Big Bend National Park

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TEXAS

Big Bend National Park is in southwest Texas and includes the entire Chisos mountain range and a large swath of the Chihuahuan Desert. The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive leads to the ruins of Sam Nail Ranch, now home to desert wildlife.

The Santa Elena Canyon, carved by the Rio Grande, features steep limestone cliffs. Langford Hot Springs, near the Mexican border, has pictographs and the foundations of an old bathhouse.

On the border with Mexico, separated by a huge bend in the Rio Grande river, Big Bend National Park is one of Texas’ most impressive natural wonders.

Mountains, desert, and the river combine to make this area an outstanding outdoor playground for hikers, campers, canoers, birders, and nature lovers in general.

Even if you are just up for a drive through the park, you’ll find interesting sites and scenery along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, and a quick stop at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit or a soak in the hot springs will make for an outstanding day.

If that’s not enough, take a short boat ride to Mexico for lunch, discover the best place to enjoy sunset, and stay in a luxury lodge.

HERE IS SOME GREAT INFORMATION

 

With an area this vast it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This should help. If you are not staying in the actual park, any one of the seven towns listed above will suit you fine. We like Marfa and Alpine the best (Make sure you visit The Famous Marfa Lights during your visit. Then there is Marathon, Sanderson, Dryden and Lajitas. All six of these towns are charming in their own ways.

HOTELS AND HOUSES IN THE AREA

 

MARFA,TEXAS

Hotels.                  Rental Houses

 

ALPINE, TEXAS

Hotels. Rental Houses

 

MARATHON, TEXAS

Hotels.Rental Houses

 

SANDERSON, TEXAS

Hotels.                   Rental Houses

 

DRYDEN, TEXAS

Hotels.Rental Houses

LAJITAS ,TEXAS

Hotels. Rental Houses

PRESIDIO, TEXAS

Hotels.Rental Houses

 

FLY CHEAP TO BIG BEND NATIONAL PARKSOUTHWEST AIRLINES DEALS

OR

AIRFAIRWATCHDOG


Airfarewatchdog

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

OR

BE ALERTED WHEN PRICES DROP!


 

Be sure to stop at one of the visitor centers for a map of the park and information on conditions, then head out to explore, using our list of things to do in Big Bend National Park.

Hike Santa Elena Canyon 

 

Santa Elena Canyon
Santa Elena Canyon 

One of Big Bend National Park’s most spectacular hikes, and certainly the best reward-to-effort ratio of any hike in the park, is the Santa Elena Canyon Trail. This fantastic 1.7-mile round-trip walk follows the edge of the Rio Grande River into the Santa Elena Canyon, where sheer, 1,500-feet-high walls rise up on each side of the river above you. When the water is low, you can wade out into the canyon from the far end of the trail. The hike ascends a total of about 80 feet, offering outstanding views above the river near the start.

 

RESERVATION AND PHONE TO  PARK

Soak in the Hot Springs

 

Hot springs
Hot Springs 

One of the most popular things to do in the Rio Grande Village area is to take a dip in the 105-degree-Fahrenheit waters of the natural hot springs on the edge of the Rio Grande River. If you get too hot, you can cool off with a quick dip in the river. The primitive pool is located just .25 miles from the parking area, along a trail running past pictographs and the remains of an old resort from the early 1900s. If you have time and want to see some incredible views out over the Rio Grande River and mountains, it’s definitely worth walking the .75-mile hot springs loop. This scenic trail runs up along a ridge above the hot springs and offers views up and down the river.

BEST TOURS TO TAKE AT BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

Drive the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

 

Mule Ears, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
Mule Ears, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

For a beautiful drive through the park, head out on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, running through some outstanding desert scenery on the way to Castalon and the Santa Elena Canyon area. Mountain views stretch out into the distance across the Chihuahuan Desert. Stop off at the Homer Wilson Ranch Overlook to see the old homestead, but also to appreciate the view. The Mule Ear Springs Trail is accessed from this highway, but even if you are not up for the hike, you can stop at the overlook to see these twin peaks, the cores of ancient volcanoes.

