Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
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.
- 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