You are currently viewing Big Bend National Park Camping Hiking Guide List of Fun Stuff

Big Bend National Park Camping Hiking Guide List of Fun Stuff

I love this park, it is a famous tourist spot at Texas where people love to visit throughout the year.

Due to remote location, this park is safe from the heavy pollution. You can enjoy the clear view of millions of stars at night; even astronauts visit this place to check out the positions of Milky Way for their research.


The Big Bend National Park is home to innumerable species of birds and animals including some of the rarest birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians. With around 650 different varieties of wildlife, the Big Bend National Park is favored by these animals because of the easy availability of food, shelter, water and breeding conditions. The land is covered with desert oases, grasses, upland shrubs and junipers along with the elevation of the Chisos Mountains.

The population of each of these animal groups differs and fluctuates in number because of their distinct abilities to adapt to the changes in living conditions and weather. However, some of the most common mammals that can be spotted throughout the year are black bears, mountain lions, badger, bobcat, kit fox, mule deer, and others. if you set up a campsite somewhere inside the park, encountering a wild animal at a few arm’s distances is nothing abnormal.

When the fire from the camp-wood goes off and the surrounding is invariably silent, you can have a visit from the bats including the Mexican long-nosed kind and the grey fox commonly known as javelina. Apart from this, capturing javelina that is often confused for a pig because of its resembling features in the lenses of your camera would be an interesting part of your visit.

I flew into El Paso International Airport and rented a car to drive to the park. The drive took about 4 hours, but it was worth it for the stunning scenery along the way.

I stayed at the Chisos Basin campground during my visit, which offered beautiful views of the mountains and easy access to hiking trails.

During my time in Big Bend, I hiked through canyons, soaked in hot springs, and stargazed under some of the clearest skies I’ve ever seen. The park’s diverse wildlife and unique geology made every moment of my trip feel like an adventure.  I had the opportunity to explore some of the park’s hiking trails. I highly recommend the Window Trail, which offers stunning views of the Chisos Basin. I saw several species of birds, including roadrunners and vultures, as well as javelinas and deer.


  • Closed Canyon Trailhead:

There are numbers of hikes near Big Bend Park, but you should never miss the opportunity to explore Closed Canyon Trail. While exploring this trail, you will be able to take a round trip to the Rio Grande. The total distance of this hike is only 1.4 miles; you will definitely find it easy to cover with family. Prefer not to visit this hike in the rainy season as it may feel difficult to walk on the track.

  • Food Shark:

There is a small yet famous community near Big Bend, and it is named as Marfa. Here you will find plenty of things to explore, but the most important one is Food Shark. It is basically a chain of trucks that are turned into food serving vehicles with Mediterranean style grub. They are ready to serve you several amazing dishes throughout the year.

  • Pine Canyon Trail:

You will not find it attractive in all seasons, but there is something special to explore right after the heavy rain. Nature blesses this trail with a spectacular waterfall right after heavy rains and tourists are always excited to spot that moment. Do not miss the mesmerizing moment and witness the blessings of nature in the form of stunning beauty. It is right time to set up your camp near this trail and explore the area in the rainy season.

Are you planning to visit?

That’s definitely a great idea. But before booking your tickets to this famous tourist destination, you might be interested to know whether this park is open or not. Well, the great news is that this park stays open in all seasons, throughout the year. You can visit it on any day as per your vacation sessions. Usually, the staff members stay active on the entrance part of the park, especially in normal business hours. However, even if the entrance stations for the park are closed, visitors can enjoy their hike and return on time. Make sure you report at park headquarters as well as visitor center located at Panther Junction to get your park pass by making a small payment. The visitor center stays open all day long from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Explore Amazing Vacation Spot at Texas:

There are so many amazing things to explore at Big Bend National Park. If you are in love with the water sports activities, we advise you to visit the five eye-catching rivers canyons in the area. Here you will find opportunities to canoeing, kayaking, and rafting as well. Even beginners may find it easier to explore the area while experiencing water sports activities. Pack your gear, or you can rent the equipment from local service providers. They also offer professionally guided trips for first-timers as well as the experienced travelers.

