An Unplanned Hike (and Unexpected Discovery) in Big Bend (Day 12-13)

It’s been a while since we shared a post on our amazing Southwest Adventure — but our trip was too amazing not to share it all with you! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be blogging about the rest of our winter travels through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, with the goal of sharing our upcoming travels in a more “real time” way. And hey — if you’re starting to plan your winter travels around the United States, maybe these posts will serve as inspiration!

The day we were supposed to leave Big Bend National Park we woke up to the sun shining and the birds singing, feeling very rested after spending the previous day driving around the west side of the park. We quickly realized: we weren’t ready to leave! Given how much we still had to see, we decided to stick around another day. That morning I ended up talking to a neighboring camper and vanlifer who was interested in our camping build, and she told us about some beautiful trails she had hiked on the west side of the park at Oak Springs. She made it sound so appealing we decided to do it ourselves.


We parked in front of Sam Nail Ranch, and started hiking east towards the Chisos mountain range. The views were spectacular! It was pretty warm that day, but as we hiked up into the foothills, we could feel the temperature slowly dropping, and the breeze picking up.


Seriously though, those views.

After about 2 miles of hiking, we’d reached some woods, and discovered that the trail split. One path went toward Oak Springs, where we were planning on heading. BUT the other trail split off, and headed towards a secret, not-on-any-maps waterfall! Being the lovers of water that we are, we quickly decided to head that direction instead … after a short break.


We hiked up out of the wooded ravine, and were on our way towards the falls. After another mile or so, we could see the ravine we’d be hiking into.  The whole time from here on in, all I could think about was the old black and white Lone Ranger show I used to watch with my brothers when we were kids — the landscape was nearly identical.


After another 20 minutes or so of winding through the ravine, we’d reached the falls! And it was super cool.


It’s hard to get a sense of scale from the pictures, but the fall was close to 50 feet tall, and fell into a beautiful shallow pool at the bottom. While we didn’t see any, it was cool to know that black bears and even mountain lions used this pool for drinking water.

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We ate our lunch in the shade near to the falls, and enjoyed the peace and quiet almost entirely to ourselves. Then, we headed back towards the truck, and were treated to more amazing views on the way out.

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We made it back to the car by late afternoon, and headed back towards our campground in hopes of doing something we hadn’t gotten around to yet: watching the sunset from Boquillas Canyon. We’d been told by numerous people it was a must-do in Big Bend, so we decided to check it off the list before we left in the morning. We drove out, hiked in, and we were not disappointed: the canyon was beautiful.


We got this fun shot, and had a great time exploring the area — the Rio Grande runs right through the canyon, so we enjoyed sticking our feet in the water and running around.

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The sunset was clear and glorious — a perfect end to our last night in Big Bend.

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The next day we summoned all our willpower to leave Big Bend — already planning a return trip for the following winter. Our first stop leaving the park was at Oasis Tire where we finally replaced that blown tire. (We can’t speak highly enough of how fast and helpful they were to a couple of travelers in need!) In just a few hundred miles and less than 24 hours the temperature went from 101 degrees in Big Bend to 41 degrees in Alpine, Texas — so we rushed through our planned stop at Fort Davis National Historical Site and headed on to our next campground, Brantley Lake State Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico. We were ready to explore Carlsbad Caverns!


I grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Virginia, and married a girl from New Hampshire, so I can drive the East Coast in my sleep. I love exploring, jumping out of airplanes, whitewater rafting, fast cars, comic books, and generally refusing to act my age. More practically, I love budgeting and financial planning, renovating and updating older homes (and now campers), and learning to make our family as self-sustaining as possible.


  1. Wow! I really enjoyed your blog on Big Bend. I’m a native Texan & I have yet to visit this awesome place! I’m super jealous of you guys! My husband & I are on a fixed income & vacations are rare for us. Keep the trips coming, I really enjoyed it!

    1. Thanks for reading, Kathy! Glad you enjoyed the post. Big Bend is fantastic. If you ever get the chance to visit, I would highly recommend it. It’s a great place for an inexpensive getaway, too — camping is super cheap, and the whole park is like a big playground! Hope you get the chance to visit someday 🙂

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