Big Bend National Park Travel Guide

October 15, 2021

A winding river with mountains in the background inside Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is nestled in the southern part of Texas along the US-Mexico border. You might be thinking, hot, dry, and inhabitable, but nothing is farther from the truth. This majestic park offers beautiful vistas, cultural heritage, and plenty of hiking trails for your next adventure. 

// this article is a companion to the National Park Bucket Journal //

Get to Know Big Bend National Park

Region: Southwestern
State: Texas
URL: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/index.htm  
Webcams: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm 
Established: June 12, 1935
President: Franklin D. Roosevelt
By the numbers

  • 394,000+ visitors per year (2020)
  • 801,000+ acres
  • Lat. 29.2498N, Long 103.2502W
  • 2 park entrances
  • 5 visitor centers
  • Highest elevation 7,625 ft.
  • Lowest elevation 1,715 ft.

Entrances

There are two entrances to Big Bend National Park 

North Entrance 

Drive South on US-385 from Marathon until it becomes Main Park Road. This is the fastest route when approaching from the east. This route leads to the north entrance of the park and the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center. 

West Entrance

Using TX-118 drive South from Alpine. This is the quickest route from the west. There is a bit more development along this stretch of road compared to the Marathon route but they are equally scenic. The west entrance to the park is reached at Maverick Junction, about 75 mi (121 km) from the exit at Alpine, then another 25 mi (40 km) east to park headquarters.

Visitor Centers

There are 5 Visitor Centers in the park. Each highlights a different region of the park for geology, culture, and history. 

Panther Junction Visitor Center

Exhibits at Panther Junction VC provide an overview of geology & natural and cultural histories of the park. The visitor center also has a theater with a park orientation movie shown upon request. Amenities include a bookstore, U.S. Post Office, restrooms, backcountry & river use permits, entrance fees can be paid here. A water faucet is available for filling personal water containers. 310 Alsate Dr., Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 Ph. 432-477-2251

Chisos Basin Visitor Center

This visitor center includes interactive exhibits on plants, animals, and birds found in the Chisos Mountains. Backcountry and river use permits are issued during normal business hours, and entrance fees can be paid. Access to bookstore and restrooms. A water faucet is available on the east side of the building for filling personal water containers. 142 Chisos Basin Rd, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 Ph. 432-477-2251

Castolon Visitor Center

Located in the Castolon Historic District, this visitor center has exhibits on the history of this border region. River use permits are issued during normal business hours, and entrance fees can be paid here. The Castolon Visitor Center has a Big Bend Natural History Association bookstore and nearby restrooms. Beginning Fall 2021, the visitor center will be housed in the historic Garlick House. Stop by to meet a ranger and plan your adventure. 600 Ross Maxwell Scenic Dr, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 Ph. 432-477-2666

Persimmon Gap Visitor Center 

Located at the north entrance to the park, Persimmon Gap Visitor Center offers park orientation and information. The visitor center has exhibits, bookstore, mini-theater, and restrooms. River permits for the Lower Canyons are issued during normal business hours, and entrance fees can be paid at the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center. Main Park Rd, Alpine, TX 79830 Ph. 432-477-2251

Rio Grande Village Visitor Center 

The Rio Grande Village Visitor Center is located 0.25 miles north of the Rio Grande Village developed area. New exhibits focus on how the Rio Grande has changed over time, how the NPS works with our Mexican counterparts to protect and care for it, and the rich assemblage of species that it supports. An outdoor display showcases a large raised-relief map of the area, and life-sized bronze sculptures showcase some of the area's special wildlife. River use permits are issued during normal business hours. 450 Rio Grande Road, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 Ph. 432-477-2271

JOURNAL ABOUT YOUR UNIQUE EXPERIENCES IN BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK WITH A NATIONAL PARKS BUCKET JOURNAL

Memories are best made with adventure! All 63 US National Parks are full of unique experiences, dramatic views and natural wonders you simply have to see to believe. 

