Big Bend National Park: Mesa de Anguila

A 24-miler in the the Big Bend's remote west corner.
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A 24-miler in the the Big Bend's remote west corner.

Hikers who relish lonely exploration should head to the park's remote western corner, where the Mesa de Anguila rises above the resort community of Lajitas. Here, on this 24-mile trek, you'll visit several of the mesa's most spectacular features, including a dizzying overlook with views into the narrowest part of the Rio Grande's Santa Elena Canyon. This is an mostly off-trail route.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 23.3

Waypoints

MDA001

Location: 29.2582, -103.76725

From the Mesa de Anguila trailhead in Lajitas, climb 1.7 steep miles to the top of the mesa and continue SE.

MDA002

Location: 29.2397, -103.754486

At top of steep, trail climbs up Mesa, trail forks S to Rio Grande

MDA003

Location: 29.228834, -103.723717

Small slickrock potholes in stone wash. Not much water.

MDA004

Location: 29.216049, -103.712585

Good site to camp on return trip.

MDA005

Location: 29.21575, -103.713531

Small LNT rock slab camp, good views

MDA006

Location: 29.213249, -103.709198

Trail forks SW to Rio Grande

MDA007

Location: 29.213217, -103.707535

Good place to cache water

MDA008

Location: 29.210783, -103.697502

Gravel Flats: Correct trail to Tinaja Lujan climbs NNE & contours closely around base of pt 3780. Several user and horse trails in area.

MDA009

Location: 29.214005, -103.69371

Hit wash, then climb immediatel to L bank for true trail. Wash route is thorny and slow.

MDA010

Location: 29.221966, -103.689835

Camp 1 @ Tinaja Lujan; several waterholes in narrow rock canyon. The next day, backtrack S and continue until you're nearly at the Rio Grande, then turn E onto faint horse trails for a 4.7-mile one-way sidetrip to the dramatic but tough-to-find overlook into the Santa Elena Canyon above Rock Slide Rapid (make for a prominent notch along the canyon rim.)

MDA011

Location: 29.199425, -103.712784

Clear, distinct, cairned trail to river

MDA012

Location: 29.18865, -103.707298

Unmarked intersection not far above river. Follow most distinct horse trail to E.

MDA013

Location: 29.186487, -103.696449

Follow distinct trails left behind by semi-wild, trespassing Mexican horses to overlook

MDA014

Location: 29.1814, -103.688583

Camp 2: Tinaja pothole where sand wash turns to slickrock pour-over; possible water

MDA015

Location: 29.179083, -103.688187

Dramatic overlook to Rock Slide Rapid, and narrowest part of Santa Elena Canyon. Snap photos, snack up, and return via your approach route, or extend the trip by forging cross-country on higher benchlands to the N.

MDA016

Location: 29.191233, -103.6931

Trail invisable from below

MDA017

Location: 29.191483, -103.69252

Narrow "smuggler" trail; continue on interesting XC route with overlooks, rocky scrambles, washes, and horse trails

MDA018

Location: 29.201324, -103.703957

Follow horse trails back to main route to close loop