Big Bend National Park is an adventure-seekers paradise. From short day hikes to longer thru-hikes or off-road four-wheeling to night time star gazing, Big Bend is a Texas treasure that just keeps on giving.
Those interested in learning about the history that preceded the official establishment of the national park in 1944 can roam among the ruins of some of the original homesteads in this wide part of Texas. These sites are accessible by way clearly defined trails, mostly half a mile or less in distance one way.
The Homer Wilson Ranch Trail (or Blue Creek Trail) is one of my personal favorites. The Homer Wilson Blue Creek Ranch was established in 1929 and was one of the largest in Texas, comprising more than 28,000 acres — home to 4,000 sheep and 2,500 goats. The ranch was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
The trailhead is located at a scenic overlook a little less than 8 miles from the northern end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. This overview offers sweeping vistas of Blue Creek Valley — once the operational center of the Homer Wilson Ranch. If you look carefully you will see what remains of the old line camp on the bank of Blue Creek.
The trail leading to the old line camp is an easy downhill stroll that crosses two drainages and then climbs to the house on the bank of Blue Creek. For many years, this ranch house was home to Wilson’s foreman, Lott Felts.
Although abandoned in 1945, what remains of the ranch house is more than enough to give visitors an idea of what ranch life must have been like in the days before the establishment of the national park. The house was well built, featuring a flagstone floor, high ceilings, a centrally located fireplace, and a covered porch.
Hidden in the surrounding brush are the remains of a circular corral for the training of young horses, a rainwater cistern, a dipping vat and chute for sheep and goats, and a few other remnants of ranch life. The entire area is a time capsule worth exploring.
The half-mile hike back to the parking area is all uphill but not difficult at all. When hiking in Big Bend, always remember to take a hydration pack or bottled water — even on short hikes. If you are interested in hikes that will help you to learn about the history of Big Bend National Park, definitely include the Homer Wilson Ranch Trail hike on your day-adventures agenda.