Beautiful desolation and an out-of-the-way overlook highlight this rugged
Hikers who relish lonely exploration should head to the park’s remote western
corner, where Mesa de Anguila rises above the resort town of Lajitas. Here,
on this 24-mile trek, you’ll visit several of the mesa’s most spectacular features,
including a dizzying overlook above the narrowest part of the Rio Grande’s
Santa Elena Canyon. Atop this 3,500-foot plateau, faint trails thread between
isolated tinajas, slickrock potholes that hold rainwater for days or even weeks
despite the baking sun. From this mostly off-trail route, you can turn onto
a few solid trails that lead to major water holes and the Rio Grande (most
other paths are left by semiwild, trespassing Mexican horses), but otherwise
the routefinding is all yours. If your navigation skills are well-honed, your
opportunities for additional exploration are limited only by the amount of
water you can find or carry.
From the Mesa de Anguila trailhead in Lajitas, climb 1.7 steep miles to the
top of the mesa and continue southeast. Turn northeast at a confusing trail
junction to reach Tinaja
Lujan at mile 7.9. The next day, backtrack south until you’re nearly at the
Rio Grande, then turn east onto faint trails for a 4.7-mile one-way sidetrip
to the dramatic but tough-to-find overlook into Santa Elena Canyon above Rock
Slide Rapid (make for a prominent notch on the canyon rim). Return via your
approach route, or extend the trip by forging cross-country on higher benchlands
to the north.
Way Just west of the stables in Lajitas, turn left onto an unmarked
dirt road and drive 3 blocks to the trailhead parking lot.