Learn about the Area’s Natural History at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit

 

Learn about the Area's Natural History at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit
Learn about the Area’s Natural History at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit 

On the drive down from Marathon, north of Panther Junction, be sure to stop at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit to learn about the geology of the park. Opened in 2017, this display features outdoor rooms with informative plaques and displays. The most impressive pieces are the bronze skulls of a giant alligator and a Bravoceratops dinosaur, and on the ceiling in one of the rooms, a giant pterosaur, the largest flying creature ever known. You can learn about these and other prehistoric creatures that roamed through the Big Bend region.

Walk the Nature Trail at Rio Grande Village

 

View from the Nature Trail
View from the Nature Trail

If you are looking for a short, easy, scenic trail near Rio Grande Village, you can’t beat the Nature Trail. Leaving from the campground, this trail takes you out over a pond, where you can see turtles basking in the sun or fish swimming below the low bridge that spans the water. This lush area is a stark contrast to the surrounding desert and is a good place to spot birds. On the opposite shore, the trail runs through desert scenery and provides views back over the pond and beyond to the Rio Grande River and distant mountains. The trail loops up to a lookout point. You can make this a short walk out to the bridge or do the entire walk, which is .75 miles.

Take a Trip to the Mexican Village of Boquillas

 

Boquillas, Mexico
Boquillas, Mexico

Don’t forget your passport if you want to take a quick side trip to a Mexican village. At Boquillas Crossing, a border guard will scan your passport before you walk down to the river and hail a rowboat from the far shore. The boat will pick you up and take you to the Mexican shore of the Rio Grande River, from where you can hop a ride on a horse, donkey, or vehicle. From the river, it’s about a mile up to the village. You can walk it if you like, but the trip is all uphill. You may want to pay for the ride into the village and then walk back down. A few restaurants offer beverages and food. This makes a nice little afternoon outing for lunch.

See the Sunset over the Window

 

Sunset over the Window
Sunset over the Window

The Window, a huge V-shaped notch in the mountainside, offers a glimpse to the sky and desert off in the distance. From the Chisos Basin Visitors Center, a .3-mile trail leads out to the Window View, a favorite spot to watch the sunset. You can actually do this short, wheelchair-accessible trail at any time of day for a look out over the Chisos Basin to the Window, but at night, the rocks form a silhouette, with the colorful sky in the background.

 Hit the Hiking Trails

 

Window Trail
Window Trail

Hikers will want to designate some time for hiking. Fit hikers looking for big adventures can plan multi-day hikes or embark on some of the epic day hikes, like Emory Peak or the South Rim. Day hikers looking for more modest hikes will find outstanding scenery on hikes like Santa Elena Canyon Trail, Lost Mine Trail, or the Windows Trails. If you want to add in a little history and perhaps a swim, try the Hot Springs Trails. For details and a more complete look at trail options, see our article on the best hikes in Big Bend National Park.

Spend a Night or Two Camping under the Dark Skies

 

Vermilion flycatcher at Cottonwood Campground
Vermilion flycatcher at Cottonwood Campground

Big Bend National Park is a designated National Dark Sky Park. Free from almost all light pollution, the night sky is a sea of diamonds, and the constellations are visible in outstanding clarity. Camping at any of the Big Bend campgrounds will give you a front row seat to this nighttime spectacle, particularly on a moonless night. Camping will also give you an opportunity to see some of the park’s wildlife. While javelinas and roadrunners are some of the usual visitors, if you camp in the Cottonwood Campground, you have a good chance of seeing some interesting birds. Look for vermilion flycatchers by day and listen for great horned owls by night.

Dine, Hike, or Pick Up Souvenirs and Supplies at the Chisos Basin Area

 

Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant
Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant

The Chisos Basin Area, in the mountains not far from Panther Junction, offers a full range of facilities. You can dine with a view out to the Window from the Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant and Patio, pick up everything from supplies to souvenir jewelry and clothing at the Basin Convenience store, or begin one of several hikes at the Chisos Basin Trailheads. From here, you can hike Emory Peak, South Rim, Chisos Basin Loop, Window View, and Window Trail hikes. This area is also home to the Chisos Mountain Lodge, and just below is the Chisos Basin Campground. Nearby is the trailhead for Lost Mine.

