The Persimmon Gap Drive starts at park headquarters and heads north for 26 miles offering two interesting side trips. With the rocky Chihuahua Desert surrounding you visitors can take a short spur road to the Fossil Bone Exhibit. The road takes visitors to the remains of a 50 million year old Coryhodon buried in a sandstone deposit. At the end of the 26-mile road visitors can head east along the Motor Nature Trail to Dagger Flat. Signs along the rough and dusty seven mile long Motor Nature Trail point out key species of the desert including the unique giant-dagger yucca, only found in Big Bend National Park.
In the southeastern corner of the park visitors can explore Boquillas Canyon. Considered one of the most spectacular canyons in the park, the limestone canyon is also the longest slicing its way through the Sierra del Carmen Mountains to the east of Big Bend.
Of course if you want to go off the paved roads Big Bend National Park offers many unique opportunities. Over 150 miles of dirt roads offer 4-wheel drive owners tremendous freedom to explore the park. River Road West heads east from Tuff Canyon and loosely parallels the Rio Grande River. As it twists and turns eastward to Rio Grande Village almost on the other side of the park, it passes no less than 15 backcountry campsites allowing mechanized travelers the opportunity for an extended stay.
For an even greater challenge you can head north up the extremely rugged Glenn Spring Road to Dugout Wells. Be sure to check with area rangers on the road conditions because a 4.5-mile segment north of Glenn Spring is not maintained.
The same road system, which sees only light use, provides incredible mountain biking opportunities. Big Bend National Park is mountain bike friendly not only allowing bikers to share the miles of dirt roads, but many of the backcountry trails as well. You could build an excellent argument that Big Bend National Park is best visited on a bike due to the remote nature of most areas.
Big Bend National Park also offers a wide variety of hiking experiences. Trails range from 3/10 of a mile strolls to deep backcountry experiences marked only by rock cairns, metal poles, and in some cases nothing at all that can take a week or more to complete. Despite the remoteness of the park, over 15% of the trails fall into the easy to moderate category allowing for plenty of on foot exploration.
In the heart of the park the Basin Region offers several interesting short hikes. The shortest of these is the Window View Trail. This 3/10 of a mile handicapped accessible paved trail located at the Chisos Basin Trailhead offers excellent views of the sun setting over the Chisos Mountains to the west. If you are looking for a longer hike you can take the 5.2-mile Window Trail. Dropping 800 feet the trail heads west and passes the Basin Campground. Located at Panther Pass, the 4.8-mile Lost Mine Trail climbs 1,100 feet along ridges toward the summit of 7,350 feet Lost Mine Peak and offers some of the best views in the park without going into the deep backcountry. Despite legends of a Spanish mine filled with silver and gold, no precious metals have ever been found in the area. The parking lot at the trailhead offers a great view over the Chisos Mountains and Mexico to the south.
Along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive several interesting hikes can also be found. The 4.8-mile Chimneys Trail passes through the brutal heat of the desert to chimney rock formations. The Mule Ears Trail traverses 3.8 miles of flat desert through massive boulder fields and through a number of incredible geological features. The 3/4 of a mile Tuff Canyon Trail descends into the scenic canyon. At the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive you can take the 1.7 Santa Elena Canyon Trail. After fording the Terlingua Creek and climbing some steep stairs, the trail descends into the heart of the canyon along the banks of the Rio Grande River.
If you want to explore the area wildlife consider taking the 1/2-mile Chihuahua Desert Nature Trail. This flat trail located at the Dugout Wells Picnic Area has a series of signs explaining only a handful of the desert plant life found in the park, which contains over 1,200 species.
At the end of Boquillas Canyon Road you can explore the 1.4-mile Boquillas Canyon Trail. The trail starts with a short steep climb and then descends along the river. The trail ends at a massive sand dune.
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