The Big Bend 100 traverses the 100 best miles of backpacking in the Big Bend region. Starting in the Northwestern panhandle of the state park, the route traverses a 50 mile stretch of the 311,000 acre Big Bend Ranch. Halfway through the route, hikers cross through the town of Lajitas to enter the Mesa de Anguila - the Westernmost expanse of Big Bend National Park. From there, the route navigates through rugged, and sometimes off-trail terrain approaching the Chisos from the West. Homer Wilson Ranch and Blue Creek Canyon are your gateway to the Chisos, putting the weary backpacker on the South Rim, Texas' pride and joy, to conclude the trip. The 100 miles is the best backpacking in Texas, and one of the best winter escapes in the US.
Just like any desert thru-hike, water in the Big Bend region requires lots of planning, and knowledge of current conditions - never risk your life on fleeting desert water sources. Successful completion of the trip puts the backpacker passing through creeks, springs, tinajas, and water caches to survive.
Day 1- Casa Piedra Road to Terneros Creek
8 miles of road walking makes this a fast first day until the last 3-miles of hiking in the sandy Terneros Creek arroyo. Expansive sky, canyon walls, cottonwoods, and historic structures are a teaser of the Big Bend 100. Begin to soak up the solitude of Big Bend- the first three days are the most remote of the whole trail. Highlights include an optional walk through a canyon, a hidden, hot-tub sized tinaja, the ruins of a windmill, and Cottonwood trees to mark water sources at the end of the day.
Camp site: Banks of Terneros Creek
Water: Terneros Creek at campsite. Maybe a tinaja if you can find it.
Day 2- Terneros Creek to Sauceda Bunkhouse
These 17 miles are some of the most rewarding in the Big Bend 100, but the beach-like sand of the arroyos makes for hard, slow travel. This long day is marked by a surprising amount of water as the trail follows Terneros and Leyva creeks. Be on the lookout interesting rock layers in the towering cliffs, and free range cattle - a nod to the park’s long ranching history.
Note that day 2 can be comfortably split into two days by adding a campsite in Leyva Creek. Slowing down through this stretch allows ample time to explore Cinco Tinajas and nearby prehistoric sites.
Camp site: Sauceda Bunkhouse
Water: Terneros Creek, Leyva Creek, depending on flows, Bunkhouse.
Day 3- Sauceda Bunkhouse to Madrid Springs
This day starts fast with dirt road walking but ends with slow cairn-finding over rough terrain. Big vistas and prehistoric rock art make today worthwhile. The trail provides expansive views of the Solitario, rock art, Mexicano and Madrid Falls, and a first glimpse of the elusive Chisos Mountains then ends at the historic Madrid House.
Note that this day can be comfortably split into two days by adding a campsite in the upper portions of Mexicano Arroyo and bumping the following night’s campsite to Fresno Cascades. This allows more time for exploring Mexicano Falls and Madrid House.
Camp site: Madrid Springs Area
Water: Bunkhouse, Madrid Springs
Day 4- Madrid Springs to Barton Warnock
The Big Bend 100 finishes it path across the state park as the route travels along the park's comparatively well-traveled Epic Trail. These 13 miles showcase the parks industrial history as it passes the ruins of wax factories and mercury mines.
Camp site: Tent camping is no longer allowed at the Maverick Campground. If you've shuttled your car to be at Barton Warnock, you'll have options of driving to a site in the state or national Park, before resuming your hike after acquiring permits on Day 5.
Water: Madrid Springs, Fresno Cascades, Maverick Campground
Day 5- Barton Warnock to Mesa de Anguila
Take this morning to get permits for the national park (only available in-person no more than 24-hours before your trip begins, more info here). This is also a good morning to cache water at Homer Wilson and inspect water sources at Terlingua Abaja. Day 5 begins from the Lajitas golf course, then The thousand-foot climb to the the Mesa de Anguila, one of the park’s most remote areas, offers dramatic views across the Rio Grande into Mexico. After a morning of logistics, this comfortable half-day afternoon hike is a scenic highlight of the trip.
Camp site: Mesa de Anguila, Tinaja Blanca area
Water: Tinajas, depending on recent rains.
Day 6- Mesa de Anguila to Terlingua Abaja
This 9-mile day is a lesson in resolve. Faint trails dip north off the Mesa, past Dam Tinaja, and fade into off-trail navigation through Martian terrain, and an arroyo on the way to Terlingua Creek.
Mileage: 9 over tough terrain
Campsite: Terlingua Abaja primitive car camping
Water: Tinajas - maybe, Terlingua Creek
Day 7- Terlingua Abaja to Homer Wilson Ranch
In contrast to day 6, day 7 is a high-mileage day on easy terrain. Wander past Luna's Jacal (a historic family home), and the Chimneys with their petroglyphs as road and trail snake through flat, desert landscape with the Chisos beckoning on the horizon.
Note that day 7 could be comfortably split into two days by adding a campsite in near Pena Spring (depending on flow).
Mileage: 17 (easy terrain)
Campsite: Homer Wilson area
Water: Maybe Pena Spring, Homer Wilson Cache
Day 8- Homer Wilson Ranch to the South Rim
Leave the desert behind as the trail leads to the sky island of the Chisos. This leg of the classic outer-mountain loop gives perspective of scale of the Big Bend 100 by offering elevated views of Santa Elena Canyon and the walls of the Mesa de Anguila. A hearty climb wraps up the 92-mile approach to the most stunning vista in the entire Big Bend Region. Treat yourself to hot drinks and dinner on the South Rim at Sunset.
Campsite: South Rim Sites, SW4 is our rec.
Water: Carry it, or go out of your way to Boot Canyon
Day 9- South Rim to Chisos Basin
Take the scenic way home along the Northeast Rim to complete five of the NPS’s
“100 Best Miles of Trail” before making a rapid descent into the Chisos Basin. Eight days of solitude lie in stark contrast to this popular, well-marked trail. (Note The Southeast Rim Trail and a portion of the Northeast Rim Trail from the Boot Canyon/Southeast Rim junction to a point just north of Campsite NE-4 are closed from Feb 1-May 31st for Peregrin Falcon nesting)
Campsite: Chisos Basin or anywhere you want
Water: Boot Canyon/Boot Spring or have enough still from your Homer Wilson cache.