In case if you are a hiking lover, Big Bend National Park also offers great opportunities for short interpretive walks and multi-day excursions as well. This park has a long 150 miles hiking trail where you can spend a memorable time with your friends and family. First-time visitors can also hire knowledgeable guides to explore the area.

Other than this, Big Bend National Park is an ideal location for sight-seeing. There are many rugged desert mountains, shadowy canyons, and spectacular vistas. Visitors can plan to explore the area via trail, river, and road. Note that, it is the largest state park of Texas where you can find numbers of biking trails, secluded hiking, and volcanic landscapes. You can find numbers of campsites in this park that can offer you an amazing experience for adventure rich activities.

This famous park also provides many luxurious entertainment options such as air tours and golf court. The fitness lovers can also join marathon at Big Bend National Park. One can also find several accommodation facilities in nearby areas. Other than this, there are finest options for dining, shopping, and to explore vibrant night light of Texas. All essential amenities are located at a close distance from this national park.

You can book tickets to the largest park in Texas in any season of the year. This place is well connected to the famous airports and metro stations of the city. Even first-time travelers can find this vacation destination with ease.

Big Bend National Park is one of the most amazing tourist destinations in Texas that is loaded with unlimited blessings of nature. Here you will find many stunning hiking trails beside the famous Rio Grande river’s mountain ridges. The park is basically divided into three different sections as the Rio Grande Village, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and Chisos Basin.

Chisos Basin area is loaded with many big mountains that serve some of the most difficult hikes of the Big Bend National Park. The Rio Grande Village is further established along Rio Grande River where you will find scenic hikes with several short trails. Furthermore, the Santa Elena Canyon is also known for many spectacular hikes in the area.

In case if you are visiting this largest park of Texas for the first time, the chances are that you might be confused about which hikes can be covered in one go. Well, among the long list of hikes present at Big Bend National Park, we can help you choose the best ones as below:

  1. Santa Elena Canyon Trail:

This is a 1.6-mile long, in and out hike with most beautiful views around. At some points, this trail runs beside Rio Grande River; sometimes it takes you to the ridges and many times on the edge of the water. The giant walls on both sides of this narrow canyon rise up to 1500 feet. People often fall in love with the orange glow in the water and the awesome beauty of the ridges on this hike.

  1. The Window Trail:

Here is a beautiful 5.6-mile trail that offers eye-catching views on both directions. It is named as Window Trail due to a natural window-like shape present at the end of the trail; it is basically a notch in the ridges of the mountains. The window is 8 to 10 feet wide, and the surface of the rock is quite slippery. It is important to be very careful if you want to go to the edge. Although the trail actually starts from the Chisos Basin Visitor Center, you can also access it from Chisos Basin Campground.

  1. Hot Springs Trail:

Many people visiting Big Bend National Park prefer to visit the hot springs, but we advise you to explore the entire trail that is just a few miles in length. It offers some incredible views across the Rio Grande. If you walk through the trail in the spring season, you will find many attractive flowers blooming on the hillside. Right after the area loaded with many hot springs, this trail moves down to the riverside, and further you can reach the parking area with the short walk of 0.25 miles.

  1. Nature Trail:

Hikes that are curious to explore the awesome beauty of River Grande Village are advised to plan their tour to Nature Trail. This 0.75- mile hike passes through Rio Grande River while covering many beautiful areas of the village. You will definitely love to explore the deserts, greeneries, and many other scenic views on the way.



Coming to the birds, they are most active during the springs and the summers and their colorful feathers, when contrasted against the bright blue sky, form a picturesque setting that is difficult to spot somewhere else around the world. When in the Big Bend National Park, the chances of noticing Yellow-headed Chickadees, black and grey hawks along with woodpeckers somewhere around the sky are the highest.

