A stunning oasis located in the Chihuahuan Desert of far West Texas, Big Bend National Park spans 800,000 acres. The park encompasses a diverse landscape that includes the majestic Chisos Mountain Range and sweeping desert plains. It’s one of the largest and most remote parks in the United States, offering visitors an unparalleled opportunity to explore nature and discover its secrets.

From breathtaking views atop Emory Peak to river canyons, from unique wildlife to hidden caves – there’s something here for everyone! Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or an epic adventure, Big Bend has it all.

Big Bend Park Overview

Park Hours

Big Bend National Park is open every day of the year, with hours varying according to season. From April 1st through October 31st, the park is open from 8:00am until 6:00pm. During the winter season (November 1st through March 31st), the park is open from 8:00am until 5:00pm.

The entrance fee for Big Bend National Park is $25 per vehicle or $20 for individuals on foot or bicycle. Visitors can purchase an annual pass for unlimited access to any national park for just $80.

Big Bend National Park

The Chisos Mountains Visitor Center is located in the heart of Big Bend National Park and provides visitors with interpretive programs, maps, books and brochures about the park’s natural and cultural history. The center also serves as a check-in point for anyone planning to stay at one of the campgrounds within Big Bend National Park. The Chisos Basin Campground is open all year round, while Rio Grande Village Campground generally closes during winter months due to extreme cold weather conditions.

Hiking Trails in Big Bend

Big Bend National Park is a hiker’s paradise with over 150 miles of trails perfect for exploring the natural beauty of the park. The Window View Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Big Bend, offering visitors stunning views of the desert landscape and wildlife. This 4-mile trail starts from Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and takes you to a ledge overlooking the Chisos Mountains and Chihuahuan Desert. Along the way, you can take in breathtaking panoramas of Santa Elena Canyon to your left, as well as views of the surrounding mountains.

The South Rim Loop is another popular trail that provides a more challenging hiking experience. Spanning 8 miles in total, this trail offers spectacular river and canyon views from high atop South Rim’s cliffs. It’s also a great option for bird watching enthusiasts; this area is home to various species such as Mexican Jays, Orange-crowned Warblers, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, and Northern Flickers.

Those looking for an even greater challenge should consider tackling Emory Peak Trail – Big Bend’s tallest peak at 7,825 feet high. This 11-mile strenuous hike takes about 6–7 hours to complete but rewards hikers with some of the most beautiful sights in Texas including breathtaking vistas over Mexico and parts of Big Bend Ranch State Park. It’s also possible to see touches of lush green vegetation on top as well as snow in winter months!

Wildlife in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is home to an impressive array of wildlife, including over 450 species of birds, 75 species of mammals, 56 different types of reptiles, and 32 varieties of fish. From the majestic Golden Eagles to the iconic roadrunners, the bird population within Big Bend is particularly rich. Within the park’s 801,000 acres you can find other large mammals such as black bears, cougars, coyotes, and javelinas. Other smaller animals that inhabit the park include bats, foxes, and small rodents like mice and rabbits.

The Chihuahuan Desert landscape provides a wide variety of habitats for these animals to thrive in with open grasslands providing ample places for grazing and diverse vegetation offering shelter and food sources. The Rio Grande River also serves as a major water source to many of these creatures while its canyons provide additional shelter from predators. Additionally, Big Bend’s hot springs offer an oasis-like haven for many species throughout the harsh desert climate.

Big Bend Outdoor Recreation

Big Bend National Park is a great destination for outdoor recreation. Whether you are looking for an adventure-filled weekend or a relaxing escape, it has something to offer everyone. From hiking and camping in the Chisos Mountain Range to rafting down the Rio Grande, visitors can experience Big Bend’s beauty and diversity in many different ways.

The park is also home to some of the most remarkable canyons in Texas, including Santa Elena Canyon and Boquillas Canyon. These stunning sites offer breathtaking views that will stay with you for a lifetime. Hiking throughout these steep walls of limestone provides an opportunity to observe the diverse wildlife and plant life that thrive here.

If you are looking for an unforgettable experience, consider spending a night under the stars at Big Bend National Park. With no light pollution throughout most of the park, stargazing is an incredibly immersive experience. The clear skies offer unparalleled views of constellations and deep space objects that cannot be seen anywhere else in Texas.

Finally, don’t forget to explore Big Bend’s ancient history by visiting its fossil discovery exhibit. This interactive exhibit features fossilized remains of extinct creatures that inhabited Big Ben millions of years ago—a great way to gain insight into this unique region’s geological history.

Big Bend Hotels

Big Bend National Park is a great destination for outdoor recreation and relaxation, but it is also home to an incredible selection of hotels. Located in the stunning Chihuahuan Desert, these hotels provide easy access to all the park’s many attractions as well as breathtaking views of the surrounding natural beauty.

