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  • Writer's pictureJodi

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Visiting Big Bend National Park

Top 10 Things to See & Do at Big Bend National Park

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1. Hiking

There are many trails from easy to strenuous located through out the park.

Here's a look at what we did.

The Chisos Mountain Area

  • Lost Mine Trail: Moderate 4.8 miles/3 hours round trip

This trail took us approximately 2 hours round trip. Has incredible views.

  • The Window Trail: Moderate 4.4-5.6 miles/3-4 hours round trip

We jogged this trail. It took us

approximately 25 minutes to get down the trail and 30 minutes to bet back up. The end of this trail is incredible. Well worth the hike. Be careful if you plan to trail run, there are mountain lions and bobcats in the desert here. It is not recommend to run or jog on any of the trails at any given time.

  • Emory Peak & The South Rim Trail: Strenuous 15 miles/10 hours round trip.

We combine these two trails for a day hike. We left at 8:00 AM starting at the Basin Store, taking the Pinnacles Trail to Emory Peak Trail. We reached the beginning of the Emory Peak Trail at 9:20 AM. From there it took us 40 minutes to hike to Emory Peak and approximately 30 minutes to hike back. We continued up Boot Spring Trail to Boot Canyon Trail to the Southwest Rim, and back down the Laguna Meadow Trail. We returned to the Basin Store at 3:30 PM. Total hiking time of 6.5 hours with a total break time of 1 hour. Total time round-trip of 7.5 hours. Both Emory Peak and the South Rim Trail has incredible views.

2. Relax in the Hot Spring

Located near Rio Grande Village. Take Hot Springs Road 1.9 miles to the hot spring parking area. This is a gravel/dirt road. We do not recommend taking your RV down this road. From the parking area, walk past the historic buildings for approximately 10 minutes to the hot spring. Enjoy the hot spring at any hour. The Hot Spring is subject to flooding during rising river levels.

We parked our 25' RV at the RV turnaround area on Hot Springs Road and took our dirt bike the rest of the way to the parking area. (Do not take your RV past the RV turnaround area).

3. Enjoy a day trip to Mexico

The Boquillas Port of Entry is open Wednesday to Sunday 9:00am-6:00pm (summer), 8:00am-5:00pm (winter). Remember to bring your Passport.

Park at the Boquillas Crossing parking lot. Take a boat ride across the Rio Grande river for $5 round-trip or walk across the river if the river level is low. Once across the river you can walk 1/4 mile to the village or pay to ride on a burro, horse, or ride in a vehicle. Local guides are available.

We walked across the river and rode donkeys into the little village for $5 a person. We left the donkeys on the corner just as we entered the village. We then checked in at their immigration office, filled out a short form, showed our passports, and payed a small fee of $2. When we were done checking out the village we walked back to the corner where we had left our donkeys at. We rode the donkeys back to the river area, and then walked back across the river. U.S. Boarder Patrol check our passports, asked us a couple questions, and then we were on our way back to exploring Big Bend.

It was a fun experience riding the donkeys into the village and back.

4. Bicycling

Lightly traveled roads and varied terrain make Big Bend a premier bicycling location. Over 100 miles of paved roads and 160 miles of backcountry dirt roads provide challenges for riders of all types and abilities.

5. River Trips

There are many possibilities including half-day floats or multi-day excursions. Contact a local outfitter on guided trips, equipment rental, and shuttle services.

6. Scenic Drives

Taking a scenic drive can be an ideal way to explore the park if you have limited time.

7. Fossil Discovery Exhibit

Be sure to stop here first after you enter the park through the Persimmon Gap Entrance. The Fossil Discovery Exhibit is located 8 miles north of Panther Junction on (Highway 385) Main Park Road.

At the Fossil Discovery Exhibit you can experience the changes to Big Bend's plants and animals, and the world they lived in, through 130 million years of geologic time. Specimens from Big Bend's remarkable fossil record and vivid artwork illustrate the fascinating story of Big Bend's ancient life.

8. Bird Watching

Big Bend's position near the 100th meridian in the middle of the continent and along a migration route makes the park ideal for bird diversity throughout the year.

9. Stargazing

On the clearest nights, around 2,000 stars are visible to the naked eye!

Something for the kids

10. Become a Junior Ranger!

While visiting Big Bend National Park, pick up a Junior Ranger Activity Booklet at any park visitor center. Complete the appropriate activities for your age group (listed inside) and return the booklet to any visitor center. When your booklet is completed you will receive your badge and join the proud ranks of Big Bend Junior Rangers.

