the Terlingua Creek via a bridge made of small sticks by hikers that don’t want their shoes wet. From here it starts a steep climb of switchbacks up the canyon wall and then peaks and slowly dwindles downward to the same level as the river again. There are also a couple signs describing the plant life growing on the canyon walls.
The trail goes squished between the canyon wall and the river for a little but before dead ending at a large boulder. The canyon is quiet and echoes a lot and despite being a popular hike it feels very peaceful.
The parking lot fills up very quickly so you might want to get there early in the day if you want to not stress about all the cars but I think the best time to visit is midday when the sun is above the canyon and does not cast too many shadows.
Thanks! – Josh
Boquillas is a small town on the banks of the Río Grande River. This town is one of the many reasons why Big Bend National Park is so unique because there is an official port of entry to Mexico in the park. Just down the road from the Rio Grande Village you can park your car and walk into the small U.S. Customs building and the customs officer will make sure you passports are up to date and tell you what you can and cannot bring back from Mexico. After this you will walk down a path until coming to a man with a small and leaky rowboat. This is the official ferry between the US and Mexico. The ferry is five dollars for the ride across and back. After this you can pay another five dollars for a mule ride up to the village but it’s only a .25 mile walk so I passed on that option when I went. Once you arrive in the town you will see a large sign saying “Bienvenidos a Boquillas Del Carmen”. The town is small with two restaurants, a small hospital, and a store or two. We ate at Jose Falcon’s Restaurant and enjoyed some of the best corn tortilla tacos we had eaten for lunch. Their are multiple stores where you can purchase handmade souvenirs as well as loads of kids that will run up to you with a small wire and bead animal. I purchased this roadrunner for five dollars
(I know kinda steep but that was a cute kid) and then had to tell the next kid I had no money left for the scorpion he was offering me. We didn’t have time to visit the Mexican National Park but it’s a five dollar fee to enter the park and explore Big Bend’s sister park. We returned back across our ferry and went into the small building where we waited to go to a kiosk (like the ones at the airport) but someone called on the phone connected to the kiosk, asked us some questions and told us to have a great day. The customs experience was much more relaxed than I had ever experienced before. If you are ever in Big Bend you should definitely dedicate a couple hours or even a whole day to Boquillas. Just make sure you are back on the boat before the crossing closes at 5pm or you will be spending the night in Mexico.
Thanks for reading – Josh