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Contrabando Trail, Loop Backpack, Big Bend Ranch State Park

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Hosted By
Mike E.


The Contrabando Trail System within Big Bend Ranch State Park contains 25 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, equestrian use and primitive camping. World class vistas, unique geologic structures, and historic building sites can be seen within this area.

We will leave the El Paso/Las Cruces area early Friday afternoon for the approximate 4-5 hour drive to the West Contrabando trail head and camping area where we will camp. Saturday morning we will set-up a car shuttle between the east and west trail heads, a distance of 8 miles. We will also register for the outing at the Warnock Visitor Center. The town of Lajitas lies between the two trail heads.

The backpack will follow the west main trail, waterhole trail and east main trail for a total distance of 10 miles. We will camp Saturday night at our water source the Contrabando Waterhole where an historic structure is located. Sunday morning we hike out to the cars and eat lunch/dinner in Lajitas prior to the drive home.

Backpack rating: Easy

Length: 10 miles with optional day hikes along the Dome Trail and Contrabando Creek after our camp is established.

Elevation Gain/Loss: 135 ft. West Contrabando trail head is at 2,485 ft. East Contrabando trail head is at 2,350 ft.

This is a short, 5 miles in, 5 out, easy backpack through the diverse Chihuahuan Desert along an excellent trail with very scenic views. There is little to no shade along the entire route.

No dogs are allowed within the back-country trails of Big Bend Ranch State Park and no ground fires are allowed. As always come prepared for adverse weather conditions. A free-standing tent is recommended for this outing. Do not bring a hammock because there won't be an area to set it up. We will camp well away from the water source per park regulations.

There is a State Park fee of $5.00 per person unless you have a park pass. There is also a $6.00 back-country camping fee for every 6 people which will be split-up among the participants. Make your own driving arrangements or meet to carpool at the Petro Truck stop, Horizon exit along I-10 at 11:30am, I will leave at 12pm. It is about a 5 hour drive to the trail head.

Contrabando Waterhole and spring

Rio Grande River

Waterfall pool at Contrabando Waterhole and Spring
Big Bend Ranch State Park
West Contradando Trail Head · Lajitas, TX
How to find us

Drive east on I-10 to Van Horn. Take the US 90 exit to Marfa. From Marfa go south on US 67 to Presidio. Take the US 170 highway to Big Bend Ranch. Meetup at the West Contrabando Trail Head and Camp Area. It is about 320 miles from El Paso.

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