Cattail Falls – Big Bend National Park

Cattail Falls – Big Bend National Park

Cattail Falls in Big Bend National Park.

If you’re visiting Big Bend National Park for the first time, you should dedicate half a day and go see Cattail Falls.  The falls itself drain the western side of the Chisos Mountains through the rugged and steep Cattail Canyon.  At certain times of the year a beautiful waterfall flows eighty feet down to a large pool at its base.   The area below Cattail Falls is lush with large oak trees, flowing pools, and perennial flowers like the Texas Gold Columbine.  If you’re lucky, you’ll have the place all to yourself.  It is a great place to escape the desert heat and refresh before continuing your journey.

To access Cattail Falls, take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive on the western side of the park towards Santa Elena Canyon.  Drive south for approximately 3.3 miles until you see a left-hand turn down a dirt road.  There will be no marker or sign so it can be easy to miss the first time.  The turn off is just before the Sam Nail Ranch pullout on the right, so if you’ve passed that then you have gone too far.  The Oak Springs Road as it’s called will take you to the Cattail Falls parking area.  The road itself can be navigated by low-clearance vehicles if driven carefully.  4WD is not necessary, but high-clearance is recommended.  After turning onto Oak Springs Road, drive another 1.25 miles to the Cattail Falls parking area.  Beyond the parking area, a gate blocks access  so you must hike half a mile down the rest of the road to the Cattail Falls trailhead.  Be careful not to continue down the road or you’ll end up on the Oak Spring Trail that takes you up a steep section into the Chisos Basin.  The trailhead is easy to find because of the large oak trees nearby.  Most notably, the very large oak tree that is almost parallel to the ground.  There is a large sign with a picture and description of Cattail Falls and this marks the start of the trail.   Hike another mile down a well worn and marked trail to reach your destination.

One last note.  Cattail Falls is a fragile ecosystem and is an important source of water for wildlife in the park.  Remember to take pictures, leave only footprints, and enjoy one of the best areas of the park!

Cattail Falls from Castle Camp - Big Bend National Park

A portion of the Cattail Falls Trail can be seen below as it heads towards Cattail Falls.  Click on the photo for an interactive image.


  1. Cattail Falls – PDF Map
  2. Cattail Falls – Web Map (
  3. Cattail Falls – Google Earth File
  4. Cattail Falls – GPX File


  1. Cattail Falls – High Resolution Interactive Image
  2. Cattail Falls from Castle Camp – High Resolution Interactive Image

Categories: National Parks

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Cameron

    Hey man I’m really enjoying your pictures and descriptions of your hike. I’m thinking about trying to do some sort of “thru-hike” in Big Bend this winter, but I’m not sure where to start planning, what trails to take, and how to get the most out of a week or so. The thing I’m most concerned about is water, as I know water here tends to be unreliable, especially with the droughts in Texas right now. Do you have any advice for me as I start planning? Thanks, Cameron

    • Thanks for checking out my site Cameron! As for water concerns, they are definitely valid in Big Bend, even when there isn’t a drought. It really depends on the hike your doing in the park. You may have to cache water. My best advice to you is to get on and post your question on the forum. I’ve got many friends on the boards there and you will get very good answers to any and all questions you may have..

  • M. L. Simmons


    I don’t know if we’ve crossed paths before or not regarding Big Bend – I’ve been in Cattail Canyon a number of times all the way up to the base of the big pour off a.k.a. ‘Bryan’s Falls’. I think it would make a great subject for one of your great big photos. If you are ever interested in doing so, I would love to be a part of the event.

    Keep up the outstanding work,

    M. L.

  • Dr. Matt

    Thanks for one of the very few accessible descriptions of the Cattail Falls trail. Been having a really hard time finding details, so much appreciated! Heading that way in a couple weeks. How long would you dedicate to this particular hike?

    • I would dedicate about 3-4 hours total. From the parking lot to Cattail Falls itself takes (on average) around 45 minutes.

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