The Terlingua Ranch Lodge offers an unforgettable experience with comfortable rooms and modern amenities. From here, you can explore nearby Big Bend State Park and enjoy a variety of activities such as horseback riding, kayaking, and bird watching. Plus, the lodge is situated on 2,000 acres of protected land that includes a private wildlife sanctuary—a great way to observe diverse species in their natural habitat.

The Gage Hotel provides a luxurious getaway with its Spanish-style courtyard and hotel restaurant offering regional cuisine made from fresh ingredients grown right on site. It also features an on-site movie theater showing classic films year round—perfect for a relaxing evening or family outing. The Gage overlooks Big Bend country’s rugged terrain with breathtaking views that will stay with you forever.

Finally, there’s the Alamo Inn & Suites located just minutes away from all major attractions in Big Bend National Park. Boasting comfortable rooms and modern amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi, this hotel is ideal for those looking for easy access to all that Big Bend has to offer. Relax by the pool after a long day exploring or take advantage of its hot tub for some much needed R&R.

Best things to do in Big Bend

1. Hike the Chisos Mountain Range

The Chisos Mountain Range in Big Bend National Park is a spectacular place for outdoor recreation. At an elevation of over 8000 feet, the mountains provide stunning views of the surrounding desert and distant mountain ranges. The range contains several trails that traverse through the rugged terrain, allowing hikers to explore this wild and beautiful landscape while experiencing its unique wildlife and plant life.

For those wishing to explore further, there are overnight backpacking opportunities available. This allows visitors to explore more deeply into the rugged terrain and experience the breathtaking sunsets and sunrises from mountaintop vistas. Popular hikes within the range include South Rim Trail, Emory Peak Trail, Laguna Meadows Trail, and Window Trail. Each offers its own unique features such as cascading waterfalls, ancient rock formations, fields of wildflowers, and panoramic views of the park’s vast expanse.

Moreover, camping is allowed throughout Big Bend National Park, but campers must obtain permits from either a ranger station or online ahead of time. This ensures that visitors are able to have an enjoyable experience while still protecting the fragile desert environment from overcrowding or damage caused by overuse.

Whether you’re looking for a casual day hike or an extended backpacking trip through some of America’s most impressive scenery, there is something for everyone in Big Bend National Park’s Chisos Mountain Range.

2. Explore the Canyons of the Rio Grande

The Canyons of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park provide a unique and memorable experience for visitors. Towering limestone walls soar high above while the turquoise water of the Rio Grande provides a peaceful backdrop to the rugged beauty of this landscape. The trails that wind their way through these canyons offer views of breathtaking canyons, lofty peaks, and scenic overlooks.

Canyons of the Rio Grande

One of the most popular trails for exploring this region is Marufo Vega Trail. This 9-mile loop trail takes hikers through some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Big Bend while providing opportunities to spot wildlife such as rattlesnakes, deer, and bighorn sheep. Along the way, hikers will find ancient pictographs painted on canyon walls by native tribes centuries ago, as well as stunning waterfalls cascading down into the Rio Grande below.

The Santa Elena Canyon Trail is another popular hiking route that follows along the banks of the Rio Grande and traverses a stunningly beautiful canyon with towering cliffs on either side. This trail also features access to swimming holes perfect for cooling off during hot summer days and provides spectacular views from atop majestic cliff faces.

Big Bend National Park is a must-see destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore some of America’s wildest landscapes. From its rugged canyons to its panoramic desert vistas, there is something here for everyone. Whether you’re looking for an easy day hike or an overnight backpacking excursion, Big Bend can provide an unforgettable experience like no other!

3. View Wildlife in its Natural Habitat

Big Bend National Park is home to a remarkable array of wildlife, from birds of prey soaring across the sky to smaller animals scurrying through the brush. Here, visitors can spot the iconic Texas Horned Lizard in its native habitat, as well as other lizards such as the Greater Short-horned Lizard and the Ground Skink. Among mammals, Big Bend is known for its javelinas, which are commonly spotted rooting around in search of food. Occasionally, even black bears can be seen meandering along trails.

The Chisos Mountain Range within Big Bend is one of the best places to view wildlife due to its diverse ecosystems and abundance of food sources. From here, hikers can observe golden eagles and other raptors perched in tree branches while roadrunners dart across the ground below. In addition, species such as white-tailed deer, ringtail cats, and jackrabbits are all common sights within the park’s boundaries.

