In the Chisos Mountains of the 800,000 acre Big Bend National Park, the Outer Mountain Loop is a 30 mile, four day route circling BBNP. The trail follows the rim of red canyons and traverses pinon-covered mountains. Get ready for wide-open old west vistas and views of the Rio Grande.
The Outer Mountain Loop refers to the 30-mile circuit formed by combining the Pinnacles, Juniper Canyon, Dodson, Blue Creek, and Laguna Meadows Trails. Although you can start/end this trip in the Chisos Basin, Juniper Canyon, or the Homer Wilson Ranch, most hikers begin from the Basin and hike the trail in a clockwise direction. Sections of this trail are extremely steep and there is almost NO flat and level hiking. The loop takes you through a wide variety of habitats and scenery, from pinyon/juniper/oak woodlands of the Chisos, to stark and rugged desert in one of the most wild and remote corners of the United States.
This is a hike for experienced desert backpackers only, and would be a very poor choice for an introductory hike to Big Bend. It will take you a minimum of 3 full days of hiking to complete this entire loop. Side excursions to the top of Emory Peak and/or a visit to the South Rim will add a day. Backcountry permits are required for all overnight backpacking in Big Bend NP. Please do not attempt this hike during the summer months! From early May until early October, it may be physically impossible to carry enough water to safely hike this trail. Regardless of what you may have heard from friends or read on other websites, water is ALWAYS a concern on this trail. Many hikers find that they are woefully unprepared for the severe heat, rugged hiking, and lack of water and shade along this route. The only locations for water (seasonal...do NOT depend on them) are in the Boot Spring/Canyon area, and where the Fresno Creek drainage crosses the Dodson.
To reach the trailhead from El Paso, take US 10 east 119 miles to US. 90. Go south for 104 miles to Alpine and SR 118, and then 100 miles to the Basin Visitor Center.
Overall, Outer Mountain Loop is the 3rd most popular hiking trail of all 32 hikes in Texas.