There are entire books about Big Bend National Park, so my little blog post here isn’t going to be able to tell you everything you need to know, or even most of what you need to know, about visiting Big Bend National Park. But I hope it will convey this one thing to you; you NEED to visit Big Bend National Park! It’s such an incredible place, and although it shouldn’t be visited unprepared, it’s not unapproachable. I hope this helps to get you started, and maybe point you in the right direction to a trip you will never forget!
Know Before You Go
Entrance into the park is $30.00/vehicle, and is good for 7 days. Consider a National Parks Pass, which not only gets you in the park, but also Army Corp of Engineer Parks across the state and country.
Be prepared. Take plenty of water, enough for 2 days for every person in your car, even if you only plan on staying for a few hours.
There are 2 gas stations in Big Bend National Park, but be sure you have plenty of gas. It’s a good rule to always keep your tank full, which means filling up every chance you get.
Carry a compass and trail map on all trails. Trail maps are sold at most trail heads for $1, but during peak times they may be out. Don’t depend on your phone or GPS, as service is iffy.
Check the calendar for FREE Ranger-led programs, guided hikes, talks and workshops. Offered daily.
Lost Mine Trail
When we arrived, I was completely set on hiking the window trail first, but the gate attendant suggested that we hike the Lost Mine Trail instead! At 5 miles round-trip, it’s a bit longer and it ascends up 1,300 feet.
It’s a very popular trail, and takes about 2.5-3 hours, depending on how much time you spend at the top.
Parking is very limited.
Be sure to take plenty of water, and it’s a perfect place at the top of the trail for lunch or a snack.
Dogs are not allowed on the trail.
Keep small children near you while hiking in Big Bend.
At the trailhead, as well as in all the campsites, are these Bear Proof Food Storage boxes. Be sure to keep food locked up in your car or in one of these boxes if in a pickup or jeep. Never EVER feed a bear, or any wild animal.
Want to know the legend of the Lost Mine? Click HERE to visit nps.gov and read the story!
From the top of the trail, you can see the Rio Grande, and about 70 miles into Mexico. Across the Rio Grande is the Parque Nacional Canon de Santa Elena, a protected area in Mexico of over 227,000 hectares. A hectare is equal to approximately 100 acres, which makes it a LOT larger than Big Bend National Park.
Horses grazing in Big Bend National Park. There are not wild horses at Big Bend, however horses from Mexico often cross the river to graze. There are also wild or feral burros and cattle that also roam back and forth across the river.
There are plenty of trails for jeeps and ORVs.
The “ruins” at Hot Springs Historic Village can be found on the trail down to the hot springs.
Walking trail down to the river.
Hot Springs Trail
There are several hot springs that flow into the Rio Grande, but the easiest to reach is in the National Park.
Parking for the trailhead is down a narrow dirt road, and is not wide enough for RV’s, trailers or dually trucks.
There is a restroom at the trailhead.
Bring your swimsuit, and sunscreen, and water. Always have plenty of water in Big Bend.
Look along the cliffs on the trail for Native American petroglyphs, which were “carved” into the rock.
This old building was the Langford Post Office. There are 2 ruins along the trail. Mexican vendors will cross the Rio Grande to sell small trinkets outside the buildings, but be aware that this is illegal.
In 1909 a bathhouse was built at the source of the Hot Springs, on the shore of the Rio Grande. People would come to soak in the 105 degree, mineral-rich water. Today only the foundation remains, but you can soak in the water, about 1.5′ deep when we visited. High water levels will flood the springs.
The Hot Springs Trail also leads to the Rio Grande, and it’s a good place to put in a canoe, raft, or even just to tube the river down to the Rio Grande Village campsite.
Tunnel on the way to Boquilles Canyon and Crossing, and the Rio Grande Village Camping Area.
Boquilles Crossing is a border crossing into Mexico. Open Wed. – Sunday, $5/person will take you across the river in a small boat. That is you, not your car. Once in Mexico, you can hire a handler to take you to the border/tourist town of Boquilles for lunch and souvenir shopping. Passports are required.
We didn’t camp, but we did drive around and scout for future campsites. Campsites in the Chisos Basin Campground were right on the edge of the cliffs, with dramatic views!
We also loved Rio Grande Village, which had lovely trees and gave the campsites a bit more privacy. As the name implies, there is also access to the river.
We never made it to Cottonwood Campground, near the Santa Elena Canyon. I know, it sounds crazy that we went all the way to Big Bend but didn’t make that drive, but it’s over 40 miles one way!
Click HERE to visit the website page on camping.
The Lodge is located in the Chisos Basin. We were allowed to sneak-a-peak inside one of The Lodge rooms, which is similar to a small motel room.
I LOVE the cabins at Big Bend National Park, which can be reserved starting the first day of January, for the following year. A couple of the cabins have an incredible view of The Window from their patios! It’s VERY hard to get reservations on these cabins, especially on holiday weekends.
Along with The Lodge and Cabins, there is also a Visitors Center, Restaurant and Park Store at Chisos Basin. As with gas in the park, be prepared to pay a little more.
Great Resources on Big Bend National Park
I purchased Enjoying Big Bend National Park: A Friendly Guide to Adventure for Everyone by Gary Clark. I really enjoy this author, and his stories of over 30 years of visiting Big Bend. He is also a nature columnist for the Houston Chronicle and has written several other Texas travel books, including Backroads of the Texas Hill Country.
More to do in the Big Bend Area
Big Bend Stables and Lajitas Stables offer 1/2 day, day and even 3 day trips into the Chihuahua Desert! We loved it, and it’s an incredible way to experience Big Bend! Click HERE to read more.
Just past Lajitas and the Big Bend Ranch State Park, the Rio Grande tumbles across the landscape. Far Flung Outdoor Center offers river rafting trips from a 1/2 day to 30 days! They also offer jeep, ATV and hiking tours! Please click HERE for more information.
See the pictographs on Indian Head Mountain in Study Butte. Ancient man left his mark all over the mountains of Big Bend, but one of the easiest to see is in Study Butte. Indian Head Mountain road takes you right to the Big Bend National Park boundary (not an entrance), and the pictographs are located right off the road.
Terlingua Ghost Town has dining, shopping and unique places to stay in the old ruins of this Quicksilver mining ghost town. Click HERE to read more.
Lajitas Golf Resort and RV Park host luxurious rooms, a golf course, restaurant, spa, shops and the only swimming pool I could find in the area! We didn’t have time, but I heard their zipline across the canyon is breathtaking! Click HERE to visit their website.
Big Bend Ranch State Park is 300,000 acres stretched along the Rio Grande River. Camping is all primitive. Click HERE to visit their website. The Visitors Center has an interesting interpretive center and garden.
The River Road, named one of the most scenic drives in the United States, stretches 40 some-odd miles from Lajitas to Presidio. The road curves and dives through the mountains, with plenty of stops along the way for scenic overlooks. It is also the steepest road in Texas, at a 17% incline. After your drive, stop in the Big Bend Ranch State Park store for a souvenir River Road t-shirt.
Ojinaga, Mexico lies just across the border from Presidio, and is not really a border town, but does boast a good restaurant in the plaza. Be sure and take your passports for everyone in your family, you can’t get into Mexico without them, and you can’t get back.
Mariscal Mine is one of the regions abandoned Quicksilver Mines. Although you can find several in the area, the Mariscal is said to be the best preserved. Click HERE to visit their webpage.
Big Bend National Park
Click HERE to visit their website.
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