Big Bend is the largest park in the U.S. parks system, stretching across more than 800,000 acres of south Texas. There are two entry/exit points: one in the southwest from Texas State Road 118, one in the northeast from Texas State Road 385. Big Bend offers 150+ miles of hiking trails, extensive backcountry areas, diverse plant and animal life, great camping and river-trip opportunities on the Rio Grande. Plan for at least a two-day visit.
The largest concentration of designated hiking trails is in the Chisos Mountain section of the park, which provides a variety of short to full-day hikes with breath-taking views of the surrounding mountains. Window View Trail, Window Trail and Basin Loop Trail are three beginner level options useful for acclimation to the area and climate.
There are beautiful multiday backcountry hiking trips along the north rim of the Rio Grande starting from Castolon Visitor Center. The Chisos Mountain area also offers several multiday options. Permits must be obtained for backcountry hiking
and camping at the Panther Junction Ranger Station.
Trips on the Rio Grande
Commercial trips run through the Big Bend section of the Rio Grande and beyond year round. Call Big Bend River Tours at 1-800-545-4240 for more information. If you seek a private trip, a permit must be obtained at the Panther Junction Ranger Station. Call 432-477-2251 for more information.
Plant and Animal Identification
Big Bend stretches across desert, riparian and high alpine ecosystems. This mix offers diverse and unique plants and animals. Javelina pigs are prevalent in the mountains and herons and other river birds nest by the water. Note the many species of cactus, lizards and snakes that live in the desert. Local plant and animal guides, ranging in price from $5 to $25, are available at any visitor center.
Big Bend offers a variety of developed campgrounds, primitive options, and backcountry camping. Rio Grande Village on the east side of the park, Chisos Basin in the center of the Chisos Mountains and Cottonwood Campground in the southwest section of the park near Santa Elena Canyon all offer developed campgrounds.
Article Written By Caroline Schley
Based in New York City, Caroline Schley has been writing articles on fitness, social interaction and politics since 2008. Her articles have appeared in "The Tahoe Weekly," "Second Line News" and websites, including Eatthestate.org. Schley graduated from CU Boulder in 2005 with a degree in environmental science.