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Hot springs Canyon Trail In Big Bend National Park

Updated: May 21, 2023

What to expect when running the Hot Springs Canyon Trail at Big Bend National Park


During my recent trip to Big Bend National Park my friend and I were determined to run over 20 miles from Friday to Sunday. The mission was accomplished and this was the fist trail we hit. We drove into the park and after securing our campsite at Gravel Pit we headed straight to the Hot Springs Canyon Trail. The hot spring at Big Bend is a must. I've been to the park 5 times now and I have been to the hot spring every time, and yet until then I'd never gone down the Hot Springs Canyon Trail. It was an awesome spot to start our run-cation.

The red circles are all the areas we spent time in during the trip.

This was a great trail to start our run-cation because it felt relatively easy to run. Our legs were fresh and our excitement really carried us down the path. There are two different places to pick up the trailhead, the Hot Springs and Daniel's Ranch. We started the trail at the Hot Springs parking lot so that we could take a post run dip. The trail itself is a 3 mile out and back and is located on the east side of the park near the Boquillas Canyon boarder crossing. Both parking lots have restrooms but no water, however unlike the hot spring parking area there are actual picnic tables at Daniel's Ranch so it is a good spot to have a snack and a rest in the shade.

I felt like this was a good trail to start out with because, although there was a total of 1,139 feet of elevation gain it is spread out across 6 miles of mostly rolling hills making it an easier trail in the park. I say mostly because just before the trail lets our at Daniel's Ranch, the last about 1/4 mile, there is a very steep set of switchbacks that take you down to the ranch that was a bit challenging to come down and climb back up.

For the most part though, you're up on the top of the river canyon navigating an easy trail. As you can see from the photo on the left the views are incredible! Especially during the spring when the cactus flowers are in bloom and the foliage is lush and green. The river looks like an oasis in the desert, which it kind of is.

It was the perfect day. The sun just came out from behind storm clouds when we pulled into the parking lot. The temperature was 65° and there was a breeze left over from the morning storms. If you weren't moving it was almost cold. Because of the combination of the outside temperature and the fact that a 6 mile run is something that we consider easy, we decided not to bring water with us on the trail. I do not recommend this for anyone who isn't a seasoned trail runner, or if it is hotter. We were definitely thirsty when we got back to the car so next time I do this trail I will opt in to have my REI brand hydration vest.

For this trip I decided to bring my Cloudvista trail shoes by On. Now, I love these shoes for the trails around Austin, but I almost instantly wished I would have packed my Cloudultra's instead. The Cloudvistas are not as sturdy as the ultras and I could feel the rocks under my feet with every step. They held up fine throughout the weekend but I found myself wishing I'd have packed the more sturdy shoes for the rugged desert terrain.

The best part about this trail is that there are multiple spots along the trial that you can shimmy down to the bank to take a dip in the water. It could easily be turned into an all day excursion if you wanted to!

The 6 mile trail took us a total time of 1 hour and 39 minutes to complete. This includes all the times we stopped to take photos, explore Daniel's Ranch and take in the views! It was a great trail to shake out the legs after sitting in the car all morning on the long drive from Austin. To be honest, I wasn't ready for the run to be over when we got back to the hot springs parking lot. I was ready for another trail, but we settled for taking a nature provided contrast bath in the hot springs and the cold Rio Grand river instead.

It was a great way to recover before heading off to our campsite at Gravel Pit. The next day we woke up feeling ready to take on the next two trails on the list, Pine Canyon and Lost Mine.

The ranch house at Daniel's Ranch.

For an overview of our trip, check on the post I wrote about the entire weekend here: A Run-Cation In Big Bend National Park Be on the look out for the next post where I dive into the Pine Canyon and Lost Mine Trails.

If you'd like to see a video of the trail check out the Reel on my Instagram: CLICK HERE

Leah likes to look at her surroundings from a different angle.

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