Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => Hiking the Desert => Topic started by: Homer67 on December 02, 2014, 12:25:05 PM

Title: Mesa Questions
Post by: Homer67 on December 02, 2014, 12:25:05 PM
Does anyone have the coordinates for Tinaja Largo?  Is there another name for this tinaja?

Has anyone taken the N route out of Lajitas onto the mesa?

Just some questions to help prepare for a hike coming up this spring.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: trtlrock on December 02, 2014, 12:48:30 PM
Has anyone taken the N route out of Lajitas onto the mesa?

Don't know how you'll get onto the Mesa hiking N out of Lajitas...  ;)

Seriously though, what route are you asking about?
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: Homer67 on December 02, 2014, 01:38:38 PM
It's mentioned in this link:

No one will be hiking N out of Lajitas silly. There are quite a few trails shown on the topos, none of them maintained except the one over the saddle to Canyon Flag. Perhaps our group can avoid the mass undulations along the trail over the saddle to Canyon Flag; I doubt this will be the case, but it will be a relatively uncommon route onto the mesa nonetheless. I am ready for the solitude, route finding/exploration and days in it (water permitting) that I got while doing the Quemada Loop.

Either I am just missing it or Tinaja Largo isn't on The Big List.

Here's an overdone mapper thingy:,-103.71709&z=14&t=T&marker0=29.24795%2C-103.75265%2C2.7%20km%20ExSE%20of%20Lajitas%20TX&marker1=29.24690%2C-103.74192%2C3.7%20km%20ExSE%20of%20Lajitas%20TX&marker2=29.23990%2C-103.72480%2C4.8%20km%20NW%20of%20Mesa%20Anguila%20de%20TX&marker3=29.23608%2C-103.71390%2C3.8%20km%20NW%20of%20Mesa%20Anguila%20de%20TX&marker4=29.23601%2C-103.70132%2C3.1%20km%20NxNW%20of%20Mesa%20Anguila%20de%20TX&marker5=29.23421%2C-103.69403%2C2.7%20km%20NxNW%20of%20Mesa%20Anguila%20de%20TX&marker6=29.22705%2C-103.68630%2C1.8%20km%20N%20of%20Mesa%20Anguila%20de%20TX&marker7=29.24971%2C-103.76153%2C1.9%20km%20SE%20of%20Lajitas%20TX&marker8=29.21698%2C-103.69210%2C0.8%20km%20NxNW%20of%20Mesa%20Anguila%20de%20TX
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: trtlrock on December 02, 2014, 01:57:51 PM
Yes, Tess & I did that route recently (as well as Viva Terlingua), but both of us were coming out to Lajitas that way; the reverse of what you're doing.

Still, this might be helpful:
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: 01ACRViper on December 02, 2014, 01:58:16 PM
i have a feeling that N route will have a lot more ups and downs than the official trail, and will definitely be a lot slower. the reports i've read of people trying to follow the northern edge of the mesa west towards lajitas make it sound very slow going.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: Homer67 on December 02, 2014, 02:03:20 PM
Awesome Trtlrock!  As I prepare for this hike I may want to pick your brain.  Do any points of interest come up? Tough spots?

We are planning on base camping and doing day hikes for several days, if there's water to be found when we are there.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: Lance on December 02, 2014, 02:10:02 PM
Was going to say trtlrock did that earlier this year.  The trail seems very visible on Google Maps, so much so that I was able to to trace it all the way to the junction with the trail by Canyon Flag that heads north of the mesa to the dam.  Tinaja Largo coordinates are (2912'23.66"N,  10340'2.17"W) which is by Tinaja Grande A, B, & C which are just west of Bruja Canyon.

Trail Map centered on route in question - (Full screen map (,-103.685768&z=14&t=t6&q=

Spring Map centered on Tinaja Largo - (Full screen map (,-103.712633&z=14&t=t6&q=
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: Homer67 on December 02, 2014, 02:11:35 PM
Thank you for the route and the Tinaja Largo coords Lance! I appreciate it!

