Big Bend National Park Travel Guide

  • The entrance to Big Bend National Park
    The entrance to Big Bend National Park
    by Suet
  • Sisal Desert plant
    Sisal Desert plant
    by Suet
  • A view of the park.
    A view of the park.
    by Suet

Big Bend National Park Highlights

  • Pro
    XenoHumph profile photo

    XenoHumph says…

     Ideal for nature, desert and isolation lovers 

  • Con
    KimberlyAnn profile photo

    KimberlyAnn says…

     If you are not an outdoor person you may not enjoy this park. This park can have haze that will obscure your views. 

  • In a nutshell
    mtncorg profile photo

    mtncorg says…

     Here is what Texas is to Most People 

Big Bend National Park Things to Do

  • Hot Springs

    If you would like a longer walk, instead of returning the way you came after visiting the Hot Springs continue on past the springs. You will come to a fork. The left fork loops up onto the top of the bluff, from which you will have great views of the Canyon and the springs below. Follow this trail back to the Hot Springs parking lot. If you choose...

  • Santa Elena Canyon Trail

    Santa Elena Canyon is my favorite place in Big Bend. It speaks "Big Bend" in its layout, its ruggedness and its isolation. Every time I come to the park, I make sure to visit here. The trail is not much. You cross a wash (this can sometimes be flooded) and meander up and down along the river until the trail abruptly ends. In that time though,...

  • Boquillas Trail

    When the official border crossing closed, trade coming across the border here slowed down a lot but did not stop. These enterprising Mexicn goatherders had a sideline selling souvenirs to tourists visiting the park. They had snuck across the river to set up their souvenirs then went back to Mexico to tend their goats. I guess they return when no...

  • Chisos Mountains

    There are a few displays in the visitors center too. They mostly explain about the animals and plants of the area. I really liked the Mountain Lion. I do not want to meet him on the trail (at least not too closely).

  • Terlingua Ghost Town

    A mass of dilapidated wooden board houses which have fallen into disuse. They were built by the miners who came to pan for gold in them thar hills. Quite interesting to visit. There is a hotel there, which is $180 a night which I thought was a bit steep. However, because of the total lack of light pollution in this part of Texas, it's possible to...

  • Window Trail

    The Window is one of the most popular views in the park, and has become one of the symbols of Big Bend National Park. This pour off channels all the rainwater from the high Basin to a sudden 200 foot drop to the desert below. It is here that the Window Trail hike comes to a sudden stop. The floor of the window is formed of smooth stone and for me...


Big Bend National Park Hotels

Big Bend National Park Restaurants

  • Bring your Own

    Just because you are out in the wild, does not mean you have to be uncivilized. One problem with rafting is sometime you can bring too much lunch!! I like the torillas with fresh homemade salami, pear and cheese. It is as good as yoru ingredients.

  • Excellent American Southwest Food in...

    Do not miss this wonderful restaurant. Absolutely excellent "cowboy"/Southwestern cuisine! Adorable outdoor patio (see picture) and great interior decoration (mexican/cowboy style). Just great... GO THERE!!! Oooooh these steaks!!!

  • Cottonwood Station in Marathon

    Small local restaraunt on the main street of Marathon, very relaxed atmosphere, outdoor dining. They did run out of chicken once... Had the breakfast burrito and the hamburger, both were excellent.


Big Bend National Park Nightlife

  • Authentic UFOs!!

    Aficionados of UFOs (Unknown Flying Objects) and other unexplained phenomena, this is for you!! At this spot, a few miles East of the town of Marfa, globes of lights can sometimes be seen floating above the desert at night. They appear, dissappear, split and converge. They look about the size of very big bright stars, in front of hills at the...

  • sunsets are worth the price of admission

    It is dry and windy in west Texas, therefore, a lot of dirt and dust particals are blown into the lower atmosphere resulting in brilliant sunsets.

  • A sixpack under the stars

    Not much choice of nightlife in this desolate region. Grab a sixpack of beer from the concessionaire and watch the spectacular night sky. At 7000 feet without light pollution, you have a rare glimpse of our beautiful universe. It is an activity of which I cannot tire.


Big Bend National Park Transportation

  • Let's go Rafting!!

    The Rio Grande River runs along the Park's southern border, serving as the international border with Mexico, as well. To raft the river with your own equipment, you need to get a river float permit - free - at one of the Ranger Stations. You can also buy a printed river guide from here too. There are no equipment rentals in the Park though there...

  • Old Maverick Road

    At the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive you can decide to backtrack or you can take Old Maverick Road which leads you to a spot near the West Entrance to the park and the towns of Terlingua and Study Butte. Be advised though that the road is not paved. Check on road conditions before taking this road.

  • Where to Purchase Gas and Propane

    There are three paved roads within the park and a number of unpaved roads. There is no public transportation offered within the park, so you will have to supply your own transportation, both for getting to the park, and getting around within the park where you can see views such as the Cerro Castellan with its volcanic layers along the Ross Maxwell...


Big Bend National Park Shopping

  • Stores Within the Park

    There are three small stores within the National park. These stores are located at the Rio Grand Village, the Chisos Basin, and in the historic La Harmonia area at Castolon. Here you can purchase some basic camping supplies and a few groceries. The Chisos Basin Lodge also has a Gift Shop which features various items made by local artists, as well...

  • Where to Get Groceries

    Big Bend National Park being in the middle of nowhere, you might wonder where you can go grocery shopping! Inside the park, there are three small general stores, one at Chisos Basin, one at Rio Grande Village, and one near Santa Elena Canyon. The towns around the park have small grocery stores: Study Butte, Terlingua (West of the park), Marathon...

