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  • Writer's pictureJordanS-LVT

Santa Elena Canyon and Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, Big Bend National Park, Texas

The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is about 30 miles of some of the most extraordinary desert landscape anywhere. There are several trails along the route for exploration as well as scenic overlooks for photo opportunities.

The Scenic Drive leads to the Santa Elena Canyon trailhead. Many hiking websites rate this 1.5-mile trail as easy due to the short length. We would place it in the moderate range due to the steepness of the trail after crossing the river. There is also the potential for having to cross the Terlingua Creek if it is flowing. Creek crossing can be a messy endeavor (see muddy puppy picture below). When the creek is dry, the hike would clearly be easier with the trail easier to access.

Santa Elena Canyon is cut by the Rio Grande River. The far side of the canyon lies in Mexico. There are really nice views of the towering limestone walls and the river throughout this short hike.

This stretch of the river is also used for kayaking. Guided trips are available through many outfitters in the Terlingua area.

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