Big Bend National Park Travel Guide
Big Bend National Park remains one of the last true frontiers. Here’s my ultimate Big Bend National Park travel guide for planning your trip to an extremely diverse landscape with endless possibilities for adventure and discovery.
Amazing mountains, clear starry night skies, ghost towns and beautiful desert landscapes; a visit to Big Bend National Park is definitely worth the trip. Sometimes considered “three parks in one,” Big Bend includes mountain, desert, and river environments. An hour’s drive can take you from the banks of the Rio Grande to the mountain peaks.
“Explore one of the last remaining wild corners of the United States, and experience unmatched sights and solitude.”
Best time to Visit
The best time of year to visit Big Bend National Park is the spring or the fall. In summer months from late May through August, the temperatures can reach up to 100 degrees and winter temperatures in December, January and February can dip into the 30s.
Spring is the busiest – during March and April and sometimes into May when the Texas school districts, colleges, and universities are on spring break. Thanksgiving and Christmas can be extremely busy too.
We visited in March right after spring break ended as the park can get crowded during the spring break holiday.
Please make sure to check the weather conditions in Big Bend National park before planning your travel dates.
How to Get There
Now, getting to Big Bend National Park is half the adventure. Yes, it does seem far, but it’s worth the long drive to see one of Texas’ most beautiful destinations. If you are flying in, the closest airports are in El Paso or in Midland. You can then rent a car and drive 4.5 hours (from El Paso) or 3 hours (from Midland).
From the east, Houston/Austin/San Antonio areas, you can take Hwy 90 or I-10. The speed limit is higher on I-10, so you will save a bit of time.
Top Things to Do
If you’re like most travelers and can only spend a week in West Texas, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many options in the area. Big Bend National Park region is filled with enchanting secrets just waiting to be explored; gorgeous night skies, epic hiking trails and diverse landscape not found anywhere else. To make the most of your trip is less than a week, here are some of the activities you don’t want to miss.
01 — Hiking
Big Bend National Park is home to some of the most spectacular hikes. The Big Bend region sprawls forever, across prickly deserts, into rugged canyons
Where to start? That’s tough, but I’ve picked some of the best and most popular trails in the park.
02 — Visit Terlingua Ghost Town
Terlingua is an amazing town in a lot of different ways, making it the perfect place to stop or stay when visiting Big Bend National Park. If you are like me and always loved the idea of the Wild West, then I promise you, it’s an experience you’ll never forgot.
Though small in size, surprisingly, there’s no lack of things to do in Terlingua. It has everything I love about small towns: a unique vibe, close-knit, yet welcoming community, and simple authentic food.
Check out my top favorite places to see in Terlingua, that’ll make you fall in love with it!
“Big Bend National Park offers experiences that will both challenge and charm you.”
03 — Raft or Canoe through Rio Grande
The Rio Grande River offers some great river rafting, canoe, and kayak trips.
Although there is not much whitewater rafting – the vertical gorges soaring up to 1500 feet will take your breath away.
There are several outfitters that offer rentals and full-service trips including gourmet dining and live Texas campfire music. You can either sign up for an overnight rafting trip or just a day trip floating on the river.
04 — Stargazing and Night Sky Watching
Did you know that Big Bend National Park is also an International Dark Sky Park, one of only 10 in the whole world? It’s the best park in the lower 48 for astronomers and photographers to check out the Milky Way. The stargazing in the dark Big Bend sky is extraordinary as there’s barely any light pollution.
You can see tons of stars at night and it will surely take your breath away. We had an amazing experience taking photos of the Milky Way in Big Bend National Park.
05 — Horseback Riding
Why go to west Texas if you aren’t going to ride a horse into the sunset?
Big Bend and Lajitas Stables will saddle you up a gentle horse led by a friendly knowledgeable guide into the most spectacularly beautiful and rugged country in West Texas. You can appreciate the diversity of The Chihuahuan Desert from tall in the saddle; remember to holler yeehaw!
There’s no place quite like Big Bend National Park, and I’ll definitely be back to explore it even further.
06 — Soak in Hot Springs
After a day on the trails or driving through the parks scenic roads, you should try a sunset soak in the famous Langford Hot Springs. This historic hot springs is tucked away down a two-mile dirt road in Big Bend National Park adjacent to the Rio Grande.
The naturally 105°F heated spring water is renowned for its healing powers, where petroglyphs (rock art) coat the canyon walls nearby.
Where to Eat
There aren’t a lot of places to eat inside the park. The Chisos Mountain Lodge has a restaurant, but that’s the only one. Several dining opportunities and convenience stores are located outside the park in the communities of Terlingua, Study Butte, and Marathon.
There are also stores at Castolon, Panther Junction, Rio Grande Village and the Basin Camp where you can buy cold beverages, snack, ice cream or food for a cookout.
01 — Chisos Mountain Lodge
This restaurant offers some of the most spectacular views of the Chisos Basin and has a nice selection of Texas-inspired entrees.
02 — Starlight Theatre
Located in the historic Terlingua Ghost Town, the adobe building is the fanciest restaurant in town.
03 — Gage Hotel
The historic Gage Hotel in the charming town of Marathon has a great restaurant and a bar.
What to Pack
Big Bend National Park has a harsh climate and unpredictable weather. The park includes mountain, desert, and river environments. Refer my Big Bend National Park travel guide for ideas, but my best advice is to choose comfort above all things. You’ll definitely want to dress in layers as it can get warm during the day or pretty chilly with the wind at night.
Not sure what to pack for Big Bend, use my packing ideas, but revise as needed based on weather and season!