2023 Headwaters of the Frio Trail Marathon, Half, 12K, 5K

About the Course​ ​

7,050 acre ​Big Springs Ranch is 12 miles long and up to 2 miles wide. Most of the land is virtually untouched by humans. The course winds through a wide variety of spectacular Hill Country terrain. It's truly one of the most beautiful ranches in all of Texas. 

First and foremost you should know that this is a trail race, rather than a paved course. Don't expect miles of smooth pavement. Less than a mile of the surface is paved road with the majority of the course taking place on dirt and rock ranch roads. These roads are in decent shape, but there will always be some rough patches. There are also 5 miles of hilly, single track trail on the marathon and half marathon courses.

On our courses you will climb to the top of ridges and descend to river valleys, traverse canyons, forests and meadows, cross the Frio River and its tributaries on boulders, and pass Big Springs at the headwaters of the Frio River. Water, aid stations, and toilets are located every 2-3 miles along the route.

There is an incredible variety of animal life along the trail including Whitetail deer, Red deer, Axis, Aoudad, Mouflon and Uriel Sheep, Wild Pigs, Coyotes, Horses, Longhorn Cattle, Wild Turkey, Jackrabbits, Turtles, Red Tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons, and hundreds of other bird species. 

The route is a treat for the senses as you run or walk under the shade of oak trees, smell the cedars and Texas mountain laurel and traverse native grass pastures. Spring is a perfect time to experience the Ranch with all the new growth on the trees and flowers in the meadows. 

The few traces of man’s presence are relics of a bygone age: an 1896 homesteader’s cabin and grave site, a Model T car from Mexico abandoned along the road, a campsite where a Chicago gangster hid out in the 1930’s, and there’s even rumor of buried treasure near Horse Collar Bluff.

Stretching back much further in time, the most incredible aspect of the route is you will literally run/walk in the footprints of dinosaurs! There are two areas of dry riverbed with dozens of well-preserved tracks from a variety of dinosaur species. This is truly one of the most unique and interesting marathon courses in the world!

With only 300 spots available for this event it will sell out quickly, so reserve your spot soon!


Course Maps

Note: All courses begin and end at the Ed Brune Gym on the Big Springs for Children campus .6 miles east of the entrance on U.S. 83. The Marathon and Half Marathon courses are exact at 26.2 and 13.1 miles respectively. The 12K and 5K courses are not exact due to terrain limitations. The 12K course is actually 12.4K and the 5K course is 5.7K. 


Half Marathon / Marathon Course Description

The half marathon course (first half of the marathon) is an out and back course with two U-shaped loops in the middle. Taking place primarily on 2,500 acres west of U.S. 83, the first 4 miles is a gentle incline up the Bee Creek valley floor on a twin track ranch road. Along the way you will pass the Camp Hawkins Aid Station at mile 2.4. Just before mile 4, the trail turns north up Deep Canyon with the modest incline continuing another .8 miles. At mile 4.8 the grade increases dramatically and you climb 300' on single track trail over the next 1/2 mile. Crossing the summit, the trail drops down quickly off the other side followed by 1.5 miles of gentle downhill to the Panther Park Aid Station at mile 6.5.  Now you head south to navigate the hills on the other side of the valley. After .9 miles of gentle uphill, you tackle a second steep 300' climb on single track trail to the top of the ridge. Skirting the top of a deep wilderness valley, you come around to the opposite ridgeline and follow the crest for the next 1.25 miles before losing 300' of elevation in a quick descent. Re-joining the valley road, it's a gentle descent until your 2nd stop at the Camp Hawkins Aid Station at mile 10.7, followed by a final, gently descending 2.4 miles back to the start / finish arch at 13.1 miles.

Marathon participants must reach the half way point in 3 hours and 45 minutes, and check in with the Medical Director for a brief evaluation, before allowed to head east on the second half of the Marathon. 

The second half, on 4,500 acres east of U.S. 83, starts off pretty flat and follows the Frio River to a crossing at 13.8 miles before heading uphill, gently at first, then getting progressively steeper, until your reach the steepest 300' climb of the marathon course, a little past mile 15. It's over pretty quickly though, and soon you've reached the Skyline Summit Aid Station at mile 15.3 and a chance to catch your breath and get a cool drink. With your last big climb of the marathon behind you, you head northeast along Skyline Drive, a twin track ranch road with gentle ups and downs along the ridgeline until you reach the Intersection Aid Station just past mile 18. The next section is a gentle uphill for 1.7 miles to the Bandera County Line at mile 19.7. You turn around and from here on out, it's mostly a gentle downhill to the finish line. Your next stop is the Intersection Aid Station once again at mile 21.4. From here you descend the Big Springs Ranch Road through the valley to the Big Springs Aid Station at mile 24.3 (Big Springs is a significant source of the Frio headwaters). In the next 1.1 miles you'll cross Big Springs Draw and the Frio River 3 times on stepping stones before the final .7 stretch to the finish arch at Mile 26.2!

12K Course Description

The 12K course starts off fairly flat and follows the Frio River to a crossing at 1.4 kilometers before heading uphill, gently at first, then getting progressively steeper. Shortly after kilometer 3 you encounter a very steep 300' climb. This is the toughest part of the course! When you get to the top you're rewarded with great views of the valley below and the Skyline Summit Aid Station at kilometer 3.6 where you can catch your breath and get a cool drink. From here you head northeast along Skyline Drive, a twin track ranch road with modest ups and downs along the ridgeline until you reach kilometer 6. Here the course leaves Skyline Drive as you take a right and descend the cutoff track between Skyline Drive and the Big Springs Ranch Road, losing half of the elevation you previously gained. Turning right again you begin the gentle descent to Big Springs Aid Station at Kilometer 9.5. Grab a drink and snacks before tackling the final 3 kilometers in which you'll cross Big Springs Draw and the Frio River 3 times on stepping stones before reaching the finish line arch at 12.4 kilometers (7.7 miles). 

5K Course Description 

The Headwaters of the Frio 5K course is an out and back route following the Frio River to its confluence with Big Springs Draw and then following the creek up to its source at Big Springs. This scenic route crosses the Frio River on stepping stones followed by two more crossings of the creek on stepping stones before turning around at the Big Springs Aid station and repeating the course in reverse. The entire route, is mostly flat gaining and losing a total of 90' of elevation on the way out and back. The course is actually 5.7K (3.5 miles) instead of 5.0K (3.1 miles).