The part that is known as the Rio Grande is the park’s predominant source of water and it consists of around 40 distinct species of fishes including the waterfowl, turtles, beaver, etc. Other than all the above-mentioned varieties of animals, the content also contains both rare and common species of nocturnal creatures like the prairie and crevice spiny lizards, bullsnake, ringtail, tarantulas, jackrabbits, rattlesnake, coachwhip and scorpions which if gone unnoticed can cause severe damage to your tent or the people dwelling inside.

The low desert and the riparian areas of the desert too are sustainable spots for the animals because of the presence of water and cooler conditions. The Javelinas are the most common visitors of the springs because there, it can feed on the vegetation that has been catalyzed with the freshwater and the small animals that flourish around the water body. Out of all the other nocturnal creatures, the skunks and raccoon frequent this area the most making it one of the most superior locations of the park if you want to spot at least seven varieties of birds and animals.

The overall weather at the Big Bend Park is harsher when compared to the other spots of the country; nonetheless, this doesn’t stop the area from nourishing 1200 species of plants along with these animals. If you visit the park during a hot summer day, the chances to spot an animal around the place, especially at the low-desert area is quite less when contrasted with the night, when the temperature goes down and they get started with their hunting activities.

Big Bend National Park has gained popularity worldwide for its mesmerizing beauty and amazing blessings of nature. People find it the best place to visit in Texas with friends and family. However, due to the remote location, it caters only around 350000 people all over the year.

Big Bend National Park was basically established in the year 1935, and it covers the overall area of 324,153 hectares near the international border between the United States and Mexico. It is famous as the largest protected portion of Chihuahuan Desert that preserves numbers of desert springs, mountain ranges, desert landscapes, and riparian ecosystems. Note that, Rio Grande River runs via Big Bend National Park and it is actually named behind the big bend of the river in west Texas.

The overall elevation of the park varies from 2380 meters on the Chisos Mountains and 550 meters across river. Visitors are attracted towards the impressive geological structures preserved at this park including 450 different species of birds and 1200 unique species of plants such as rock nettle, lechuguilla, ocotillo, pink bluebonnets, and desert marigold. Tourists can also enjoy some adventure rich activities at this park including stargazing, scenic drives, and many other programs organized by the park rangers time to time.

The National Park covers almost 1252 square miles land that is why it is rated as the largest park in the area. It covers many eye-catching geographical contrasts such as Boquillas Canyon, limestone outcrops of Persimmon Gap, Chisos Mountains Peaks, Chihuahuan Desert and vegetation belts of the Rio Grande.

As there are numbers of geographical regions, you may find great variations in the weather of Big Bend National Park. It stays mild at most of the locations in the winter season; however, you can observe sub-freezing temperatures or even snow at some higher elevations. In the summer season, it stays hot and dry with low humidity. People find fall and spring season as the best time to explore this park. The estimated temperature in the Spring season is observed to be somewhere around 105-degree F.

You will be happy to hear that this park is the home to a variety of wildlife creatures. Here you may find 600 different species of birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians. Visitors can often spot rabbits, coyotes, mule deer and even rattlesnakes in this area. Other than this, there are 60 different species of cactus including claret cups, pitayas, and pears.

The Big Bend National Park stays open throughout the year for 24 hours a day. The admission charges are $10 for the individual on bike or motorcycle and $20 per vehicle; it stays valid for 7 days. One can also obtain annual passes to this park. The great news is that being a great source of information; this park waives off the entrance fee for educational groups.

There are numbers of hikes, waterfalls, deserts, mountains, water pools and forests within Big Bend National Park. This park caters more than 350000 visitors per year due to its remote location. But if you are truly in love with nature and want to explore the real beauty of wildlife, we advise you to book your tickets to this mesmerizing park. It is the best place to visit in Texas with family and friends.

One of the main attractions here are the geological structures that date back millions of years. You also get to check out over, 200 species of plants and 450 species of birds. Additional park activities include scenic drives, programs led by Big Bend park rangers, and stargazing. Even if you just wish to take a drive through the park, there are numerous interesting sites and scenery along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, hot springs to take a soak and relax, boat rides to Mexico for a sumptuous lunch, places to enjoy a beautiful sunset, and much more. Be sure to stop at one of the visitor centers for a map of the park and information on conditions, and then head out to explore.

