Santa Elena Canyon River Trip

Santa Elena Canyon is one of the best hidden gems in Big Bend National Park. The canyon towers above the Rio Grande River with 1,500ft walls of limestone and provides spectacular views. This is truly a once in a lifetime trip to explore the vast and wild spaces in this majestic canyon in Southwest Texas.


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All prices are based on double-occupancy. Single supplement is available for most trips for an extra fee

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Adventure Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival & Hike/Paddle to Campsite

Arrive in Big Bend National Park, meet your guide “Charlie Angel” and his team. Load up your watercrafts and launch into the Rio Grande River for the first day of paddling, sightseeing and a short day-hike. Setup camp after 7 miles of paddling in the canyon, pull up a chair on the riverbank and relax. Be sure to enjoy the nighttime skies and star gazing once the sun goes down.

Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2 - Paddle & Explore the Rio Grande

Break down camp after a morning breakfast and load up the watercraft for another 7 miles of paddling. Stop for lunch and explore the canyon on another short-day hike. Hop back on the water for more views of massive limestone walls rising out of the rivers edge. Arrive at camp for the last night in the canyon and setup for another evening relaxing on the banks of the Rio Grande River.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3 - Paddle Santa Elena Canyon and More

After eating breakfast and breaking down camp again, it will be time to load up for the last day in Santa Elena Canyon. The last day paddling consists of another 7 miles through the winding river and cruising through some rapids while soaking up the beauty of the canyon. There is one more lunch and hike on the last day of the trip which will allow time for reflection on the experience thus far. Get loaded back up and head to the canyon hiking trail back in the other side of Big Bend National Park. There will be a shuttle waiting to get everything loaded up and head back to where the trip all began.

Meals Included: Breakfast



Trip Details


Big Bend National Park


Big Bend National Park


3 Days

Fitness Level

River Trips

Taking a visit to Big Bend National Park is not complete without seeing Santa Elena Canyon. This magical canyon in Southwest Texas will not disappoint for someone seeking a unique paddling adventure. The trip is a three day and two-night experience on the Rio Grande River that is full of winding bends, tall limestone canyon walls and dark starry skies. There are daily hikes for additional exploration which helps break up the 21-mile journey through Santa Elena Canyon.

All clients will have access to the knowledge of the local guide and enjoy the remoteness that this adventure offers. All clients will be provided a personal watercraft along with a paddle and PFD for the entirety of the trip. Kayak and Bank fishing are available during the day and in the evening for those anglers out there - the Rio Grande holds catfish, common carp and alligator gar.

What's Included
  • Kayaks, Paddle, PFD
  • Dry Bags
  • All meals included from Dinner on Day 1 to Breakfast on Day 3
  • All guides and additional accommodations
What's Not Included
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Fishing License for anyone interested in fishing
  • Gratuities
  • Other personal snacks and beverages
  • Personal Camping Gear (can be rented for additional $50 per client: Tent, Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Pad)
  • Camp Chair
  • Pillow

Additional Information


All meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 3 are provided. We know that well-fed campers are happy campers and aim to please! Special dietary considerations can usually be accommodated with at least 30 days advance notice.


The local trip guide and Backwoods host will be there for all questions and support when it comes to accommodations.The clients experience is the most important part of the entire trip. Majority of the trip is spent on the banks of the Rio Grande River, a base camp is set up and broken down each day and night.


This is a river trip, and a good portion of the time will be spent in personal watercraft. Upper-body strength is important so you can effectively control your watercraft and navigate the river. There are also minor rapids in some parts of the river, which are more strenous that regular paddling. Although you are provided a PFD (a life jacket), the aility to swim will help greatly towards your safety if you fall in the river. There are also short hikes to and from camp over rough or uneven ground. Overall, this trip requires a moderate level of physical fitness, and preparation prior to the trip is recommended.

Single Supplement

All prices are calculated for double-occupancy. To ensure your comfort, we will always match you with a roommate of the same sex – and if we're unable to match you with a roommate, you may end up with your own room free of charge. If sharing is not your idea of fun, you can request a single supplement for a small upcharge when you pay your final amount. You will be able to make this election on your trip registration.



Meet Your Guides

Charlie Angell
Charlie Angell

Charlie is a full-time resident of the Big Bend area and has conducted tours of the parks and private lands since 2008. His knowledge of the flora, fauna, landscape, geology and history of the region are extensive. Charlie's has guided trips for hundreds of individuals, as well as film and news companies like CNN, Hulu, The Discovery Channel, and Anthony Bourdain.

Jesse Gessel
Jesse Gessel

Jesse Gessel is our category buyer for footwear, campsite, accessories and much more. Before Backwoods, Mr. Gessel worked as a rep for Amer Sports with brands like Salomon, Suunto and Arc’teryx. When he’s not keeping the shelves stocked, Jesse loves a good beer, some live music, fly fishing local waters and bouldering around Austin.


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Travel Insurance

Backwoods recommends that you purchase a travel protection plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. For your convenience, we offer travel protection through Travelex Insurance Services. For more information on the available plans or to enroll, contact Travelex Insurance Services.

Use reference location number 43-0634

Travel Insurance is underwritten by

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company
NAIC #22276. 55Y
Call Travelex Insurance Services



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