Big Bend’s desert ecosystem also offers a plethora of opportunities to observe wildlife during your visit. The Chihuahuan Desert features various creatures such as Harris Hawks, Gila Monsters, and Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes that can all be spotted if you look closely enough! Additionally, visitors may also glimpse some of the region’s unique cacti species like Ocotillo or Yucca plants blooming with bright yellow flowers.

In Big Bend National Park there is a wide variety of wildlife waiting to be discovered by nature enthusiasts looking for an unforgettable experience! From majestic birds gliding through canyon walls to small critters scampering about in search of food, this breathtaking landscape truly has something for everyone!

4. Take a Rafting Adventure Down The Rio Grande

Rafting down The Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park is a truly unique and breathtaking experience! Along the way, visitors will not only be able to take in stunning views of the Chisos Mountain Range, but also witness the beautiful wildlife that resides in this serene environment. Wading birds such as Great Blue Herons, Egrets, and Grebes can be seen gliding gracefully over the river’s flowing waters while lizards and other small animals scuttle about in search of food.

The Rio Grande’s rapids offer plenty of opportunities for thrill-seekers looking to take on a challenge. With its Class I and II rapids along with serene stretches suitable for beginners, this river is perfect for adventurers of all levels. While rafting, paddlers will pass through narrow canyons lined with towering rock walls before exiting onto larger expanses where they’ll get to observe desert species like coyotes and jackrabbits scampering across the landscape.

In addition to its natural beauty, rafting along The Rio Grande also provides an educational experience as you learn about the diverse flora and fauna found throughout Big Bend’s vast landscape. Whether it’s marveling at the intricate patterns of wildflowers or observing hawks swooping through the sky, there are boundless opportunities for exploration during your journey down The Rio Grande!

5. Visit Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon is a site of unparalleled natural beauty located in Big Bend National Park. With its towering limestone walls that stretch as high as 1,500 feet, this majestic canyon is an awe-inspiring sight that’s been captivating visitors for years.

Whether it’s a leisurely raft trip down The Rio Grande, or a more challenging hike along the canyon walls, Santa Elena offers something for everyone to enjoy. As you float downstream, your gaze will be drawn to the remarkable geology of the landscape, with its soaring cliffs and colorful rock formations that have been carved out by centuries of erosion.

The unique environment of Santa Elena Canyon also makes it home to many native species and plants. Visitors may be able to spot birds such as cormorants and swallows skimming across the surface of the river while bighorn sheep can be seen perched atop the canyon’s rocky walls. Other species found here include coyotes, rattlesnakes, black bears, javelina, and desert tortoises.

From its stunning geological formations to its diverse wildlife population, Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park has something magical for all who visit it!

6. Stargaze on Clear Nights

Big Bend National Park boasts some of the darkest skies in the entire United States, making it a paradise for stargazers! Thanks to its remote location and lack of light pollution, the stars shine brighter here than almost anywhere else in the country.

On a clear night, visitors can take in breathtaking views of the Milky Way as well as the planets Jupiter and Saturn. In addition to these impressive celestial sights, star gazers may also be able to spot constellations such as Orion’s Belt or Ursa Major.

The Chisos Mountain Range offers excellent spots for viewing stars, especially from higher elevations where there is less atmospheric interference. For those looking for an even darker sky experience, the Chihuahuan Desert provides an ideal backdrop for deep sky watching.

Big Bend National Park is one of the few places where you can truly appreciate the beauty of our night sky. With its unrivaled darkness and vast array of celestial wonders, this national park is sure to provide an unforgettable stargazing experience!

7. Fossil Discovery Exhibit

Big Bend National Park is home to an impressive array of fossils, with discoveries ranging from the ancient footprints of dinosaurs to the remains of prehistoric mammals. One of the most fascinating sites in the park is the Fossil Discovery Exhibit, where visitors can learn about the various creatures that once roamed this area millions of years ago.

The exhibit features a wide range of fossils, including dinosaur teeth and bones, fossilized shells and corals, and petrified wood. These artifacts provide a unique glimpse into life during the Jurassic era, allowing visitors to explore how ancient animals looked and lived.

In addition to its fossils, the Fossil Discovery Exhibit also offers interactive displays which bring history alive for younger generations. Through these activities, children can journey back in time and learn about different species that once called Big Bend home.

For those interested in learning more about Big Bend’s rich paleontological history, the Fossil Discovery Exhibit is a must-see! With its extensive collection of fossils and educational exhibits, it is sure to provide an unforgettable experience for all ages.

8. Backpacking Through Big Bend

Backpackers seeking an adventure of a lifetime will find it in Big Bend National Park. This secluded park, located in the Chihuahuan Desert, is home to incredible landscapes and natural wonders.

