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October 2005

Adventure Guide: Big Bend National Park

Texas-sized solitude is practically guaranteed when you explore the high peaks and striking river canyons of this lightly visited wilderness.

1 Mesa

de Anguila

Beautiful desolation and an out-of-the-way overlook highlight this rugged

cross-country trek.

©Steve Howe

Forget the

Alamo: There are no tour buses to the Yucca-strewn top of Mesa

de Anguila. A cave near Ernst Tinaja.

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.

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