Mule Ears Overlook
There is only so much time in a day or a trip. One of the places we skirted was the Mule Ears, so named for the way the two peaks shoot up into the sky like pert mule ears. The full trail is about 7 miles round trip. However, as you traverse the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive north from Santa Elena Canyon there is a spot to stop and take them in…and, try to line your kid’s head up and a get a “mule ear” picture.
Lower Burro Mesa Pour-Off
As you continue north, the turnoff for the Burro Mesa Trails is on the north side of the road, about ten minutes past the Mule Ears Viewpoint. There are two trails. The easier and shorter of the two is the Lower Burro Mesa Pour-Off (the Upper Burro Mesa does not connect). It is a shortish hike – about a mile, round-trip. With two kids it took us around an hour.
The pay off is at the end of the hike. This is where you will stand at the bottom of the pour off from Javelina Creek. Here you can see several distinct geological layers and feel like a tiny, tiny human.
The end of the trail is also the only shaded area of the trail. Much of the trip is in a gravel wash. Those are not great fun to walk in but this trail was overrun with small lizards so the kids were kept busy chasing those little guys.
Also, parts of the trail are marked with rocks so keep an eye out or you may miss your turn.
Sam Nail Ranch
After the blazing sun of the Lower Burro Mesa, you and your little ones will love Sam Nail Ranch. It is a perfect “heat of the day” hike because it is short and shady.
The entire loop is under half a mile and the only open sun is on the walk in. Once you reach the thicket you are in another ecosystem entirely.
This is the site of the Nail Ranch. They built a windmill and some adobe houses. You can see the ruins of these as well as some other outbuildings like a chicken coop. The park maintains a functional windmill that allows this little oasis to exist.
Whn you reach the back side of the loop there is a bench to take a break on…or make your family take pictures. Either way, it will be a blast and it is a great family friendly stop.