  • Souvenir Shops

    The Visitor Centers of the park have books, post-cards and souvenirs on Big Bend. They are located at Persimmon Gap, Panther Junction and Chisos Basin. For souvenirs and art beyond National Park stuffs, it is worth driving to Terlingua/Study Butte, Alpine or Marathon. In the latter, I went to this delicious shop that sells latino crafts called...


Big Bend National Park Local Customs

  • Illegal Mexican Venders in Big Bend

    When you take hikes to the Rio Grand River Mexican nationals may approach you from across the river to purchase items such as handmade walking sticks, bracelets, and other crafts. It is illegal to purchase these items and the park tells us that the Mexicans that cross the river may be arrested for entering the U.S. illegally. Hopefully they will...

  • Overgrazing

    One of the main result of intense cattle ranching is the impoverishment of the land, to the point where it dies with not a single plant left! The cows eat all up. I have seen signs of overgrazing everywhere. Even the land of Big Bend National Park, which used to be ranches 50 years ago is barely recovering from the assault of too much cattle! I am...

  • Wave when you drive by another car!!

    Friendly locals around here! Every single time we have crossed path with another vehicle on the road, they waved at us (and we waved back of course!). If you really want to blend in, put your hands on your wheel near the top, and lift only your index finger to say hi!The picture illustrate the fact that there are lots of pick-up trucks in the Big...


Big Bend National Park Warnings and Dangers

  • Cactuses - Don't try Prickly Pears...

    The US has four types of warm weather deserts: Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan. Big Bend National Park protects a good sized chunk of the Chihuahuan ecosystem. Hot and seasonal winds make the desert a very harsh and arid place. Summer ground temperatures can reach up to 180F.Cactuses are symbollic of the desert. They are water...

  • Carry your passport!!

    The mistake I made was not having my passport with me when I was travelling near the border with Mexico. I did not actually cross the border, but they have built border patrol posts on the roads leading through the park to trap the unwary.I was stopped by two fierce guards and an even fiercer guard dog, I was made to wait in the car while they...

  • Dehydration and desert snakes

    You'd be completely mad to travel into this park without copious supplies of drinking water on board. The heat in summer sucks all the moisture out of you as you sweat trying to keep cool. Despite the aircon, any short walks to the visitor sites had me drenched in sweat. Drinking water all day long was the only solution. I also had plenty of food...


Big Bend National Park What to Pack

  • heplion's Profile Photo

    by heplion Written Oct 11, 2002

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Luggage and bags: Aside from the obvious (water, extra food, extra water for the car, a hat or umbrella to shade yourself from the sun if you get stranded) try to bring a tri-band cell phone. If you get stranded it is unlikely that somebody will just wander upon you anytime soon...A very untravelled and isolated National Park.

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Big Bend National Park Off The Beaten Path

  • Typical Plants (2): Lechuguilla

    This plant can only be found in the Chihuahuan desert, of which Big Bend is a part.Lechuguilla is a type of agave (Agave lechuguilla).It was widly used by Indians for its fibers to make cords, baskets and sandals (see for a demonstration on how to make Lechugilla cord!)

  • Typical plants (1): Century Plant

    Despite its name, this plant flowers once in its life, "only" after about 25 years, and then dies. This picture shows you the fruits on the plant, after the flowering stage.The Century plant is a type of agave (Agave havardiana).Go see my Travelogue on spring flowers to see a Century Plant in full bloom!

  • Typical Plants (7): Chulla Cactus

    A common cactus on the desert plains. This is close-up of the fruit.Go see my Travelogue on spring flowers to see Chulla cactuses in bloom!


Big Bend National Park Sports & Outdoors

  • Window Trail

    The Window Trail can mean two different things. There is The Window Loop Trail which is a .3 mile loop that is paved and handicapped accessible, and a 5.6 mile hike out to the actual window that descends 980 feet (remember that also means a 980 foot ascent on the way back). I took the short Window Loop Trail which offered a nice view of the window...

  • Lost Mine Trail

    The Lost Mine Trail is a great hike, probably about the best in the park, but it is not for the faint of heart. It raised my heart rate enough for my pacemaker to make a record of it. The trail is 4.7 miles long with an elevation gain of 1300 feet. That said it has the most spectacular scenery in the entire park. It is steep in places and the...

  • Hot Springs Trail

    There is a short (maybe 1/4 mile) unpaved trail that leads from the parking area, past he ruins of the buildings, to the soaking area. The trail leads by the river and is flat. There is a longer trail available too. Good walking shoes, a hat, sunscreen, water, and a bathing suit if you plan to soak.


Big Bend National Park Favorites

  • Big Bend National Park

    The Rio Grande River follows the border between Texas and Mexico for over 1000 miles. 244 miles of it are administered by the National Park Service in Big Bend National Park. Big Bend is sometimes called "three parks in one" because it has a mountain areas, a desert area and the area along the river. There is evidence of human habitation here for...

  • Panther Junction Visitor Center and Post...

    The Panther Junction Visitor Center is open all year from 8:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.Here you will find exhibits that will help to inform you about the geology, as well as the natural and cultural histories within the park. You can also purchase books, maps, and postcards at the center, as well as fill up your personal water bottles. This is also the...

  • Rio Grande Village Visitor Center

    The Rio Grande Village Visitor Center is open November through April, 8:30 to 4:00. This visitor center is located a quarter of a mile north of the Rio Grand Village area. At this visitor center you will find a small exhibit that will help you to learn more about the animal life along the Rio Grande River in Big Bend. Staff will be happy to help...


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