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Big Bend: Grapevine Hills

At a glance

Distance: 2.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation change: 300 feet
Hiking time: 1 hour, if you go to the top
Highlights: Diverse desert flowers, walls of attractive rubble and a precariously poised “balanced rock”.

Difficulty: ★★☆☆☆
A flat stroll up a sandy wash and a short clamber to the top
Trail conditions: ★★★★☆
Mostly sand and nowhere to go but along the wash, but the trail gets confusing as you climb up to the balanced rock
Scenery: ★★★★☆
The rough beauty of tumbled boulders, the balanced rock and panoramic views of the desert from there
Solitude: ★★★☆☆
Moderate traffic until sunset, when there’s a rush to the balanced rock

Other reviews

• Texashiking’s trail reviews
Photo blog of the trail

At first glance, the trail seems an ordinary walk up a dry wash in Big Bend, but the closer you look and the farther you go up the trail, the more interesting it gets.

The walls are a stadium of oblong spires, with a cascade of boulders tumbling down toward the wash; take a close look and you’ll see intricate concentric patterns etched into the rocks.

The patterns are caused by spheroidal weathering, where water penetrates fractures in the rock and erodes its edges, creating the rounded shapes of the spires and boulders. In some places – particularly up by the balanced rock – layers of the boulders are peeling like an onion.

Big Bend

Skeleton-Leaf Goldeneye

The wash itself is alive with delicate, but hardy desert flora – cenizo, skeleton-leaf goldeneye, creosote, acacia and myriad cactus.

The trail dips in and out of the wash until it turns upward at the sign, “Balanced Rock .25 Mi.” Unless there are people ahead of you, there’s a bit of trial and error involved in the clamber up to the rock, but not enough room to go too far wrong.

At the top a large boulder perches precariously between two spires, creating a window on the rocky desert landscape that stretches out on the other side of the wash.

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About Scott Clark

I’m a digital journalist who’s worked as a photographer, reporter, producer and editor. My interest in the natural history of my surroundings reaches back to my early days beachcombing on the Jersey coast, rowing my boat on a quiet lake in Missouri and, more recently, discovering the mountains and backwoods of Montana, where I was born.

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