Located amid the Chihuahuan Desert of southern Texas, Big Bend National Park is one of America's top outdoor attractions. Encompassing over 1,200 square miles of arid mountains, mesas, canyons and rivers, the park offers a ready answer to the question of why anyone would want to spend time in the desert. Through its many attractions, the park offers rafting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and birding, among other outdoor adventures.
The Castolon area is in the southwestern part of Big Bend, along the banks of the Rio Grande. Castolon is essentially an abandoned farming community that is now a historic district within the national park. The old La Harmonia store serves tourists and campers, rather than ranchers and soldiers. Castolon has a primitive, 35-site campground, several hiking trails and is a prime area for birding.
Situated in the middle of Big Bend, the giant cliffs surrounding the Chisos Basin create some of the most spectacular views in the park. The basin is serviced by a visitors center with a camp store and restaurant, as well as a developed campground. It sits at the center of a network of hiking trails that are suitable for day hiking and longer, back-country expeditions. The park recommends that camping trailers longer than 20 feet and RVs longer than 24 feet stay off the roads leading to the Chisos Basin, due to the steep grades and hairpin turns.
Rio Grande Village
Rio Grande Village is downriver from Castolon, about 30 miles away as the crow flies. The area is home to a hot springs, situated in the open on the banks of the Rio Grande and open for bathing. Another attraction that nature-watchers will enjoy is Beaver Pond, 100 feet down the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. This is a body of water created solely by beaver damming, thus giving a conveniently accessed opportunity to see the handiwork of some of nature's best engineers, and possibly the furry engineers themselves. There are also hiking trails in the area, including one that runs up Boquillas Canyon. The Rio Grande Village is serviced by a camp store with showers, a picnic area and two campgrounds.
Santa Elena Canyon
The Santa Elena Canyon is home to a winding white-water river with rapids rated up to Class IV, as well as the striking scenery afforded by up to 1,500-foot cliffs, the highest in Big Bend. The canyon is a popular destination for rafting, with both day trips and multiday expeditions along the river available.
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
A 30-mile marked and mapped route within Big Bend, the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive takes in some of the finest sights the park has to offer, including scenic overlooks, desert mesas, canyons and old ranches. Along the way are numerous opportunities for hiking, picnicking in the desert, mountain biking and birding. Castolon and Santa Elena Canyon are on the drive.