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high canyon walls
BIG BEND RANCH STATE PARK’S CLOSED CANYON TRAIL
Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip • Difficulty Level: 3/5 • Approximate Time: 1.5 hours
It’s an accomplishment to make it to Big Bend Ranch State Park. The eastern entrance to the park is an hour’s drive beyond the main visitor center of Big Bend National Park, itself hours away from Texas’ population centers. In the state park, River Road follows the winding course of the Rio Grande and is one of the most scenic drives in the state. That’s where you’ll find the Closed Canyon Trail.
Closed Canyon is a narrow canyon (or slot canyon) that divides Colorado Mesa. The trail is a short hike through this canyon, with high, narrow walls guiding you along the way.
“It’s cool to kind of disappear into these high canyon walls,” says park manager Scott Whitener.
It’s also one of the coolest places to be in summer since little sunlight reaches the canyon floor. There’s no defined path to the trail — just follow the exposed rock of the canyon bottom, which has been scoured smooth by water and gravel. Pools of water — called tinajas — form after it rains.
The canyon eventually reaches the river, but the trail becomes impassable before then. It’s important to turn around at the “End of Trail” sign. River access is not possible. The payoff to this trail is experiencing and exploring the geological wonder of a slot canyon.
Russell Roe Earl Nottingham | TPWD
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