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



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.


Location: 29.2397, -103.754486

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


Location: 29.228834, -103.723717

Small slickrock potholes in stone wash. Not much water.


Location: 29.216049, -103.712585

Good site to camp on return trip.


Location: 29.21575, -103.713531

Small LNT rock slab camp, good views


Location: 29.213249, -103.709198

Trail forks SW to Rio Grande


Location: 29.213217, -103.707535

Good place to cache water


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.


Location: 29.214005, -103.69371

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


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.)


Location: 29.199425, -103.712784

Clear, distinct, cairned trail to river


Location: 29.18865, -103.707298

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


Location: 29.186487, -103.696449

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


Location: 29.1814, -103.688583

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


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.


Location: 29.191233, -103.6931

Trail invisable from below


Location: 29.191483, -103.69252

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


Location: 29.201324, -103.703957

Follow horse trails back to main route to close loop

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