Juniper Canyon Trail, Big Bend National Park

Distance: 6.2 miles one way
Elevation gain: ~200 feet (top down) or ~3,200 feet (bottom up)
Location: Big Bend National Park, Texas
Date: October 21, 2013

Juniper Canyon from the upper part of the trail

On day one of hiking the Outer Mountain Loop, I hiked up the Pinnacles Trail, up and down the Emory Peak Trail, and down the Boot Canyon Trail for 7.8 miles. At this point I turned onto the Juniper Canyon Trail, which immediately began to gain about 150 feet in elevation on a trail that was much steeper than any I had been on yet that day.


But luckily the steep trail didn't last long before leveling off somewhat. After about a half mile, the trail turned downhill for pretty much the rest of the hike. The Juniper Canyon Trail is much less used than the other trails I had been on that day and was quite overgrown with grasses and other vegetation. There were also some downed trees, but generally it was not difficult to follow the trail. For about half its length, this trail descends into Juniper Canyon fairly steeply, and there are some good views of the canyon, but overall trees tend to obscure your view.

Juniper Canyon Trail along its highest part

First good view of Juniper Canyon

The trail passes through the very lower end of the Boot Canyon as it enters Juniper Canyon and passes by Upper Juniper Spring, which may or may not have water (I didn't check). After about 3.5 miles the trail levels off a bit and exits the forest and enters the desert, but still continues to descend over the next three miles at a much lower grade. This section of the trail has clear views of the surrounding canyon and is much easier to hike through. By the time the you reach the end of the Juniper Canyon Trail you will have lost 3,150 feet from the high point on this trail (and 3,875 feet from Emory Peak) to and elevation of 3,950 at the intersection with the Dodson Trail and one the park's backcountry roads (a short ways down the Dodson trail is the lowest point on the Outer Mountain Loop at 3,800 feet).

Looking back up where the trail entered the canyon at the notch left of center. Boot canyon is at left

Boulders in one of the dry washes

There is a bear box at this intersection in which you can store water, food, or gear if you want and have a high-clearance four wheel drive vehicle to get to it. But since I didn't have that option, I carried all my gear and food, including two gallons of water with me up and down the Chisos. I did however stash two more gallons of water at the western end of the Dodson Trail along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive at Homer Wilson Ranch, but this was over eleven miles and a day's hike away.

Looking back up Juniper Canyon

Chisos and Juniper Canyon

The Chisos nearing the end of the Juniper Canyon Trail

I continued on the Dodson Trail about a half mile until I found a campsite that I liked with clear views in all directions. By this time I had hiked 14.5 miles from about 9:00 am until 4:00 pm, so I cooked some food, relaxed, and enjoyed the quiet and beautiful weather for the next three hours before sunset.

Continue with my next day's hike on the Dodson Trail.

View from Juniper Canyon out into the desert


The intersection of the Juniper Canyon and Dodson trails

View from near my campsite


My campsite with Sierra del Carmen in far background




© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.




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