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Octillo cactus on the edge of the West Rim overlook

Big Bend Ranch: West Rim Overlook Trail


At a glance

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation change: 360 feet
Hiking time: 2 hours
Highlights: A remote desert hike to a spectacular overlook at Fresno Canyon

Difficulty: ★★★☆☆
The trail climbs up and down shallow arroyos with a steep climb to the rim at the end
Trail conditions: ★★★☆☆
Focus on the cairns, because otherwise the desert looks the same in all directions
Scenery: ★★★★☆
Rocky mesas, solitary green valleys, primitive desert and a panoramic view of Fresno Canyon
Solitude: ★★☆☆☆
You might see another car at the trailhead, and you might not

Other reviews

• Amazing tale of lost hikers at Fresno Rim/Mexicano Falls
Gallery from Fresno Rim


The Fresno Rim trail offers a taste of a solitary hike across the bare desert – without the difficulties that accompany most of Big Bend Ranch’s more primitive routes.

That contrast is apparent near the trailhead, where you’re presented with a choice between Fresno Rim and Mexicano Falls. Both end with spectacular canyon views, but the Mexicano Falls trail is longer, harder to follow and steeper at the end.

The rocky West Rim of Fresno Canyon

The rocky West Rim of Fresno Canyon

The Fresno Trail launches flat and straight through a scrubby desert of creosote, sotol and octillo cactus and then rides up and down the swells of shallow arroyos. Rocky hills and mesas dot the horizon in all directions, interrupted now and again by colorful lines of cottonwoods that have found enough water to grab a foothold.

Cairns – on the ground and piled high on adjacent rocks – mark the trail and appear to have had a recent refresh. There are only a couple of places where you may struggle briefly to locate the next cairn. A little over halfway in, a primitive rock wall rises just left of the trail, along with a couple smaller ones farther on.

As the trail approaches the Fresno Canyon it drops down into a shallow valley with a broad, dry wash before climbing the rocky path up the other side. The trail dead ends at the top at the West Rim Overlook, where you gaze across the wide expanse of Fresno Canyon to the flatirons of the East Rim and monumental mesas stretching off in the distance to the south. A trail parallels a fence line by the overlook, enabling you to wander north and south along the canyon rim for different perspectives. In the distance below, a primitive park road traces up the broad valley of the canyon.

From there, it’s a trip back the way you came unless you have the stamina for a daunting climb down the canyon wall to the south and connections with a variety of other Big Bend Ranch trails.

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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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