BEST TOURS TO TAKE AT BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

Canoe Trips along the Rio Grande River

 

Canoeing on the Rio Grande
Canoeing on the Rio Grande

The Rio Grande winds its way along the border with Mexico, and at Santa Elena Canyon, it has cut through the earth to create 1,500-foot-high walls. Paddling through the canyon provides a fascinating glimpse into the geology of the area and is a truly memorable experience. Trips start from the town of Lajitas and end at the mouth of the canyon. These tours typically last all day and include lunch. Trips can be arranged either in Lajitas or Terlingua, on the west side of the park. If you have your own equipment a “boomerang” trip may be in order. This involves paddling up through the canyon and drifting back down. Permits are required and are free.

Explore the nearby Ghost Town of Terlingua

 

Skeleton on a bike in Terlingua
Skeleton on a bike in Terlingua

Study Butte and Terlingua are just three to four miles from the west entrance to the park, and the Terlingua Ghost Town is six to seven miles down the road from here. For a taste of what life is like in a very small town in this area of West Texas, a quick stop for lunch in the Terlingua Ghost Town is a fun activity, particularly if you are already on the west side of the park. The Terlingua Trading Company is one of the biggest establishments in town, with a good selection of souvenirs, crafts, jewelry, and other random items. Next door, is the Starlight Theatre Restaurant, with indoor dining and live music. Nearby is the Posada Milagro, a very good breakfast and early lunch stop with a lovely outdoor patio.

Treat Yourself to a Night at a nearby Resort

Big Bend National Park offers an amazing outdoor experience, but exploring it can be a tiring endeavor. Heading back to a luxury resort or a charming historic lodge can be a welcome treat at the end of the day. The quaint little town of Marathon, north of the park, offers an authentic experience, with a couple of art galleries and the outstanding

Gage Hotel.

This historic property is an oasis and a reason in and of itself to visit this area of Texas. Built in 1927, the Gage Hotel is a wonderful place to gather around a fire pit at night with other guests, relax in front of a fireplace in one of the cozy common rooms, escape from the heat around the pool, or enjoy some of the finest dining in the region at the hotel’s 12 Gage Restaurant. This can be a great place to spend your entire trip, or even just a night at the end of a multi-day hike or a couple of nights camping in the park.

Alternatively, on the west side of the park is the western-style

Lajitas Golf Resort,

with an 18-hole golf course designed by golfing great, Lanny Wadkins. This large resort offers all kinds of activities, from horseback riding to canoe trips. It’s also just a relaxing place to hang out around the pool or enjoy a tasty meal.

No wilderness experience in Texas is quite like Big Bend National Park, more than 800,000 acres of mountains, desert, and river so stark and dreamy that it’s difficult to distinguish where reality ends and apparition begins.

Jagged peaks sheltering pine forests more typical of New Mexico or Colorado, canyons that are steeper, sheerer, and narrower than any found in the Grand Canyon, the vast expanse of Chihuahuan Desert, and the Rio Grande in its robust, untamed glory suggest that Big Bend was transplanted here from somewhere else—a feeling reinforced by posted warnings about bear crossings and encounters with mountain lions (“Pick Up Small Children”). Not for nothing is it called the last frontier.

Yet Big Bend is one of the ten least visited national parks in the country, with fewer than 300,000 visitors last year. Its isolated location far from population centers, its enormous size and widely scattered attractions, and the general public’s disdain for plants that stick, bugs that sting, and all sorts of wild varmints running loose have kept the people away.

That is all the more reason to make the effort. The prospect of all that land with so few people promises a solitude that is a rare commodity almost everywhere else.

I’ve been coming to Big Bend National Park for more than thirty years and while I think I’ve seen a lot of it, something new to explore is always over the next horizon. Like most visitors, I used to spend much of my time in the Chisos Mountains, the southernmost range in the United States and the one temperate spot in the park in the summer.

I later discovered the pleasures of floating the river through the stunning canyons. More recently, I’ve been drawn to the desert, which I once dismissed as an empty wasteland but now realize abounds with life. There’s a story behind every plant and animal that has managed to adapt to the land. Hundreds of miles of back roads are evidence of human occupation in the Big Bend before the park was established in 1944; artifacts from pre-Columbian campsites, wax factories, cotton farms, ranches, resorts, stores, villages, and mines can be found all over the place.

