How to Camp at Big Bend National Park

How to Camp at Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park, located along a sizable run of the Rio Grande River in Texas, is a popular place to visit because of its combination of mountain, desert and riverfront terrain. Still, the hot and unforgiving climate compels most campers to avoid summer visits. In addition to seasonal considerations, there is a short list of rules and regulations to keep in mind when planning a camping visit to the park.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Admission pass Backcountry permit (optional) Charcoal or portable stove Water supply (backcountry only) Clothing appropriate to the season
  • Admission pass
  • Backcountry permit (optional)
  • Charcoal or portable stove
  • Water supply (backcountry only)
  • Clothing appropriate to the season
Step 1
Pay the general admission fee upon arrival at the park. In 2009, this was $20 per private vehicle for a week's pass. Those camping at national parks frequently should consider the $80 annual inter-agency pass. There is also a 14-consecutive-day limit on camping, but this does not refer to the admission pass, so long stays will require renewal of the basic one-week pass.
Step 2
Make a reservation if you are RV camping between Nov. 15 and April 15. These reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance.
Step 3
Choose between developed frontcountry and primitive backcountry camping if you are using a tent and not an RV or a trailer. The park has two frontcountry campgrounds: Chisos Basin and Cottonwood. Both have running water, toilets and grills. Tent sites there or at the Rio Grande RV campground were $14 per night in 2009.
Step 4
Pay for a backcountry permit to camp overnight at primitive sites in the park. In 2009, the fee was $10.
Step 5
Pack either charcoal or a portable camp stove, such as a Primus stove. Campfires are absolutely prohibited in the park, so all cooking must be done either at a frontcountry grill or with a camp stove. Bringing along electric generators is also forbidden, so do not plan on using electric hot plates.
Step 6
Adhere to "leave no trace" standards. That means pack out all of your trash, do not build any campsite "improvements" such as shelter walls, avoid wandering off trails and creating switchbacks, and exercise proper sanitation procedures to avoid contaminating local water sources.
Step 7
Bring adequate water supplies to a backcountry camping site. Many sites are not far from a road, and therefore sufficient bottled water can be brought along in a vehicle. This will minimize any strain on local water sources in the more arid parts of Big Bend.
Step 8
Dress appropriately. Most visitors to Big Bend avoid the summer months, but it can get quite chilly at night (35 degrees Fahrenheit) during the winter. Bring warm clothes. Summer visitors need to keep in mind that Big Bend is in the desert, and wear light, loose clothing that covers much of their skin as protection from the sun. A sun hat during the summer is also a good idea.

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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