Big Bend has the sparseness of the Chihuahuan Desert, the peaks of the Chisos Mountains, and the limestone outcrops of Persimmon Gap and Boquillas Canyon.

How can you get there?

Big Bend National Park is extremely isolated – it is the very definition of remote. Located in the southwestern corner of Texas, this sparsely-populated, wild patch of land on the U.S.-Mexico border is a considerable distance from cities and transportation hubs. It takes around 4 hours by car, from each of the nearest airports, in Midland and El Paso. However, you have lots of rental car options available. Several highways lead to the park: FM 170 from Presidio to Study Butte, TX 118 from Alpine to Study Butte, or US 90 or US 385 to Marathon. Greyhound provides daily service to Alpine, which is around 100 miles from park headquarters; this is the site of the nearest Amtrak station, as well. There are five visitor centers scattered around the park, although the Panther Junction and Chisos Basin centers are the only ones open year-round. If you need to secure river-use or backcountry permits, fill up with water, or simply get the lay of the land when you first arrive, Panther Junction is the place to do it.

Remember that gas stations are few and far between in this part of the world, as the area is so remote, so it is necessary to know where you can fill up well in advance, or you might get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village both have service stations with gas and diesel. Outside the park, the closest stations are located in Study Butte (Big Bend Resorts and Adventures), Lajitas (the Lajitas General Store), Terlingua (Terlingua Auto Service), and FM 2627 (Stillwell Store, just north of the park).

How is the weather here?

Big Bend National Park covers a wide geographical area with a lot of variety, so the weather varies accordingly. For instance, winters are generally mild throughout the area, but if you consider Emory Peak, there will be snow and sub-freezing temperatures because it is at a higher elevation. Summers feature hot and dry weather with low humidity. However, occasional afternoon thunderstorms are not out of the question during this time. Spring and fall are the best times to visit Big Bend, with mild days and cool nights.

Q: How do I prepare for hiking in Big Bend?

A: Hiking in Big Bend isn’t a walk in the park…well, technically it is, but you get the point. Heat and dehydration can be serious hazards, so bring plenty of water. And remember, the park’s wildlife, while beautiful, isn’t there for selfies. Keep a safe distance.

Q: What should I do if I encounter a bear or mountain lion while hiking?

A: In the unlikely event you meet a bear or mountain lion, don’t invite it to join your hike. Instead, make yourself appear larger, make noise, and back away slowly. Running might make you look like fast food, so avoid it.


Q: What are some must-see sights in Big Bend?

A: Don’t miss the Santa Elena Canyon, where you can see a stunning 1,500-foot rock wall, or the Chisos Mountains, a perfect spot for incredible panoramic views. And no visit to Big Bend is complete without a soak in the Langford Hot Springs. Just remember, no skinny dipping!

Q: Can I go river rafting at Big Bend National Park?

A: Absolutely! The Rio Grande offers several rafting opportunities. Just remember, the river doesn’t care about your plans, so always check water levels and weather conditions before heading out.

Q: Do I need a permit for backcountry camping or hiking at Big Bend?

A: You betcha! All backcountry camping requires a permit. It’s not because the park is trying to make things difficult, they just want to ensure everyone’s safety and monitor the impact on the environment.

Q: Are there any guided hikes or tours available in Big Bend?

A: Yes, guided tours and hikes are available and can be a great way to learn more about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife. It’s also an excellent option if you’re the type who can’t find their way out of a paper bag.

What can you do at Big Bend National Park?

Take a hike at Santa Elena Canyon

If you consider the best reward-to-effort ratio of any hike in the park, the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, will be the clear winner. It is one of the most breathtaking hikes here – it is a 1.7 mile round-trip walk that follows the edge of the Rio Grande River into the Santa Elena Canyon, where sheer, 1,500-feet-high walls rise up on each side of the river above you. You can wade out into the canyon from the far end of the trail when the water level is low. The hike goes up to a total of about 80 feet and offers stunning views above the river near the start.

