Big Bend: Daniels Ranch/Hot Spring Loop

The Daniels Ranch/Hot Springs loop is a six-mile hike in the Rio Grande Village area of Big Bend National Park. We did this one on our first day in the park given that we were getting a late start and the Daniels Ranch trailhead was only a five minute drive from our campsite in Rio Grande Village Campground.

A word about camping in an RV in Big Bend N.P.: Apparently Thanksgiving is their busiest holiday (followed by the rest of fall and winter), and lucky for us, this is when we happened to be there – yay! So plan ahead if this is your plan, too, unless you want to bank on getting lucky like we did and snagging a site an hour before the campgrounds filled! We stayed at Rio Grande Village Campground, not to be confused with concessionaire-operated Rio Grande Village RV Campground. (Don’t you just LOVE how creative some parks get with names??)

The RV park is concessionaire-operated and offers full-hookups, but they only had a night or two available the week we were there because they take advance reservations. They did not have great online reviews anyway. So we shot for the one we did because the other campgrounds in the park either weren’t accessible to us (the road to Chisos Basin is recommended for a 24 foot RV or 20 foot trailer at most), or didn’t allow generator running at any of their sites (this included the roadside/backcountry BLM-esque sites in the park, which we found a little odd as they were very spread apart, but I guess they wanted to maintain the backcountry solace). April 16th – November 14th, all sites are first-come, first-served at this campground, and the rest of the year, about half are reservable (out of 100 sites). Not all sites fit RVs, and not sure if any would fit huge rigs at that, so it’s best to check the dimensions before reserving or paying for the site! Otherwise, the park is quite navigable. Oh, and did I mention there are pay showers at the general store nearby? Always my biggest priority!

Anyway, back to the trail…it is a beautiful, rocky trail that includes beautiful views of the Rio Grande River, canyons big and small, and the overall Texas and Mexican terrain is just lovely. The trail has some elevation gain and loss, but not much. We would recommend taking it slow on a hot day, however, as it is fully exposed in the sun. Even on a cool late November day, that sun was hot!

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The only decision making comes once you reach a sign that gives you the option of completing the Hot Springs Loop or just going the 0.25 miles to reach the hot springs (the latter saves you about a half mile total and a little bit of elevation change). The hot springs themselves were neat to see, but quite a small pool that looked like it may have been man-made. We were told it felt great though and would have given it a try had we been dressed for it and weren’t already sweating. If you are interested in seeing them without a long hike, there is a parking area that can be reached by a short, unpaved road.

From there, we returned the way we came. While it sounds a little boring sometimes to return the way you came, we’ve learned that it just gives you a new perspective on things. For example, I spotted this marking in the ground, which looks to me like a fossil of a bighorn sheep horn to me. Just call me a paleontologist! Or tell me in the comments what you think it is…

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One last note, our wildlife count in our first day at Big Bend was awesome! We saw javelinas in the campground, a jackrabbit on the trail, and a coyote AND a roadrunner crossing the road, which only makes me think we should have been watching out for any ACME dynamite laying around. These guys were fast though, so no photos of these guys…yet…

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