RESERVATION AND PHONE TO  PARK

 

Appreciating Big Bend is all a matter of preparation. If you don’t know what to see and do, you are likely to miss the magic or waste precious hours looking for a restaurant or a place to sleep. Unfortunately, while a lot has been written over the years about Big Bend’s beauty, not much exists in the way of practical information. What I’ve tried to do here is size Big Bend down to a manageable scale, whether you’re a trekker, a kayaker, an RVer, a naturalist, a photographer, a desert rat, a thrill-seeker, or a plain old city slicker on a holiday.

BEST TOURS TO TAKE AT BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

First Impressions

For me, Big Bend begins 10 miles south of Marathon on U.S. 385, past the Border Patrol inspection station, at a rest area with a marker that identifies the Caballos (not to be confused with the Deadhorse Mountains inside the park), the low barren ridge to the west with faintly pinkish rock bands running through its gentle slope.

This, the marker says, is where the Rockies meet the Appalachians, which explains why I always get the feeling of having fallen off the edge of the map right about here. Twenty-five miles farther south, the national park unfolds in all its glory at the Persimmon Gap entrance. Thirty miles straight ahead are the Chisos Mountains, the park’s centerpiece, which practically dance above the floor of the desert and dominate every panorama.

The low bare slopes on the immediate left are the forbidding Santiagos. That big mountain off to the right is Rosillos Peak. Bypass the Persimmon Gap visitors’ center (usually closed because of Washington-mandated budget cuts), and continue 26 miles to Panther Junction, the park headquarters, where the park’s three main paved roads meet.

About 10 miles from the junction, just past the Tornillo Creek bridge, you’ll notice some unvegetated hills on the right 2 miles from the road. These are the Grapevine Hills, which will bear closer inspection later.

 

HOTELS AND HOUSES IN THE AREA

 

MARFA,TEXAS

Hotels.                  Rental Houses

 

ALPINE, TEXAS

Hotels. Rental Houses

 

MARATHON, TEXAS

Hotels.Rental Houses

 

SANDERSON, TEXAS

Hotels.                   Rental Houses

 

DRYDEN, TEXAS

Hotels.Rental Houses

LAJITAS ,TEXAS

Hotels. Rental Houses

PRESIDIO, TEXAS

Hotels.Rental Houses

 

FLY CHEAP TO BIG BEND NATIONAL PARKSOUTHWEST AIRLINES DEALS

OR

AIRFAIRWATCHDOG


Airfarewatchdog

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

OR

BE ALERTED WHEN PRICES DROP!


 

 

At Panther Junction the road splits into a Y to skirt the Chisos, which divide the park into sedimentary formations to the east and volcanic formations to the west. The left fork heads down the east side of the park toward the river, dead-ending 20 miles away at the Rio Grande Village campgrounds in the shadows of the mighty Sierra Del Carmens, an almost flat-topped limestone wall in Mexico behind Boquillas Canyon that looms dramatically five thousand feet above the Rio Grande.

RESERVATION AND PHONE TO  PARK

 

The right-hand turn at Panther Junction leads to the western entrance of the park at Maverick, with turnoffs to the Chisos Basin, Grapevine Hills, and the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, a winding road with steep grades that leads to the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon, 42 miles from Panther Junction.

The visitors’ center at Panther Junction is a requisite stop. This is the place to pay the $5-a-car admission fee and stock up on pamphlets that provide information about the park’s flora, fauna, and roads. This is also one of the ranger stations where you may secure permits for river trips and backcountry camping (other ranger stations are at Rio Grande Village, Castolon, and the Chisos Basin). The Official National Park Handbook ($5.95) is essential, as are the three guides to hiking trails, paved and improved dirt roads, and backcountry dirt roads ($1.25 each).

All explain what you’re seeing and why you’re seeing it. For example, I learned that the ground-hugging lechuguilla grows only in the Chihuahuan Desert and the sotol, with its single woody stalk swaying in the breeze, is an indicator plant that flourishes at middle elevations.