The highlight of any backpacking trip to Big Bend is exploring its majestic peaks. The rugged Chisos Mountains are situated at the center of the park and are full of challenging trails for hikers of all levels. From breathtaking views from Emory Peak to panoramic vistas from South Rim, adventurers can experience diverse landscapes and spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

In addition to its stunning mountains, Big Bend also has plenty of opportunities for off-trail exploration. Afternoon hikes through the desert provide a unique look at the area’s flora and fauna, while guided night hikes allow visitors to observe nocturnal animals such as bats, javelinas, and ringtails searching for food and shelter under the stars.

With its sweeping desert canyons and towering mountain peaks, Big Bend National Park is sure to provide a memorable backpacking experience that should not be missed!

9. Camping

Camping in Big Bend National Park is an unforgettable experience, and one of the best ways to explore the park’s diverse landscape. From rugged mountain peaks to stunning desert canyons, there is something for every outdoor enthusiast!

For those looking for a true wilderness adventure, the backcountry camping sites are an ideal choice. With minimal amenities such as fire rings and restrooms, these quiet spots provide campers with a chance to immerse themselves in nature. Visitors can find these sites throughout the park, but be sure to get a free permit from any visitor center before departing.

Additionally, visitors can stay at one of Big Bend’s developed campgrounds that offer all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay. These include water access, restrooms, and even shower facilities. Some of the most popular destinations include Rio Grande Village Campground and Chisos Basin Campground.

Whether you choose to camp in the backcountry or at one of Big Bend’s developed campgrounds, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience! With its breathtaking views and incredible wildlife encounters, Big Bend National Park is an outdoor paradise like no other!

10. Hot Springs

Big Bend National Park is home to a number of hot springs, making it the perfect destination for outdoor lovers looking to relax and unwind. Boquillas Hot Springs is one of the more popular spots, located near the Rio Grande River. Here, visitors will find a series of natural pools fed by hot mineral water that can reach temperatures up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’re looking for something more remote, you can also access Hot Springs Trail from nearby Rio Grande Village. This two-mile trail takes visitors deep into the Chihuahuan Desert and offers stunning views of nearby mountain peaks and the surrounding desert landscape. At the end of the trail lies a small hot spring that is perfect for soaking your tired feet after a long hike!

What’s more is that Big Bend’s hot springs offer numerous health benefits thanks to their high mineral content. Studies have shown that bathing in these waters can improve circulation and reduce inflammation, making them an ideal destination for those suffering from chronic pain or joint discomfort.

No matter where you decide to soak in Big Bend National Park’s hot springs, the experience is sure to be unforgettable! Enjoy breathtaking views while healing your body and mind with these natural wonders!

11. Birdwatching

Big Bend National Park is a paradise for birdwatchers looking for something unique. With its diverse landscape of mountains, deserts, and rivers, Big Bend is home to a wide variety of bird species that cannot be found anywhere else in the United States.

The Chisos Mountains are among the most popular destinations for birders, with its abundance of avian species including woodpeckers, warblers, and raptors such as hawks and vultures. The nearby Rio Grande River also provides an ideal habitat for many aquatic birds, like herons and ibises.

The Chihuahuan Desert provides yet another environment for Big Bend’s feathered residents. Here you can find species like roadrunners, quails, owls, blackhawks, and wrens. In addition to these desert-dwelling birds, Big Bend is also home to Mexican specialties like painted buntings and green jays which are rarely seen in other parts of the United States.

Birdwatching in Big Bend National Park is an unforgettable experience! You’ll have hours of fun exploring its diverse habitats while admiring all the colorful birds that make it their home. So come explore Big Bend’s wilderness—you never know what feathered friends you may find!

Frequently Asked Questions

How far is Big Bend from Houston?

Big Bend National Park is located approximately 456 miles from Houston, Texas. Driving east from Houston, it would take about seven hours to reach the park’s entrance on US Highway 90. The journey passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in Texas, with rolling plains, rugged hills and majestic canyons along the way.

How far is Big Bend from Austin?

Big Bend National Park is located approximately 725 miles west of Austin, Texas. This journey along US Highway 90 takes about 11 hours to complete and crosses through some of the most unique and picturesque landscapes in the state. Along the route, travelers will pass through rolling plains and rugged hills, as well as the majestic Chihuahuan Desert.

What is the closest airport to Big Bend National Park?

The closest airport to Big Bend National Park is Midland International Air and Space Port, located approximately 200 miles away in Midland, Texas. The journey takes around three hours by car or you can book a connecting flight from other major airports such as Austin-Bergstrom International Airport or Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. From the airport, rent a car and make the scenic drive to Big Bend National Park.

Discover More National Parks

View our complete list of United States National Parks here.