Big Bend National Park is a geologic wonderland. The park includes Mariscal Mountain, the southernmost expression of the Rocky Mountains in the United States, and part of the Ouachita Mountains, which run east-west and are considered an extension of the Appalachian Mountains. It includes the Chisos Mountains, formed by volcanic activity over 30 million years ago, and it includes limestone formed when North America had an inland sea stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, covering Texas.
Along the western side of the park, the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive runs south-west from the base of the Chisos Mountains to the Rio Grande River. The drive was designed by Ross Maxwell, a geologist and the park’s first superintendent, who wanted to highlight many of the geologic features in the park.
The drive provides great views of the Chisos Mountains, Goat Mountain, Mules Ears peaks, and many others. The Sotol Vista overlook provides an amazing view of the entire western side of the park, and it is a great spot to watch the sun set. The road also runs past the Castolon Historic District, a cavalry outpost in the early 1900s that now serves as a visitor center with historic buildings and displays.
The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive ends at Santa Elena Canyon. It’s one of three canyons in the park that are carved by the Rio Grande River. There’s a great little hike that leads you back into the canyon, and it was one of my favorite things in the park. The limestone walls tower 1500’ above you on either side (one in Mexico, one in the US), and it was really amazing to see.
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2 out of 2 with our big bend videos. This was our 2nd day in the area. We enjoyed an amazing breakfast, drove down Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, & completed two hikes: Santa Elena Canyon Trail & The Window Trail. Jamie also taught Maiyah how to skip rocks and I can’t believe I caught it on video! Everything about this getaway was everything we needed ❤️