This short interesting trail leads to the remains of four historic structures that were once part of the “Grand Canyon” farms operations. Fine views along the way include the Rio Grande, Santa Elena Canyon, the Chisos Mountains, Emory Peak and Mule Ears.
- Distance: 1.0 miles (RT)
- Elevation: 2,135-ft. at Trailhead
Maximum elevation - 2,210-ft.
- Elevation Gain: 75-ft.
- Difficulty: easy
- Basecamp: Big Bend
- Region: Texas Parks
Trail Description - Drogan House
History buffs and anyone looking for a short, scenic hike will enjoy the Dorgan House trail, also known as the Dorgan-Sublett Trail. As an added bonus there is a shady bench along the way for taking a break or eating a picnic lunch.
From the trailhead, located along the north side of the Santa Elena Canyon Road (see driving directions below), the path heads north and quickly reaches a junction. Turn left and ascend a low hill to a stone farmhouse built by James and Melissa Sublett in 1913.
In 1914 the Sublett and his wife moved to the Alvino House, in what is now the Castolon Historic District, and ran the store for four years. In 1918 he purchased 2,560 acres of land in the area and created the Grand Canyon Farms, a large farming operation. As part of the expansion James Sublett built a large adobe house on top of the hill to the east of where you are standing and a small dwelling below, known today as La Casita.
Sublett was one of the first settlers to actively farm the Rio Grande floodplain growing cotton, sorghum, corn, alfalfa, wheat and melons. Sublett leveled fields and built irrigation systems in the Castolon area using mule-drawn Fresno scrapers and lightweight blades he owned from his days as an earth moving contractor for the Southern Pacific Railroad.
After viewing the farm house return to the main trail and follow the undulating path as it curves to the east through grasses and desert scrub. Along the way the trail travels through a cluster of mesquite trees with a shaded a bench, a nice place for a snack or a break. Beyond the trees the trail soon reaches La Casita at 0.25 miles. This is where the farm hands lived.
The path now ascends on moderate grades, gaining about 40-ft. as it climbs to a junction at 0.3 miles. A metal sign points right to the Sublette House and left to the Dorgan House. Turn right and walk a short distance to the site of the Sublett’s adobe house. Only the foundation and great views remain. To the south/southwest are beautiful vistas of the high cliffs along the Rio Grande and the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon. Below is the location of Sublett’s farmland along the Rio Grande’s floodplain. The Chisos Mountains and prominent landmarks like Mule Ears and Cerro Castellan rise in the distance to the east/northeast.
Return to the main trail and follow the path as it heads northeast/north along a low ridge toward the Dorgan House. The walk is accompanied by more great vistas of the Chisos and landmarks to east/northeast. Behind you are more fine views of the Rio Grande.
Reach the Dorgan house at 0.5 miles. A few walls with windows and doors along with a large fireplace, built out of petrified wood, still stand. This 1200-sqare foot house was built by Albert Dorgan, a landscape architect and business associate of James Sublett, in the 1930’s. Dorgan and Sublett together purchased 640-acres to add to the farm and expanded the irrigation system along the Rio Grande.
The views from the property are sublime with the Chisos filling the skyline to the north/northeast and the cliffs of the Rio Grande dominating the view to the south. After exploring the Dorgan House retrace your steps to the trailhead for a 1.0 mile round-trip hike.
From the Big Bend National Park Headquarters at Panther Junction: From Panther Junction, at the intersection of the Persimmon Gap Road and the West Entrance Road, head west on the West Entrance (Gano Springs) road toward Basin Junction. Follow the road for 12.7 miles and then turn left on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Continue on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive for 21.9 miles to the end of the road and then turn right onto the Santa Elena Canyon Road. Follow the road for 6.0 miles to Dorgan House trailhead, located on the right (north) side of the road.
From the Chisos Mountain Lodge Area: Head northeast on Chisos Basin Road for 6.4 miles and then turn left onto the West Entrance Road. Follow the West Entrance Road for 9.5 miles and the turn left onto the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Drive 21.9 miles on the Ross Maxwell road to its end and turn right onto the Santa Elena Canyon Road. Follow the road for 6.0 miles to Dorgan House trailhead, located on the right (north) side of the road.
- Trail Photo Gallery
- Trail Maps
- Basecamp(s) Information: Big Bend
- Region Information: Texas Parks
- Other Hiking Regions in: Texas