With a National Parks Bucket Journal, you will never forget the trips you take, the adventures you have, and the people you share it with. A bucket journal makes recording your trip's highlights, and planning your next adventure that much easier!  

Entrance Fees 

Passes are good for entry for 7 days from the date of purchase.

  • $30 private, non-commercial vehicle, 15 passengers or less
  • $25 motorcycle or snowmobile
  • $15 on foot, bicycle
  • $55 Annual pass good for one year from purchase date 

Find out more about fees on the NPS website: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/fees.htm 

You can buy entrance passes at these Entrance Stations using credit and debit cards. Digital passes, and America the Beautiful passes are accepted for entry. Cash is not being accepted at this time.

Park Hours and Access

Big Bend National Park is open daily, 24 hours a day, year-round.  While park entrances are always open and you can arrive at any hour, entrance fee stations and visitor centers may be closed after normal business hours. If you arrive at an entrance with a closed fee station you can pay the following day at any visitor center Check the NPS website for details about the season you will be visiting. 

The busiest time of the year? Expect more people in the park, and to have less access to camping sites, from November through April. 

Closest Airports to Big Bend

Texas is big and you may not be close enough to drive to Big Bend National Park. Try flying into one of several airports, rent a car, and then drive to the park.

  • Midland/Odessa Airport [MAF] - 195 miles, 3 hrs 1 min
  • El Paso Airport [ELP] - 288 miles, 4 hrs 24 mins
  • San Antonio Airport [SAT] - 371 miles, 5 hrs 47 mins
  • Austin Bergstrom Airport [AUS] - 439 miles, 6 hrs 28 mins

Things to Do in Big Bend National Park

There are so many outdoor activities inside the park, be sure to take time and appreciate the animal life around you. There are opportunities for birding, wildlife viewing, and of course photographing the beauty around you.

Enjoy over 200 miles of hiking trails by getting out in the largest expanse of roadless public lands in Texas. There is an opportunity for day hikes or go backcountry hiking or camping. Strike out on the Rio Grande River or go fishing

Take a bike ride on over 100 miles of paved roads and 160 miles of backcountry dirt roads. There is something for riders of every type and ability. E-bikes are allowed on paved roads only. 

There are three types of scenic drives available on the roads of Big Bend. Paved roads showcase gorgeous vistas and geological splendor. Improved dirt roads are accessible to most vehicles and will take you off the beaten path.  Primitive roads are maintained for high clearance vehicles only and may require 4WD. Venturing out to the primitive will gain you access to old settlements, cemeteries, primitive roadside campsites, and the river. 

In 2012, Big Bend National Park was awarded International Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark-Sky Association. Check out their ranger programs and join a Night Sky Program to find a great place to stargaze. The staff and volunteers at Big Bend offer several different types of night sky interpretive programs throughout the year. From star parties to moonlight walks, their programs encourage discussions about the importance of dark night skies.

How Much Time Do You Need to Explore Big Bend?

Big Bend is too big to see in a single day, but a great one-day trip to the park might include a trip down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and a visit to the Chisos Basin. 

The NPS website has One-Day, Three-Day, and Seven-Day suggested itinerary ideas to help you choose how much time you want to spend there.  

In 2019, the park suffered a fire through the Castolon historic district. About 950 acres on both sides of the Rio Grande River burned before it was fully contained. Although damaged, this area remains a rich part of Big Bend’s pioneer past and restoration is currently underway. Find out more about the restoration and other travel information in this downloadable publication.

My Bucket Journals Top Big Bend NP Picks:

  • Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
  • Chisos Mountains Lodge
  • Visit Castolon Historic District
  • Visit Fossil Discovery Exhibit
  • Walk the Window View Trail
  • View Scenic Santa Elena Canyon
  • Take in a Night Sky Program

Hike the Trails 

There are three types of hiking you can do in Big Bend; desert, mountains, and river. 

Hike the desert!

  • Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail - This easy hike that's half a mile starts at Dugout Wells. Both natural and cultural history is evident at Dugout Wells. You will see remnants of human settlement and the typical Chihuahuan Desert habitat. A shady oasis with cottonwood trees and tables at Dugout Wells provides a good area for picnicking and bird watching. 
  • Chimneys Trail - Dog Canyon is a pleasant, flat hike in the early morning or late afternoon hours when temperatures are moderate. The destination canyon is visible across the desert flats from the trailhead, and the trail is well-marked with obvious cairns. At 1.5 miles the trail drops into a wash, and a left turn down the wash takes you through Dog Canyon about a half mile further. At the far end of the canyon, visitors should note that the horizontal rock strata have been folded vertically by the geological forces that formed the mountain ridge the canyon traverses. The narrow slot canyon to the right (south) of Dog Canyon is the Devil’s Den. 
  • Grapevine Hills Trail - This trail leads to a group of balanced rocks in the heart of the Grapevine Hills. Initially, the trail follows a gravel wash, then climbs steeply for the last quarter mile into the boulders. The last section requires crossing steep, rough bedrock, and negotiating a challenging landscape of boulders. Stay on the trail, and watch carefully for the directional arrows that point the way to the balanced rock. Use extreme caution, especially coming back down. No shade, watch for snakes!
  • Lower Burro Mesa Pour-off Trail - Begin at the end of Burro Mesa Spur Road off the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive This trail leads through gravel drainage and ends in a narrow box canyon where water has carved a deep channel into Burro Mesa. The end of the trail is the base of a 100-foot pour-off. Usually dry, the smooth, polished pour-off attests to the power of water that floods this canyon during summer rains. 
  • Marufo Vega - This strenuous but spectacular hike is not recommended for inexperienced hikers. The trail is rugged and passes through several miles of dry washes and hills before descending into Boquillas Canyon and along the Rio Grande for ~1.5 miles. There is no shade or water, temperatures can exceed 100°F, and the route is poorly defined in some places. Practice caution if attempting this trail as a day hike. 
  • Mariscal Canyon Rim Trail - This trail is as rewarding as it is remote. This hike requires a major effort just to get to the remote trailhead in the backcountry along the park's River Road. The trail crosses the open desert before steadily ascending the western flanks of Mariscal Mountain, eventually leading you to a 1,400-foot limestone precipice. You can see and hear the Rio far below. Do NOT attempt this hike during the warmer months.
  • Mule Ears Spring Trail - This hike leads through the foothills of the Chisos Mountains, skirts Trap Mountain, and crosses several arroyos. Near the spring is an old rock corral. The spring itself is overgrown with shrubs, but ferns and cattails also grow there. Remember, no contaminating/bathing in backcountry springs.
  • Panther Path - This easy, wheelchair-accessible loop winds through a desert garden in front of the Panther Junction Visitor Center. A trail brochure and numbered stops identify many of the cacti and common plants of the Chihuahuan Desert and explain their historic, cultural, and medicinal uses. 
  • Sam Nail Ranch - An easy, well-maintained trail leads through the old homestead of Jim and Sam Nail and Sam's wife, Nena. There are interesting historic remnants here, including part of the adobe walls of the house and two windmills, one of which is still in operation. This is a beautiful desert oasis and a great spot for birding and wildlife viewing.
  • Tuff Canyon - Tuff Canyon's three overlooks offer great views into Tuff Canyon, but you can continue on the trail at the south end of the parking lot to go down into the canyon. Tuff, made of welded volcanic ash, comprises this whitish canyon. During the rainy season, the canyon fills with pools of water. 
  • Upper Burro Mesa Pour-off Trail - This route follows a dry wash downstream to the top of the 100-foot Burro Mesa Pour-off. The trail includes some large rocks to climb down, where some rock scrambling may be necessary. Pay attention during the return hike to ensure that you follow the same drainages. Trail subject to flash flooding. 

Hike the mountains!