Ride on a canoe down the Rio Grande River

The Rio Grande River winds its way along the border with Mexico, and at Santa Elena Canyon, it has cut through the earth to create 1,500-foot-high walls. If you wish to truly witness the geology of the area in its glory, then paddling through the canyon is one of the best ways to do so – it is an experience to cherish for a lifetime. Trips start from the town of Lajitas and end at the mouth of the canyon. These tours typically last all day and include lunch. You can arrange these trips either in Lajitas or Terlingua on the west side of the park. If you have your own equipment a “boomerang” trip might be on the cards! This involves paddling up through the canyon and drifting back down, but make sure you secure a proper permit.

Relax at the Hot Springs

One of the best ways to relax and unwind is at the Rio Grande Village – taking a dip in the 105-degree-Fahrenheit waters of the natural hot springs on the edge of the Rio Grande River. If hot springs aren’t your cup of tea, you can cool off with a dip in the river as well. The primitive pool is located just 0.25 miles from the parking area, along a trail running past pictographs and the remains of an old resort from the early 1900s. If you are a nature lover and don’t wish to miss out on spectacular views out over the Rio Grande River and mountains, you must walk the 0.75 mile hot springs loop. It is a picturesque trail that runs up along a ridge above the hot springs and offers views up and down the river. Taking pictures here is a must!

Drive along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

If you wish to just drive through the park and enjoy its scenic beauty, head out on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. You can see some outstanding desert scenery on the way to Castalon and the Santa Elena Canyon area. The mountain views that stretch out into the distance across the Chihuahuan Desert are simply fabulous. Stop off at the Homer Wilson Ranch Overlook to see the old homestead, but also to appreciate the view. The Mule Ear Springs Trail is accessed from this highway, but even if you are not up for the hike, you can stop at the overlook to see these twin peaks, the cores of ancient volcanoes.

Stop at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit

The area has loads of remarkable natural history that you must learn about. On the drive down from Marathon, north of Panther Junction, stop at Fossil Discovery Exhibit to know more about the geology of the park. This display opened its doors in 2017, and features outdoor rooms with informative plaques and displays. Pieces worth mentioning are the bronze skulls of a giant alligator and a Bravoceratops dinosaur, and on the ceiling in one of the rooms, a giant pterosaur, which is the largest flying creature ever known. It is quite exciting to learn about these prehistoric creatures that roamed through the Big Bend region.

Spend wonderful time at a nearby resort

Exploring the Big Bend National Park is the experience of a lifetime, but you deserve to rest and relax as well. Heading back to a luxury resort or a charming historic lodge can be a welcome treat at the end of the day. Check out the quaint little town of Marathon, situated north of the park – it offers an amazing experience with a few art galleries and the famous Gage Hotel. This historic property is an oasis and a reason in and of itself to visit this area of Texas. Built in 1927, the Gage Hotel is a wonderful place to gather around a fire pit at night with other guests, relax in front of a fireplace in one of the cozy common rooms, cool off in the pool, or enjoy some of the finest dining in the region at the hotel’s 12 Gage Restaurant.

You can spend the entire trip here, or even just one night after a multi-day hike. Alternatively, on the west side of the park is the western-style Lajitas Golf Resort, with an 18-hole golf course designed by golfing legend, Lanny Wadkins. This large resort offers all kinds of activities, from horseback riding to canoe trips. It is also just a relaxing place to hang out around the pool or enjoy a tasty meal.

Take a walk along the Nature Trail at Rio Grande Village

The Nature Trail near the Rio Grande Village is apt for those who are looking to explore a short and easy trail that abounds in scenic beauty. This trail takes you out over a pond, where the sight of turtles basking in the sun or fish swimming below the low bridge that spans the water, is a common sight. This area is lush with greenery and a sharp contrast to the surrounding desert. If you are a bird watcher, this area is great for that purpose.