The visitors’ center also has a giant relief map of the park, several dioramas about its past, updates on weather, river, and road conditions, a post office, and a short nature walk that will introduce you to desert plants. A gas station and convenience store is a quarter mile west. (For general park information, write the Superintendent, Big Bend National Park, Texas 79834, or call 915-477-2251.)

Best Sights

The vast majority of visitors to Big Bend venture no farther than the high-country basin in the Chisos, which is understandable, since you don’t see 7,800-foot mountains in Texas every day.

But you haven’t done Big Bend unless you’ve seen the river and the desert too—and driving past in your car doesn’t count. Even a short walk in the desert can be full of revelations. Take in at least four or five of the sights listed below and you’ll come away with a pretty good idea of what this vast chunk of real estate is all about.

 

BEST TOURS TO TAKE AT BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

The Chisos Mountains Basin. Three miles west of Panther Junction is the winding road that leads into the Chisos. As you climb more than two thousand feet up Green Gulch, the vegetation rapidly changes from desert to forest. Seven miles ahead lies the basin, an alpine valley sandwiched between the dramatic Window—a V-shaped gap in the almost-continuous ridge that rings the basin—on the west and the blocklike Casa Grande dominating the eastern horizon. Visiting the basin is an absolute must, not only for the scenery but also because this is where you’ll find the only lodging and restaurant in the park, as well as a gift shop, convenience store, ranger station, campground, amphitheater, and stables.

The road between the Chisos Mountains Lodge and the campgrounds is particularly good for sighting the white-tailed deer and coarse-furred javelinas scooting into the brush, both of which show little fear of human beings.

Hot Springs. This improbable resort on the Rio Grande is my favorite attraction in the park.

Built in two stages by a somewhat optimistic tourist operator named J. O. Langford between 1909 and 1927, the hot springs are easily reached from the turnoff near Rio Grande Village, only a two-mile drive down an improved dirt road. Pick up a self-guiding trail booklet for 25 cents in the Hot Springs parking lot, then start walking. It’s a quarter mile to the springs, past abandoned stone structures that once housed a post office and a motel, a small grove of palms (an excellent picnic spot), and Indian pictographs etched in a small cliff above the river. At the end of the path adjacent to the river are what’s left of the lower walls of the bathhouse and a small shallow sitting area where 105-degree mineral water flows at a rate of 250,000 gallons a day before tumbling into the much colder Rio Grande. The water attracts not only visitors but also a handful of area residents who swear by its salubrious effects. If you want solitude, go early in the morning. One full-moon night, I was joined by forty gregarious Australians taking an evening soak.

Santa Elena Canyon. The parking lot at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Terlingua Creek provides a close-up look directly into this dramatic gaping gash, with its sheer 1,500-foot limestone walls. The trail beginning at the parking lot, about 1.7 miles round trip, is among the best in the park. It crosses mostly dry Terlingua Creek, then climbs a series of improved stair-step switchbacks (with handrails) to a wide ledge high above the river. The trail drops to river level along the reed-choked sandy vega littered with giant boulders before petering out. This is a fine place to try to skip rocks into another country and watch cliff swallows flutter overhead. If you take only one hike in the park, this is the one. Allow two hours.

Boquillas Canyon. The initial part of the hike from the parking lot—over a bare, rocky hill and down to the river, then through a cutbank path—is unremarkable. But once inside the canyon, the trail rewards hikers with magnificent views that make one dizzy from neck craning. When it comes to the play of light on rocks, especially in the afternoon, nothing in the park beats the Boquillas palisades. Extra bonus: the massive windblown dune inside the canyon that is perfect for sand surfing. Allow two hours.

Grapevine Hills. A six-mile drive down an improved dirt road suitable for ordinary cars brings you to a dry canyon on the desert floor. After a one-mile hike through a valley of rock-strewn rubble, the trail ends with a short, steep scramble to a scene that appears to have been created by an infant Godzilla: a huge boulder precariously teetering atop two smaller slabs, one of the great photo opportunities in the park. Roadrunners often share the trail. Allow one and one half hours.