From the sat photos this hike appears to be a series of arroyos with some simple transitions, but we all know this will be much different in the field.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: trtlrock on December 02, 2014, 03:29:15 PM
We didn't do the green section. We went from E->W via the red, black, yellow and blue sections.

Red was a somewhat tedious bushwhack along what was long ago a route. We saw some vestiges. No useful cairns.

Black was remarkably well cairned, and easy hiking.

Blue (what little we could see in our headlamps) was easy enough to follow.

If I were to do yellow again downhill heading west, I'd follow the cairns to skirt the drainage for no more than about 10 minutes. After that I'd stay in the drainage all the way down & work around pouroffs locally. Going the other way, uphill & east, it might make sense to get up out of the drainage on the south side early & just follow the cairns & make your own route. Wouldn't be as pretty, but might be a lot quicker.

Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: Homer67 on December 03, 2014, 08:54:36 AM
I noticed the part of the route that seems to avoid the climb up (the red section); that's where we plan to hike through!

Awesome Trtlrock! You rock! Some of my anxiety has eased up, some. It looks like we will be doing this hike at the beginning of March. I hope it's not too hot to do it then. I think we'll be ok.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: tophfar on January 27, 2015, 12:38:01 PM
New to the board and a small group and I were planning on spending a couple days out on the Mesa.  So I figured I'd hijack/add on to this thread.

We'll be out there Feb 8 - 11. Our general itinerary would be to make it up to the top of Santa Elena on Day 1. On Day 2 we'd pick our way down to the river, and stay one night at the Canyon entrance. Day 3 we'd pack up and head out.

On one of the above maps it shows a trail reaching all the way to the SE point, right above Santa Elena Canyon, is that trail defined/marked? It had been in my head for a while now to reach that point, but I figured it would be mostly bushwhacking once past the Mariposa.

My next question was water availability in the tinajas. I don't mind carrying what water we need, we're all in pretty good shape and most of us are rather experienced backpackers. But whatever can be done to lighten that load would be great. I'm making the assumption that the river is unsafe to drink even if treated? Or is that incorrect?

Does this sound reasonable? Is there anything that we'd need to be aware of?

Thanks everyone.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: mule ears on January 27, 2015, 02:50:21 PM
Not sure about your itinerary exactly.  Day one "up to the top of Santa Elena" do you mean the point overlooking the mouth of SE?  If so that is one long day.  It can be done but you will have to start at light to get there.  The unofficial trail from the main trail to Canyon Flag peters out just past the Three Sisters and you will have to thread the indistinct ridge out towards the mesas edge then make it out to the point.  Here is my trip report with that route in the first two days (

When you then say "pick our way down to the river" do you mean along the canyon rim or retrace your steps to Mariposa and then take the trail to Entrance Camp?  Either way will also be a long day but along the rim will be slow.

There should be water in the bigger tinajas but you will have to go in with enough water to get back out at least.  Here is Robert's December report ( where he also makes it out to the point.

Many here (including me) have treated and used the River water without any problems.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: Robert on January 28, 2015, 08:44:36 AM
I would also agree that if you are going out to the Santa Elena overlook on day 1 you will be in for one long day. There is no easy access to water along that route so you will either have to detour to get water or carry it with you which will add to your time and/or weight. Also if you are planning to stop at the Tinajas make sure you understand exactly where the water is and what is will take to access. There are several other Mesa trip reports on BBC so would recommend reading them all.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: 01ACRViper on January 28, 2015, 10:03:57 AM
I agree with robert and mule ears.. it's a pretty conservative 13 miles from the TH to the point. 13 miles a day on a trial isn't the end of the world, but the nice trail will run out about halfway to the point. Then it's up and down washes and cross country the rest of the way. You can make it, but day light is short that time of year and you'll probably be camping somewhere out near the point. So you'll have to carry all the water with you as the nearest tinajas are quite a walk away.

The trial is easy to follow until just past the three sisters. if i remember correctly, you can see "the point" from there, so finding it isn't an issue, just a long hike off trail.

Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: catz on January 28, 2015, 10:39:44 AM
You can reduce--not eliminate--the ups and downs of the wash crossings if you keep as far to the left as possible.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: catz on January 28, 2015, 10:48:12 AM
After reviewing the original post by Tophfar, he doesn't seem to be talking about going all the way to the point because he wants to work his way down to the entrance of Santa Elena.  Obviously, the entrance is way before the point, which overlooks the canyon exit.  I sort of recall where there is a route down to the river at or near the canyon entrance.  I don't think there is a sign there but there is a clear trail that goes off that way.  I assume that trail is primarily used by river runners.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: tophfar on January 28, 2015, 12:49:51 PM
Sorry, some of my terminology was off.

Yes, to the point is what I was talking about. Then the initial idea would be to follow the rim back west as much as possible to make it down to the entrance camp along the river. Does that help clear things up?

Some quick background, this group is well conditioned and most of the group has a reasonable amount of backpacking experience, with me being the most seasoned. Half of us have done the OML before, we just spent 5 days doing the Clark Range in Yosemite, we've done sections of the CDT and OHT.

So we don't mind the long day, and if we don't quite make to the point on day 1 that will be fine we can make that call as the afternoon goes along. And if we setup camp in the dark... it's what headlamps are for right?

My two main concerns were the water issue, and the feasibility from following the rim of the canyon from the point back to the entrance camp on the river. But if the river is fine for drinking (treated of course), then we don't mind if its a little bit of slow going. Just as long as we can make the water. And if it's better if we back track our steps before heading down to the river, then that is fine also. We are pretty flexible. We just want to enjoy being out there, and see the things that most people don't get a chance to.

I was initially afraid we'd be at least 3 to start the hike, and was dreading that kind of weight. So I'm thinking now 2 gallons a piece. That should get us to the point, then down to the river, and detouring to tinajas if necessary. We can resupply our water there. If on day 2 it does not look like that will work, we can bail out to Lajitas on that second gallon. Does that sounds like a reasonable plan?

And I definitely have been going through all the trip reports on the site. There has been tons of helpful information.

Mule_Ears: I loved the trip report. And I really liked the idea/route to do Lajitas to the Basin. I'm going to have to keep that in mind for a future trip, and will use that post as a reference if you don't mind. That looked awesome.

Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: catz on January 28, 2015, 04:05:03 PM
We seem to be split as to the feasibility of drinking (treated) river water. Some of us have done so and have had no ill effects.  Others say no.  If you are wary, one possibility would be to cache a gallon apiece on the way out to the point, near where I mentioned earlier that a trail splits off and goes down to the river.

I've never tried (or heard of anybody doing so) following the canyon rim westward from the point.  Anything is possible, I suppose, but I would imagine that you would have significant difficulties with the side drainages.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: mule ears on January 28, 2015, 04:56:06 PM
I have read some reports of people walking sections of the rim between the point and entrance camp but haven't seen one going the whole way.  It looks like about a 9-10 mile day depending on how much winding around you have to do around the washes that flow into the canyon.  The terrain will be rough with lots of baby head rocks that are tough on the feet and ankles.

There is a little visited tinaja at 29 10' 45"N  103 39' 22" W in the first major drainage west of the point that you could swing by and get some water if you get some decent water info before going or can see water at Rana or Blanca as you walk by the first day.

It will also be hard to find a place to roll the sleeping bags out near the point that is some razor sharp limestone up there.
Title: Re: Mesa Questions
Post by: Hayduke on January 28, 2015, 08:38:56 PM
I've done almost all of the hike from Entrance camp to the point, but never all in one stretch.  The difficult part of this route is that there's no long stretch of continous rim - you're always crossing brushy drainages or diverting around side canyons.

From the point to the most prominent side canyon the way is up & down crossing brushy washes & can be a tedious slog. I've done almost all of this section, lacking a small part in the middle. I'm not terribly enthused about going back to finish it. This is definitely not the same as the hike from Bruja to the point which is decent open walking for most of its length.

From the most prominent side canyon to Entrance camp the drainages are more deeply incised forming generally brief side canyons. You can follow the rim by hiking in and out. While I've done this I'm not sure every view is worth the effort, and walking inland is more direct. You might consider taking a stroll out to the point where you can see Rockslide rapids and - if you're lucky- a boater going through them.