“A challenging run up to the rim of Mariscal Canyon with spectacular views of the Chihuahuan Desert.”
— Stephanie A
River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
To start your adventure, you'll need a high clearance vehicle with good tires and a spare to travel River Road East
which starts north of the Rio Grande Village. This is an interesting bumpy ride for about two hours, or longer depending on your vehicle. Past the Mariscal Mine, you'll turn left on the road towards Talley. There are a few primitive drive-in campsites back in this area which would be a good choice to stay at if you want to take on this run, so that you can get on the trail early.
Eventually, you'll come to a parking area with a trailhead sign. Make sure to lock up your vehicle and take valuables with you. MOST IMPORTANTLY be sure to bring a LOT of water! The climate is extremely arid, there is NO SHADE on this trail, and you'll get baked in the middle of the day, especially in the warmer months (April-October). At least two full liters per person is recommended. An umbrella would be helpful, as would long sleeves and sunscreen. This trail is very remote and help is far away.
Once you begin the trail, you'll be navigating over relatively flat, rocky and sandy terrain towards the canyon. Note that this trail is marked by stacked piles of rocks so you must be careful not to lose your way. You'll pass several interesting rock formations on your way. Eventually the trail will start climbing upwards gently. To your right, you'll get nice views of the Rio Grande which was invisible from the parking area. As you climb up you'll also get great views of the Chihuahuan Desert behind you and the Chisos Mountains in the distance. The trail will begin to get more steep as you approach the canyon. There are a few large boulders to sit and rest along the way.
Once you reach the top, you can continue all the way to the canyon edge for a dizzying view of the canyon cliffs down to the Rio Grande running below. From here, you realize your efforts have paid off. There are several ledges with great views of the canyon that few visitors ever see. From here you can continue the trail to Cross Canyon Trail
if you are feeling extra ambitious, or you can turn around and enjoy more spectacular views on the way down. The trail is slippery and dangerous on the way back down, especially with tired legs. You'll realize then just how high you have climbed as you make your way down. Allow at least 3-4 hours there and back to the canyon rim (6.6 miles roundtrip), and longer for the complete trail.