Planning your stay at Big Bend National Park

There are 3 ways to stay at Big Bend National Park

1. Lodging: There are rooms for rent at the Chisos Basin. Chisos Mountain Lodge

2. RV Camping:

Boondocking Primitive Roadside Campsites - $10 Permit for up to 14 consecutive nights.

  • Primitive Backcountry Road Campsites: There are Primitive Backcountry Road Campsites along backcountry roads. Sites are along unpaved roads and offer a location to park your vehicle and set up a tent. There are no amenities, aside from a large animal-proof box to store food and other items. Sites are accessible to most vehicles, however a high clearance and/or 4-wheel drive vehicle is necessary to reach those along the primitive dirt roads. There are no primitive roadside campsites in the Chisos Mountains. A backcountry permit is required. These sites can only be reserved 24 hours in advance at the Visitor Center and are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. (Be sure to go to the Visitor Center at the time they open because these sites go quickly).

*We camped one night at the Paint Gap-1 campsite along a backcountry road. Our RV is 25' with a 4' trailer attached, total length of 29'.

Boondocking Campgrounds - $14 per night.

  • Chisos Basin Campground: Trailers over 20' and RV's over 24' are not recommended. Water and dump station at campground. Flush toilets, running water, grills, and picnic tables. Register at self-pay station. Reservable from Nov. 15 - May 31.

*We camped at the Chisos Basin Campground with no problem. Our RV is 25' with a 4' trailer attached, total length of 29'.

  • Rio Grande Village Campground: Can accommodate larger rigs. Water and dump station nearby. Flush toilets, running water, grills, and picnic tables. Register at self-pay station. Reservable from Nov. 15 - April 15.

  • Cottonwood Campground: No dump station, no generators allowed. Pit toilets, picnic tables, grills, and water are available. Register at self-pay station. No reservable campsites, first-come, first-serve basis.

Full Hook-ups - $36 and up.

  • Rio Grande Village RV Campground: Periodically, a few sites may not be available for a 40' or longer RVs due to the size of the parking lot and orientation of the spaces available. 20 sites are reservable, 5 are held for first-come, first-serve RV Campers. Register at the Rio Grande Village Store, call, or book online.

3. Tent Camping:

Primitive Campsites - $10 Permit for up to 14 consecutive nights.

  • Wilderness Camping: Permits are available to experienced hikers intending to camp within the park's open desert areas.

  • Primitive Backcountry Road Campsites: Sites are along unpaved roads and offer a location to park your vehicle and set up a tent. There are no amenities, aside from a large animal-proof box to store food and other items.

  • Primitive Backpacking Campsites: Backpack one to eight miles from the trailhead to a primitive campsite.

Permits for primitive roadside campsites, backpacking, and wilderness use permits can be issued at any visitor center during operating hours. All permits are issued in person and must be obtained before the backcountry use. These sites can only be reserved 24 hours in advance at the Visitor Center and are issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

Boondocking Campgrounds - $14 per night.

  • Chisos Basin Campground

  • Cottonwood Campground

  • Rio Grande Village Campground

Camping Limits

Visitors can stay in the park up to 14 consecutive nights in either a front or backcountry site, with a limit of 28 total nights in the park in a calendar year. Campers can occupy a specific site up to 14 total nights in a year. Between February 1–April 15, visitors are limited to a total of 14 nights in the park.

What you must know before you go!

Rules and Regulations

1. No pets on trails or in the backcountry. Pets are not allowed on trails, off roads, or on the river. Your pet can only go where your car can go.

2. Ground fires and wood fires are prohibited.

3. Do not feed wildlife.

4. Drones/Unmanned Aircraft are prohibited.

5. Firearms: Texas state laws apply. More information at a visitor center or on the park website.

This is a short list of rules and regulations but not limited to. For more information on all the rules and regulations see a park ranger, check the visitor enter, and/or the parks website.


Wifi/ Cell Phone Service

Free wifi is available at the Panther Junction Visitor Center, Chisos Basin Visitor Center, Chisos Mountains Lodge, and the Rio Grande Village Store. Cell phone service is unreliable.

Gas Stations and Propane

Gasoline and diesel are available at Panter Junction and Rio Grande Village Store. Panther Junction has propane exchange. Rio Grande Village offers propane refilling.

Showers and Laundry

Pay showers and laundry facilities are avaible at the Rio Grande Village Store.


There is one restaurant located at the Chisos Basin.

Post Office

A full-service post office is located at Panther Junction.

For more information about the park, visit Big Bend National Park.

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