Dagger Flat. One of the unknown delights of Big Bend is this self-guided auto tour on a well-graded dirt road. It offers the most extensive introduction to the desert plant community seen through a windshield. Stop at the beginning of the road in the northeastern part of the park and get a guidebook for 50 cents. The seven-mile road ends at a loop in the middle of a bizarre thicket of giant dagger yucca, some more than ten feet tall, which should be at peak bloom in late March. Although the loop area is identified as Dagger Flat, the actual flat is at least a quarter mile away, according to topographical maps. Allow about an hour, two hours if you plan to walk.

Dugout Wells. Just off the main paved road to Rio Grande Village is another underrated destination that is a quickie introduction to the desert on foot. Hardwood trees, a windmill, and abundant wildlife that show up to drink from a spring around sunrise and sunset suggest an oasis. The adjacent Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail, a half-mile walk with interpretive signs identifying and describing representative desert plant life, underscores the harsh reality surrounding the spring. Allow 45 minutes.

The Window. A twenty-foot opening between solid rock polished slick by water erosion, the Window is where all the rain and snowmelt in the Chisos Basin drains out. Although the rock is too steep and slick for anyone to risk peeking over the edge, you can see the desert below through a narrow rock formation appropriately called the Gunsight. But you don’t need to get up close to the Window to appreciate it as a natural stage for sunsets in the basin. One of the best perspectives is from the bench at the end of Window View Trail, three tenths of a mile from the convenience store. The Window Trail, a two- to two-and-one-half-mile hike (depending upon where you start) to the actual Window opening, follows a tree-shaded drainage and a running creek to the pouroff. Allow two and one half to three and one half hours for the hike and remember that the walk back is uphill.

The Lost Mine Trail. Though a steeper grade than the Window Trail, this is the least strenuous hike in the high Chisos. The trail follows a series of shaded switchbacks to several breathtaking views of the basin below and Casa Grande above. Its popularity is evidenced by the recently expanded parking area, where guide booklets are available for 25 cents. Deer, kangaroo rats, mountain bluebirds, giant ravens, and even peregrine falcons circling in the sky are easily spotted from the trail; sightings of black bear, which have recently returned to the park, have been reported here. In March, this is also a prime location for observing migrating hummingbirds. The short trail to the Juniper Canyon overlook is about two hours round trip; the whole trip takes about four hours.

 

The South Rim. The view from the top of the Chisos is the grandest in the park and perhaps in all of Texas; unfortunately, it is also one of the hardest to reach, requiring either an all-day horseback ride or an arduous twelve- to fifteen-mile hike, depending on which route you take. The reward at the precipice is a series of incredible vistas that are some of the most expansive on the North American continent, extending more than 200 miles on a clear day.

From here, the eye can effortlessly follow the river on its entire 107-mile, three-canyon bend through the park. The Laguna Meadow Trail is the more gradual route up, although it is one and one half miles longer than the treacherously steep Pinnacles Trail, which is best negotiated on the way down. Either way, seeing Big Bend from its figurative rooftop is worth the effort. Plan to pass through Boot Springs for a respite by a placid brook. This quiet refuge is a feeding station for Colmia warblers, which are rarely seen in the U.S.

Where to Stay (Indoors): A big issue on almost every Big Bend trip is whether to stay inside or outside the park. The sole choice inside the park is the Chisos Mountains Lodge at the basin (477-2291). Its central location is certainly more convenient to most park activities, but if you feel the need for a telephone, a choice of restaurants, and such valuable amusements for kids as in-room TV and an on-site swimming pool, stay outside the park.

BEST TOURS TO TAKE AT BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

RESERVATION AND PHONE TO  PARK

The lodge has 72 rooms ($65 for a double) that are somewhere between a Motel 6 and a Holiday Inn but in a much prettier location. A cluster of six rustic cottages is tucked in the pines several hundred yards from the motel units ($69 for two). Demand is so heavy that booking cottages a year in advance is a must. Hope you get number 103, which has the choice back-porch view of the Window. Though the lodge is already booked for most of spring break and Easter weekend this year, you can call to check on last-minute cancellations and no-shows.

There are motels to the west of the park in Study Butte (24 miles from Panther Junction) and Lajitas (41 miles) and to the north in Marathon (69 miles). In Study Butte (pronounced “Stewdy Byoot”), a haphazard settlement two miles from the western park entrance, at the intersection of Texas Highway 118 and Farm-to-Market Road 170, are the Big Bend Motor Inn and the companion Mission Lodge across the highway (371-2218; 800-848-2363), two plain but clean motels with a gift shop, a pool, and a combination gas station, convenience store, and cafe.

