Closed Canyon: Hike at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Mouth of the canyon.
Mouth of the canyon.

I recommend this hike to anyone either staying near the park or passing through on FM 170. It’s a relatively easy 1.5 mile round trip hike into a 200 foot gorge. The trailhead is right off FM 170 and well-marked with little cairns until the canyon appears.

The air is cool and still in the quiet depths of the canyon. It’s quite the change from the windy mountains outside.

I hiked the canyon until I reached an impassable drop off. According to one book I read, the drop off is twenty feet at two stages. You’ll know when you’ve hit it. Without equipment, there is not a method to safely descend.

Also, before that drop, there is a ten foot high pour-off. Don’t feel compelled to make that descent if it looks too difficult. The rocks are really slippery smooth at that point, and the views don’t change much the further in you get.

I wouldn’t go near the canyon during a storm. I can only imagine how the water gets whipping around the narrow canyon. Dangerous!

Some of the vegetation you'll see.
Some of the vegetation you’ll see.
This cave is way up high on the western wall of the canyon.
This cave is way up high on the western wall of the canyon.
Some parts are quite narrow!
Some parts are quite narrow!

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Creepy things in Big Bend Ranch State Park

I keep my eyes peeled for any possible creepy things when I travel. You never know when a giant tarantula or hellish cistern might appear. The cistern is located in the back of the Big House on Sauceda Ranch in the middle of the park. It’s fairly tall, maybe 10-12 feet deep. Totally creepy echo in there, too.

Cistern.
Cistern.

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Bones inside the cistern.
Bones inside the cistern.
This guy is so big we saw him crossing in front of us as we were driving out of the park.
This guy is so big we saw him crossing in front of us as we were driving out of the park.

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Big Bend Ranch State Park: Hikes for kids

When I read about hiking online, I get all confused about the ratings of difficulty. So, this is my best attempt at advising parental units on which trails might work out if you’d like to bring the kiddos to this state park.

My husband and I took a 4-year-old (okay, he’s almost 5) adventuresome child on these trails and finished them without much trouble. We brought along a 3 wheeled jogging/hiking stroller for longer hikes. We did a hike in Lajitas towards the wax factory. I do not recommend that trail as a hike. It is boring. And tedious. Seriously, we did it for exercise only. It’s best for mountain bikers.

The recommended trails:

1. Nature path near Sauceda Ranch (Easy with some hand-holding.)
2. Cinco Tinajas and Ojito Adentro (Will need to help children up and down trail.)
3. Horsetrap Trail (Heavy duty jogging stroller required for smaller children, as it is a 5 mile hike.)
4. Closed canyon (Mainly easy; gets more challenging the deeper you go. We had to pass the kid between us to get him up and down the canyon in some parts. Yes, like a piece of luggage.)

Other than the Horsetrap Trail, the others are impassable with a stroller of any kind due to trail conditions. If you are just driving through the state park on FM 170, it is worth your time to stop at Closed Canyon. If you stay at the Sauceda Ranch, the other three trails should keep you occupied during a short stay.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what you might see on the trails.

1. Nature Path: Sorry, no pics. We arrived at 4:30 and hiked at 5:15-6:00. Not much light available in evening on 12/21 (winter solstice).

2. Cinco Tinajas and Ojito Adentro

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Ojito Adentro
Ojito Adentro
Ojito Andentro trail
Ojito Andentro trail

3. Horsetrap Trail

View once you hike up.
View once you hike up.
Snack time on trail.
Snack time on trail.

4. Closed Canyon

Kid sliding down wall at Closed Canyon.
Kid sliding down wall at Closed Canyon.

 

Parent dangling from wall of Closed Canyon.
Parent dangling from wall of Closed Canyon.

Chisos Mountains @ Sunset (Big Bend)

I must be getting better at this because I did not have to edit a single one of these. AKA: it helps to have a camera with automatic night landscape lighting and auto-focus. Still, I had to drive around and find the shots. So, I get some credit, people!

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The evening colors really are that amazing in person. The clear mountain air and bright winter sun combined to make a spectacular show for everyone out at the national park in late December. If only I could take pictures of the stars! Better than the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, I tell ya.