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Hoodoo monuments at the edge of the Rio Grande

Big Bend Ranch: Hoodoos Trail

At a glance

Distance: 1 mile loop
Elevation change: 75 feet
Hiking time: 30 minutes
Highlights: A community of striking natural stone monuments on the banks of the Rio Grande

Difficulty: ★★☆☆☆
A short walk over rock and sand with one hill to climb
Trail conditions: ★★★★☆
It’s too short to get lost, but the trail gets a little confusing down by the river
Scenery: ★★★☆☆
A natural Stonehenge, along with beautiful panoramas of the Rio Grande
Solitude: ★★★☆☆
Big Bend Ranch gets less traffic than most other parks, but this short trail is just off the road

Other reviews

Photo blog from the trail

The hoodoos are the Stonehenge of West Texas – a gathering of impassive monuments overlooking the banks of the Rio Grande in the southern arm of Big Bend Ranch State Park.

These isolated, knobby rock spires arise where a layer of hard rock, such as limestone or cemented sandstone, overlays softer rock. Weather erodes most of the softer layer away, but the lingering cap of more resistant rock protects what lies beneath it. Hoodoos assume all sorts of shapes but often resemble a collection of toadstools. Eventually, the supporting rock gives way and the hoodoos collapse into a collection of boulders.

View of the Rio Grande from the Hoodoos

View of the Rio Grande from the Hoodoos

The Hoodoos Trail loop descends past the hoodoos, but to see them up close, you’ll have to leave the path marked with cairns and detour across a stretch of slickrock and arroyos where the ground is brittle. They loom much larger up close.

After passing the hoodoos, the trail drops down to the banks of the Rio Grande, lush with vegetation and flowers in the spring. After a short stretch, it turns back uphill through loose sand for the return trip.

About halfway home, an iron signpost points to a spur trail to an overlook. It’s only a few hundred feet, and worth the extra effort. While hoodoos are the marquee attraction, the view of the green curves of the Rio Grande snaking through the mountains – both here and from the nest of Hoodoos – gets second billing.

For more ethereal view, when there’s a full moon, the park rangers occasionally offer a Moonlight Hoodoo Hike, where you’ll get not only a spooky view of the desert, but a glimpse of its abundant nightlife.

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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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