The TVs are hooked up to a satellite and, true to Big Bend’s nonconformist bent, carry channels from New York City and Raleigh, North Carolina. A standard double is $63 a night. Less than a mile west is Easter Egg Valley (371-2430), a.k.a. the Chisos Mining Company Motel, whose pleasantly decorated rooms are housed in a string of connected prefab buildings.

A double is $48 a night. The motel at the Terlingua Ranch (371-2416), about 30 miles north and east of the Study Butte intersection, has a restaurant, a pool, and modern rooms that start at $33 for a double. The secluded Longhorn Ranch Motel (371-2541), 12 miles north of the Study Butte intersection, has 24 homey, tastefully appointed units laid out like a cavalry outpost. It has TVs, a swimming pool, and a restaurant but no in-room phones. A double is $50.

The erstwhile resort town of Lajitas has the widest array of lodging choices west of the park—81 motel rooms, a bunkhouse, cabins, and condos, most furnished with antiques and equipped with a telephone and satellite TV, along with access to a pool (central reservations 424-3471). Doubles are $65 a night; a two-bedroom condo that sleeps up to six runs from $148 a night to $740 a week. Lajitas is dubbed “the Palm Springs of Texas” by its boosters and “Wally World” by its detractors, the latter in honor of Houston developer Walter Mischer, who dreamed up this ersatz Dodge City twenty years ago.

Complementing the lodging are convention facilities, a bar and restaurant, a nine-hole golf course, an airstrip, stables, tennis courts, mountain bike rentals, and the Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center desert museum and gardens. The covered faux Western town boardwalk is Lajitas’ commercial center, with a drugstore and soda fountain, a liquor store, the offices of Big Bend River Tours, an art gallery, a gift shop, and the Badlands Hotel, the check-in desk for all Lajitas lodging.

Where to Stay (Outdoors): Big Bend has three campgrounds in the park—the Chisos Basin, with 63 sites; Cottonwood, 35 miles from Panther Junction, near the historic Castolon store in the western part of the park, with 35 sites shaded by a huge grove of cottonwood trees; and Rio Grande Village, 20 miles from Panther Junction, on the east side of the park, with 100 sites and an overflow campground, as well as a smaller trailer park with hookups ($12.50 a night), a store (one of the two places in the park that sell beer), a gas station, a self-service laundry, and the park’s only public showers (75 cents for 5 minutes).

During busy periods, the only openings may be the primitive campsites near Mariscal Canyon and Talley, down by the Rio Grande in the park’s southern extreme, reached only by four-wheel drive vehicles on the extremely rough River Road, or sites around Dagger Flat and Persimmon Gap in the north. Backcountry campers must be at least a half mile from any road, a quarter mile from any spring or historic site, and one hundred yards from any trail, and must possess a backcountry permit.

With an area this vast it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This should help. If you are not staying in the actual park, any one of the seven towns listed above will suit you fine. We like Marfa and Alpine the best (Make sure you visit The Famous Marfa Lights during your visit. Then there is Marathon, Sanderson, Dryden and Lajitas. All six of these towns are charming in their own ways.

HOTELS AND HOUSES IN THE AREA

 

MARFA,TEXAS

Hotels.                  Rental Houses

 

ALPINE, TEXAS

Hotels. Rental Houses

 

MARATHON, TEXAS

Hotels.Rental Houses

 

SANDERSON, TEXAS

Hotels.                   Rental Houses

 

DRYDEN, TEXAS

Hotels.Rental Houses

LAJITAS ,TEXAS

Hotels. Rental Houses

PRESIDIO, TEXAS

Hotels.Rental Houses

 

FLY CHEAP TO BIG BEND NATIONAL PARKSOUTHWEST AIRLINES DEALS

OR

AIRFAIRWATCHDOG


Airfarewatchdog

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

OR

BE ALERTED WHEN PRICES DROP!


 

HAVE A BLAST AT THE BEND!

CHRIS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *