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Big Bend’s Mesa de Anguila is a remote park’s ultimate getaway: isolated, little-traveled, and packed with stunning vistas. This rugged region is not for backcountry beginners—water is scarce, and good map and compass skills are essential for routefinding—but seasoned hikers are rewarded with limestone formations, desert peaks, and sweeping views of the Rio Grande. For a strenuous 14-mile loop, hike the faint, cairned trail 1.5 miles up a steep slope to The Saddle, a high point on the edge of the mesa itself. Continue following cairns for 4.5 miles to the base of La Mariposa (an irregular 3,745-foot peak), then on to Tinaja Blanca—one of the mesa’s five tinajas, or natural bowls that can hold water like large jars. Pick a campsite anywhere off the trail (the best sites are about halfway up the mesa). Hike on 1.5 more miles to Tinaja Lujan, then get out the topo for the 5.5-mile return route; the trail often disappears as it dips into dry washes on the mesa’s edge. Once back at The Saddle’s base, it’s another mile back to the trailhead. NOTE: Tinajas are not a dependable water source. Plan this hike for cool weather.
Info: $10/group backcountry camping permit required. Map: Trails Illustrated #225: Big Bend National Park. (432) 477-2251; nps.gov/bibe
Hike provided by David Elkowitz, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services, Big Bend National Park
Location: 29.2597389, -103.7769318