Have you ever been somewhere where you’ve felt really small? When you’re traveling through Big Bend, you’ll understand how the dinosaurs once roamed this vast landscape. The park is so large that it is bigger than the state of Rhode Island, so you’ll definitely need a Big Bend Travel Guide. I have been to more than half of the National Parks and this is in my top five!
In Big Bend National Park there are various types of landscapes like desert, forest, and mountains. I was only able to go for a day and I was blown away by my trip to Big Bend. I barely scraped the surface of everything there is to do, so I can’t wait to go back to this beautiful park. Read below for everything you need to know!
Table of Contents
Complete Guide to Big Bend National Park
When to Go to Big Bend
Big Bend is best during the Spring and Fall seasons. During those times of the year, you’ll experience mild temperatures and see wildflowers throughout the park. If you go in the summer, you will have to deal with the extreme heat. While the winter is often mild, there’s a chance that you will see snow in the park and trails may be covered.
How to Get There
The closest airport to Big Bend is Midland/Odessa, but the drive is still 200 miles from the park. Most visitors start from one of the larger cities and then drive from there. You can get to Big Bend from San Antonio, Houston, or Austin. We drove from Austin and it took about 6 ½ hours.
Where to Stay
You can stay in the park or choose to stay in a town outside. The only lodge in the park is Chisos Mountain Lodge, but there are plenty of camping options within the park. There are four campgrounds in the park, but you may need reservations for some of them. Read more about them here.
If you’d rather stay outside the park, you can stay in either Marathon or Terlingua, which are both half an hour from the park. We stayed in an airbnb in Marathon and we had the best time.
Big Bend Travel Guide: Things to Do in Big Bend
Big Bend is immense, so there are three areas that divide the park. These areas are the Chisos Basin Mountains, Santa Elena Canyon, and Boquillas Canyon. Driving time between the areas can be more than an hour, so you will want to plan around that!
Chisos Basin Mountain Area
Lost Mine Trail
This 5.6 mile trail climbs through the mountains and offers stunning views over the basin below. We hiked this park a few weeks ago, and there were multiple times we just stopped to take in the fantastic views. The trail is moderate, but it was well worth the climb.
If you want to climb to the highest area in the park, then you’ll want to do this trail. The trail is more than 10 miles long and climbs up 2400 feet. At the top, you will get amazing views of the park. I can’t wait to go back to do this one.
The Windows are probably the most popular areas of the park. You can do a 2.2 mile trail to get a great view of the windows or just walk to the overlook for an easier payoff. For sunset lovers, you’ll want to stay here to watch the sun sky behind the peaks.
South Rim Trail
South Rim is one of the longest trails in the park and it will take you most of the day, but people love it. It’s 12 miles long and climbs uphill and eventually you’ll get great views of the Chisos basin. If I had more time in the park, this would have been the number one thing on my list.
Chisos Mountain Lodge
For visitors who want to stay in the park, this is the only place to stay. You’ll be in the center of the Chisos Mountain area and you’ll have amazing views surrounding you.
Santa Elena Canyon
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
Start at the Chisos Mountain Area and turn left to take the beautiful drive through the stunning landscapes. Along the way, you’ll see many areas where you want to stop and take in the views. Finally, you’ll end up at the gorgeous Santa Elena Canyon and don’t forget to stop at the overlook.
Santa Elena Canyon Trail
While this trail is really short, it’s very memorable. We chose to do the 1.5 mile hike for the sunrise and we were not disappointed. You’ll climb uphill for a short while before you make your way back down to get into the canyon. The sun reflects off the canyon walls and provides a gorgeous glow.
Rio Grande Nature Trail
This trail is perfect for people that want to do something easy, but want to see beautiful areas. You’ll get the chance to see a variety of landscapes and natural features as you walk along a man-made boardwalk.
Boquilas Canyon Trail
Hiking this was one of the highlights of my trip. This trail goes up a small hill before going down into the canyon. The Rio Grande flows next to the trail and is the dividing line between the US and Mexico. Once you get to the end, you will see the canyon’s depths and you can soak your feet in the shimmering blue water.
If you want to go to Mexico, then you’re going to need to bring your passport. You’ll pass through the border and make your way into the charming town. This city makes its money from the US tourists and it’s very safe. Unfortunately, it was closed when we went because of COVID, but I’ll get there next time!
Boquillas Hot Springs
These springs are only a half mile down the trail and the water usually sits above 100 degrees. They are the perfect place to relax after a long day of hiking. I was so sad that they were closed, but another excuse to go back!
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