Big Bend National Park is one of the most unique and remote national parks in the country. In fact, it’s so remote that it’s one of the least visited parks. So, if you don’t like the crowds that most national parks have, Big Bend is where you should go RVing this year. Just because it’s the least visited doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the long drive south. There are so many reasons to visit this 801,163-acre park!
Why Visit Big Bend National Park in Your RV?
Big Bend has an incredibly diverse landscape: mountains, desert, rivers, forest, and even waterfalls. So, whatever your favorite outdoor activity is, you’re sure to enjoy it there.
It’s also the largest Chihuahuan Desert protected region in the country and home to the southernmost mountain range in the U.S., the Chisos Mountains. Its unique landscape is home to more than 1,200 plant species and more species of bird than any other national park. It’s openness and lack of light pollution also makes it one of the best places to stargaze.
Things to Do at Big Bend National Park
With over 800,000 acres of land in Big Bend. There’s plenty to do. Don’t come here without being prepared to explore. Here are a few options.
Take a Hike…or Three
There’s an abundance of hikes for all ability levels in Big Bend! A few of the most popular hikes are the Lost Mine Trail, The Santa Elena Canyon Trail, and the Window View Trail.
- The Lost Mine Trail, which is about 4.8 miles round trip offers some of the best views. It’s moderately challenging, leads to a ridge overlooking Pine Canyon and Mexico’s Sierra del Carmen.
- The Window Trail is an easier hike and one of the most popular in the park. It leads you to a narrow pour-off, overlooking the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert. The pour-off resembles a “window” and offers incredible views, especially at sunset, but only if you’re brave enough to hike back in the dark.
- The Santa Elena Canyon Trail consists of stairs that take you up the canyon and then leads you to a trail down to the Rio Grande. You can cool off between the canyon walls in what feels like a little oasis. Walking just about half way across the river will put you in Mexico!
Go to Mexico
Don’t forget your passport. Around 118 miles of the Big Bend National Park border run along the international border between Mexico and the U.S. At the Boquillas Crossing, you can either walk or take a small boat across the Rio Grande to the small village of Boquillas.
Once across, you can hitch a ride in a pickup truck, walk, or if you’re feeling adventurous, rent your own donkey, to take you up into the village. While the village is very small, there are a few restaurants, souvenir shops, and even a B&B. Most tourists grab a margarita and a taco and head back to the park.
Soak in the Hot Springs
The hot springs are the perfect way to relax after all the outdoor activities you’ll enjoy. They offer the most peaceful setting since they are right along the Rio Grande. Since the daytime is too hot and sunset is the most popular time, making the springs a little crowded, we recommend visiting at sunrise. There’s a short, leisurely hike to the springs, making the soak extra rewarding!
Take a day trip to Terlingua and Lajitas
Depending on where you are in the park, Terlingua and Lajitas are both within a short drive and can’t be missed. Terlingua is an abandoned ghost town and home to the historic Chisos Mining Company. You’ll enjoy the quirky roadside attractions, local dining spots, and even some shopping.
Lajitas is quite the opposite of Terlingua. It features a modern resort with an 18-hole golf course, restaurant, swimming pools, zip line, spa, and horseback riding. Whatever you choose to do there, you absolutely can’t miss the town’s mayor, a beer drinking goat named Clay Henry III!
Don’t forget about Big Bend Ranch State Park
Many visitors skip a visit to Big Bend Ranch State Park and focus solely on the national park. But, many would argue that the state park offers equally, if not better, scenery. It’s actually Texas’s largest state park and offers a rugged volcanic landscape and a more “wild west” experience. Most of the hiking trails are primitive with few signs, making it a great place for some solitude.
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is considered one of the best drives in Texas. It’s approximately 40 miles and takes you through the park’s most scenic landscapes. The drive ends at the breathtaking Santa Elena Canyon, where you can hike the canyon and then cool off in the Rio Grande.
When to Visit Big Bend National Park
The best time to visit Big Bend is in the spring or the fall. Summer brings crowds and temperatures of up to 100 degrees. It’s also important to remember that the desert is a place of extremes! In the winter, temperatures can dip down to the 30’s making it hard to enjoy everything the park has to offer.
The desert flowers bloom sometime between March and April, making it the most popular time to visit. However, fewer crowds and comfortable weather make September to November a great time as well.
Where RVers Can Stay
Choosing where to camp is really a matter of preference. There are four different campgrounds inside the park and while you’ll need to make reservations well in advance, camping inside the park can be a real treat. You’ll experience the best stargazing and be close to all the adventure.
Camping outside the park will likely mean you’ll have to drive long distances in order to explore since the park is so large. However, staying outside the park is the only way you’ll have cell service since the only way to get wifi is at the visitor centers.
Also, many campsites are without electricity and either don’t allow generators or have strict time frames in which you can use them. So you’ll need to decide which option is best for you, depending on these factors.
Getting to and Around Big Bend National Park
Since Big Bend is one of the most remote areas of the country, it’s extremely important to be well prepared for your drive to the park. Gas stations are hard to come by and can be hundreds of miles apart so be sure to gas up every chance you get and keep an extra couple gallons on hand, just in case.
Once inside the park, the visitor’s centers have gas, but it’s not uncommon for them to be out of service. Chances are you’ll be driving A LOT within the park since everything is spread out, so don’t risk it. That being said, you’ll definitely want a car or motorcycle inside the park, since it takes at least an hour to drive from one side to the other.
Tips and Tricks Specific to RVing at Big Bend National Park
Prepare to be out of cell service any time you are inside the park. Therefore, be sure to bring a paper map or download one on your phone. With the desert heat, you’ll want to make sure you always bring enough water along on your explorations.
Also, be aware of wildlife, especially at night, since many of the animals in the area are nocturnal. You’ll notice javelinas, coyotes, cougars, jack rabbits, deer, and even bear will be on the trails and along the side of the roads the moment the sun goes down. You’ll also want to be sure to keep your campsite clear of food and trash.
For the latest info on visiting Big Bend National Park, visit their website: Big Bend National Park
Have you been to Big Bend National Park? What tips can you share?