Big Bend National Park is located on the border of Mexico and situated along the Rio Grande. The park covers more than 800,000 miles of terrain and with its beautiful desert landscapes is one of my favorite parks to visit.
Entrance Fee: Usually around $4 per person you can either pay upon entrance if the booths are open (they often are not) or you can pay later at a visitor center. While this makes it easy to avoid paying, please remember that the money is used for park upkeep and not paying may be very bad for the park. Visitor centers are frequently situated and marked on park maps.
Lodging: You have 4 choices of where to sleep when entering Big Ben. I am going to start with the cheaper, more fun options.
1. Bring a Tent. Be sure to bring plenty of tent stakes as there is often a great deal of wind. The park has special area’s set aside for tents or you can choose your own pretty much anywhere that is flat and dry.
2. Sleeping bag. Faster to set up than a tent but be sure that it is not going to rain during your trip. I have had fun every time i have done this but if your trip is during the summer watch out for snakes.
3. R.V. If you want the comforts of a bed but don’t feel like getting a hotel an RV is perfect, the park has plenty of setups for RVs at a minimal charge and most RVs rent cheap if you do not own one yourself.
4. Hotel. This limits where you can stay as most of Big Bends available rooms are up in the mountains and near their hiking trails. Rooms are not cheap and quite small but luxurious and comfortable. On a special note last time i stayed in one there was still ice cream in the rooms freezer *Bonus*
Food: Now I would definitely recommend that you either bring your own food or buy some from one of the small local towns. Eating at the restaurants in Big Bend can be quite expensive and the food is not always the best quality. There are stores at several of the visitor centers where you can buy food but they are overpriced so try going to one of the towns such as Terlingua. The stores are small and not often clean but they are cheap. Plus you can have fun and cook food over a camp fire.
Things To Do: The best part about Big Bend is there is a great deal of things to do with very little supervision. The occasional park ranger will check up on you if you look suspicious or have been staying for an extended period but you are mostly free to do as you please.
1. Camping is available (of course) the park has numerous campgrounds around the park and even more tent sites. I would personally recommend one about five miles west of Terlingua. It is about 70 feet from the Rio Grande and happens to have the biggest tree in the park. You can set your tents up or sleep in sleeping bags under the tree but be warned do not attempt this if it is raining as the road floods and becomes impossible to drive on. You will get stuck until it dries out even if you are on foot.
2. Hiking can either be done on designated trails or across uncharted terrain but be sure to know your limits before embarking. Park rangers rescue over 1,00 hiker’s a year who went to far and got lost. Please try not to add to this. My personal favorite is up in the mountains and is one of Big Bends biggest tourist draws. The Window. Take a 3 hour hike to the edge of a cliff and look down through a ‘window’ built by a long dried up river. The view is spectacular and the entire hike is quite scenic and filled with greenery.
3. Cannoeing. You have to rent the canoe’s and you have to (of course) return them. But a boat ride down the gentle lazy Rio Grande river is relaxing and scenic especially if you have never been or love canoe’s.
Finally please remember Big Bend is first and foremost a nature preserve. Please leave everything as you found it and avoid taking any rocks or plants out of the park. You can actually be fined if you are caught trying. The animals are wild and dangerous and the mountains are home to bears and panthers. Always exercise proper caution and follow park rules. Enjoy your visit.
Brandy Cross, Guide To Big Bend, Associated Content