Big Bend Surprised Us

Big Bend, like all our National Parks, is truly unique, featuring a diverse range of terrains. In a single day, you can hike along the Rio Grande and feel dwarfed by the towering Santa Elena Canyon, drive through the expansive desert landscapes, and explore the cooler temperatures of the Chisos Mountains. This park offers something for everyone, from avid hikers to those who prefer scenic drives and quick photo opportunities.

  • Lost Mine Trail

    Do this hike! As you ascend, the views continuously surprise you. The trail gains 1,100 feet in elevation over 4.8 miles, but it's a straightforward climb without any dangerous scrambling. Once you reach the top, you'll be glad you did.

    Trail Head 
  • Santa Elena Canyon

    This hike is relatively easy, spanning 1.6 miles roundtrip with only 80 feet of elevation gain. It's a dramatically scenic trail, leading you into the canyon and alongside the Rio Grande. As you venture deeper, the narrowing canyon walls enhance the sense of awe. Experiencing this trail at sunset makes a special place even more spectacular.

    Trail Head 
  • Langford Hot Springs

    The Hot Springs Trail is a delightful hike, even if you choose not to soak in the springs. These springs are located along the Rio Grande River, offering clear views into Mexico. We hiked among wild horses and enjoyed the lush vegetation flourishing by the river.

    Trail Head 
  • The Window

    This trail offers a captivating hike through Oak Creek Canyon, culminating at 'The Window' with its expansive desert vistas. The 3.6-mile roundtrip hike includes 900 feet of elevation gain, presenting only mild challenges in certain spots. It's definitely worth adding to your hiking itinerary!

    Trail Head 
  • Lower Burro Mesa

    This short hike leads you down a wash on the 'lower' portion of the trail. The vegetation and the dry waterfall are fascinating sights, and it’s incredible to imagine the area transformed after a heavy rain.

    Trail Head 
  • Santa Elena Canyon Overlook

    This is a quick detour on your way to hike the canyon, but it’s definitely worth a stop! From here, you can truly appreciate the grandeur of the canyon and are sure to capture some share-worthy photos.

  • Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

    If you visit Big Bend, you'll undoubtedly find yourself on this Scenic Drive as you navigate through the park. Along the way, there are numerous scenic overlooks where you can stop to take photos or enjoy a picnic. The drive itself makes the park well worth the visit.

    Google Maps 
  • Fossil Discovery Exhibit

    Big Bend was once below sea level, and there are fossils to prove it. The exhibit is small enough to be easily enjoyed without being overwhelming, yet it's well-curated. Plus, it features many open-air walls that help keep you cool.

    Google Maps 
  • J&G Service Station

    This is your last chance for food and gas outside the park. We grabbed breakfast here and enjoyed delicious, made-to-order breakfast burritos.

    Google Maps 

Where We Stayed #1

Cottonwood Campground

The sites at Cottonwood are perfect for small to mid-sized RVs as well as tent camping. The area is beautiful, with trees providing shade and the dramatic walls of Santa Elena Canyon along the Rio Grande as a backdrop. The camp is alive with birds and even javelinas that roam through. Although there are no showers, bathrooms and drinking water are available. This secluded campsite is quiet and exceptional for stargazing. Snag a spot if you can!

Cottonwood Campground

Where We Stayed #2

Chisos Basin Campground

This campground is nestled in a basin completely surrounded by the Chisos Mountains, where the terrain's drama shifts with the changing light throughout the day. At night, the stars shine brightly in this Dark Sky park. Equipped with bathrooms, fresh drinking water, a general store, and a visitor center, you have everything you need to fully enjoy your time at Big Bend.

Chisos Basin Campground

When We Go

Early March

We typically travel when others don't, and March proved to be an excellent time to visit Big Bend to avoid crowds and extreme heat. We managed to secure (CampNab) two different campsites just two days before arriving, thanks to the lower competition at this time of year. The weather was perfect—never too hot or too cold.

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