Strawhouse Trail

1point5stars (1.75)2
4point5stars (4.75)
4point5stars (4.75)
More Info
I was impressed that this tarantula could hang upside down. (Photo by Blaze)
This shell fossil was a reminder that this entire region used to be under the ocean millions of years ago. (Photo by Blaze)
Ram's Horn
This broken ram's horn was a sober reminder that other creatures had died along this treacherous trail. (Photo by Blaze)
No Trail
In many places, there was no trail for miles. The vegetation had overgrown to the point I was forced to hike cross country (which wasn't easy). (Photo by Blaze)
More Obstacles
In many places, I had to take off my pack in order to get over the rocks. it was physically demanding and I used up a lot of water and time on this trail. (Photo by Blaze)
This isn't a hiking trail, it's an obstacle course! The trail was like this for many miles and was slow and difficult to navigate. (Photo by Blaze)
View Of The Trail
The trail follows (or is supposed to follow) an arroyo at the bottom of a network of interconnecting canyons. (Photo by Blaze)
Log Entries
For experienced hikers only
By bombas238 on 3/3/2024
Rating: 1star Difficulty: 5stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 15.00 Miles Duration: N/A

We hiked this "trail" in late winter 2024 from the Telephone Canyon junction all the way down to the Marufo-Vega trailhead. I honestly cannot recommend this hike unless you really enjoy cross-country through the desert for several miles. 

Regular hikers/tourists have absolutely no business venturing that deep into this section of the park. It is extremely remote, difficult to navigate, requires overnight camping, and you have to carry ALL your water with you. Being anywhere near the Telephone Canyon + Strawhouse junction in the summer sounds like death wish to me (and getting injured over there would also be pretty devastating). Nights in the winter are also cold into the 30-40s, so be prepared. If weather is not on your side, then you should definitely postpone or cancel your plan to be out there.

The hike itself (from North to South):

It stars out ok with some pretty big cairns leading you up the hill out of Telephoner Canyon. It is not too steep or challenging. The path is heavily overgrown but we managed to find a fair number of cairns leading to a high point that looked like a decent camping spot (there was a larger cairn there and a very old-looking metal bucket). Beyond that cairn it is 100% cross-country as you head south for little less than two miles until you hit the Strawhouse wash / arroyo that you will follow for the rest of the hike. Do not expect any more cairns.

Things will actually feel pretty good until around mile 4.5-5 when you will enter a canyon. This segment goes on until mile 8 and was surprisingly awful. There will be numerous bouldering drops (some very steep), overgrown segments, and thorny trees to make your journey extra special. I remember thinking how glad I was that we weren’t doing this going north (uphill) because it would’ve been extremely slow and tiring. There appeared to be a couple of spots where the GPS / trail wanted us to leave the wash, presumably to avoid the bouldering, but this sounded and looked absurd as there were no markers anywhere and climbing out uphill to cross-country again was not going to happen. Just stay in the wash and be careful.

When you finally get past that you will enter a huge valley and will be presented with a choice: stay on the wash and curve west to add 1-2 miles to your trip, or step out of the wash hugging the east wall of the valley to bushwhack yourself a shortcut. We picked the shortcut and saved time for the price of more thorns in our pants. We did find another wash halfway through the east side of the valley that made things much easier.

At the end of the valley you enter a beautiful canyon and the start of standard tourist hiking. It is beautiful, easy, and fast. You’ll just stay in the wash for a bit longer (there will be signs for the Marufo-Vega trail), enter another mini-canyon with easy bouldering, and reach the sweet sight of your car in no time.

For those of you thinking of going north up this trail, be prepared to throw your backpack up boulders in the canyon section after the wide valley. Also, don’t expect to find cairns for the last segment going into Telephone Canyon and be prepared for 2 miles of cross-country at the end.

Good luck to all the crazies out there thinking this will be fun.

Part Of A Longer 4-Day Backcountry Hike
By Blaze on 11/18/2013
Rating: 2point5stars Difficulty: 4point5stars Solitude: 4point5stars
Distance: N/A Duration: N/A

I hiked the Strawhouse Trail as part of a 4 day backpacking expedition through the backcountry trails of Big Bend National Park.  The hike occurred on the 3rd day in the backcountry.  You can read my log of that extended hike here.

I hiked Strawhouse Trail from the Marufo Vega Loop Trail north to Telephone Canyon Trail. This trail was unmaintained and extremely difficult to hike. Initially the trail was marked by rock cairns, but they soon disappeared.  They have either washed away, been knocked down by animals, or been grown over by vegetation making then invisible.

The trail appears to follow an arroyo through various canyons, but the arroyo is filled with rocks, boulders, cacti, and thorn bushes, making it virtually impenetrable.  The arroyo is also filled with thick gravel, making it a hard surface to walk on.  I expended a lot of energy and there was a lot of slippage.  I had to stop periodically to inspect my feet and administer foot care.

Traversing this trail was slow going.  At times, I was only going 1/3rd to 1/2 mph, but I was expending a lot of energy and drinking a lot of water.  I also had to stop every couple of miles to try and figure out where I was and which way to go.

I do NOT recommend anyone hike this trail. It is very easy to become lost and you could potentially die. When I returned from my hike, I told the rangers that this trail should either be maintained or removed from the map.  In its current condition, it is a death trap, even for the most experienced hikers.

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