On the opposite shore, the trail runs through desert scenery and provides views back over the pond and beyond to the Rio Grande River and distant mountains. The trail loops up to a lookout point. You can make this a short walk out to the bridge or do the entire walk, which is 0.75 miles.

Take a peek at the Ghost Town of Terlingua

Study Butte and Terlingua are just three to four miles from the west entrance to the park, and the Terlingua Ghost Town is six to seven miles down the road from here. Want to experience what life is like in a very small town in this area of West Texas? Then a quick stop for lunch in the Terlingua Ghost Town should definitely be on your to-do list. The Terlingua Trading Company is one of the biggest establishments in town, with a good selection of souvenirs, crafts, jewelry, and other random items. The Starlight Theatre Restaurant is right next door, with indoor dining and live music – you can spend an enjoyable hour here. Nearby is the Posada Milagro, a very good breakfast and early lunch stop with a lovely outdoor patio.

Go to the Mexican Village of Boquillas

If you wish to make a pit stop at a Mexican Village, you must remember to carry your passport, or else you won’t be allowed to make that trip. At Boquillas Crossing, a border guard will scan your passport before you walk down to the river and hail a rowboat from the far shore. The boat picks you up and drops you at the Mexican shore of the Rio Grande River, from where you can get a ride on a horse or donkey, or in a vehicle, depending upon how adventurous you feel! It is about a mile up to the village from the river. Walking is fine, but the trip is all uphill so scout your options beforehand. You might want to pay for the ride into the village and then walk back down. A few restaurants offer beverages and food. This makes a nice little afternoon outing for lunch.

Check out the sunset over the Window

The Window, which is a massive V-shaped notch in the mountainside, offers a brilliant glimpse of the sky and desert off in the distance. From the Chisos Basin Visitors Center, you have to head out to a 0.3 mile trail that leads out to the Window View, which is a great spot to watch the sunset. You can actually do this short, wheelchair-accessible trail at any time of day for a look out over the Chisos Basin to the Window, but at night, the rocks form a silhouette, with the colorful sky in the background.

Explore more hiking trails

For those who get immense adrenaline rush while hiking or trekking, you can plan some big adventures here with multi-day hikes or embark on some of the epic day hikes, like Emory Peak or the South Rim. On the other hand, if you are in the mood for modest hikes, you can check out the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, Lost Mine Trail, or the Windows Trails that have fantastic scenery as well. For the serious hiker who wants to backpack through the park, the 30-mile Outer Mountain Loop is an outstanding way to experience Big Bend.

Spend a night camping under the dark skies

Did you know that Big Bend National Park is a designated National Dark Sky Park? Since this area is pretty isolated, the is almost free from all light pollution, which is why the night sky is so clear and beautiful – it looks like a sea of diamonds with constellations visible in exceptional clarity. Camping at any of the Big Bend campgrounds will give you a front row seat to this nighttime spectacle, particularly on a moonless night. This is also an excellent opportunity to see the park’s wildlife. If you camp in the Cottonwood Campground, you have a good chance of seeing some interesting birds like javelinas, roadrunners, vermilion flycatchers, and great horned owls.

Spend time at the Chisos Basin Area

Situated in the mountains not far from Panther Junction, the Chisos Basin Area offers a full range of facilities. You can dine with a view out to the Window from the Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant and Patio, pick up stuff like supplies, souvenir jewelry, and clothing at the Basin Convenience store, or start with one of the many hikes at the Chisos Basin Trailheads. You can check out the Emory Peak, South Rim, Chisos Basin Loop, Window View, and Window Trail hikes. This area is also home to the Chisos Mountain Lodge, and just below is the Chisos Basin Campground.

List of stuff to do

What is the entrance fee to park?

As of now the park entrance fees are $30 per vehicle and $15 per individual. Fees and passes are available at visitor centers or entrance stations. You can purchase a Big Bend Annual Pass at $55 – it includes entrance fees to the park for one year. Fees are subject to change, so it is best to verify before you visit.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to Big Bend National Park right away!


Travel cards earn rewards


Leave a Reply