  • Boot Canyon Trail - Leads from the Pinnacles Pass to the South Rim, passing through the lushest environment in the Chisos Mountains. Depending on annual rainfall, water may be present in pools along the canyon during parts of the year. Arizona Cypress and other trees may be found here, and nowhere else in Big Bend National Park. Look for Colima warblers here as well. 

  • Chisos Basin Loop Trail - The trail climbs gradually through shady stands of Mexican pine, oak, and juniper with many outstanding vistas of the window, and mountains surrounding the basin. Dense vegetation in the arroyos provides good habitat for bears and mountain lions; you may see tracks where they crossed the trail. Also, look for Mexican jays in the pines, and hummingbirds and Scott's orioles in the agaves when in bloom. Though this loop trail may be done in either direction, following it counterclockwise is the easiest. 

  • Emory Peak - Ascend the forested Pinnacles trail for 3.5 miles to the Emory Peak trail junction (on your right). Then take the 1-mile spur trail to the peak which has nice vistas along the way. The last quarter mile or so climbs steeply, and the last 25 feet require a scramble up an exposed rock face, but the 360° view from Emory Peak, the highest point in the park, is superb. The antenna and equipment are part of Big Bend's two-way radio system. 

  • Lost Mine Trail - This trail serves as an outstanding introduction to the flora and fauna of the Chisos Mountains. With limited time, hike to marker 10 (about 1 mile), where a saddle offers stunning views of Casa Grande and Juniper Canyon. The remainder of the trail climbs steeply in and out of juniper, oak, and pine forest. The trail abruptly levels out at the ridge with superb views of Pine Canyon and the Sierra del Carmen in Mexico. 

  • South Rim - This challenging trail is well worth the 2,000 foot gain, with stunning vistas from the South Rim. Ascend either the steeper Pinnacles or more gradual Laguna Meadows Trail. During Peregrine Falcon nesting season, the Northeast and Southeast portions of this trail are closed. 

  • Window Trail - This trail descends through Oak Creek Canyon to the Window pour-off which frames panoramic desert vistas. During wetter periods Oak Creek may be flowing and must be crossed several times. Use caution on this trail: the top of the window pour-off is slick rock with no railings, and the return hike is uphill. 

  • Window Trail View - This easy, paved wheelchair-accessible trail circles a low hill with excellent views of the mountain peaks surrounding the Chisos Basin, and a view through the window. Benches along the trail offer a place to sit and enjoy a classic Big Bend sunset. 

Hike the river!

  • Boquillas Canyon Trail - The Boquillas Canyon trail climbs from the parking to the top of a cliff overlooking the Rio Grande. On this bluff, mortar holes from ancient inhabitants can be seen. Continue down to the river's edge and into the canyon until the canyon walls meet the river. Sandy slopes in the canyon are fun for children. 
  • Hot Springs Canyon Trail - This 3-mile trail (in either direction) connects Daniel's Ranch and the Hot Springs. In places, it runs close to the river; in other areas along the rim of Hot Springs Canyon. This trail offers beautiful views of the Rio Grande, Chisos Mountains, and Del Carmen Mountains. No shade makes this trail a challenge in the summer heat. 
  • Hot Springs Historic Trail - This trail passes the remains of a resort, pictographs, homestead, and hot springs; a brochure at the trailhead offers more information. The 105°F springs are a popular destination (0.5 mile roundtrip), but one can continue to where the trail forks, leading to the top of the bluff and back to the parking lot. 
  • Rio Grande Village Nature Trail - Although short and easy, the trail is very scenic and has fantastic opportunities for wildlife viewing, especially birds. The first 100 yards is wheelchair accessible and crosses a boardwalk through a spring-fed wetland. Then the trail gradually climbs a limestone hill with panoramic vistas of the Rio Grande, and the Chisos and Del Carmen Mountains. This trail is great for sunsets. 
  • Santa Elena Canyon Trail - This trail leads into the mouth of stunning Santa Elena Canyon. After crossing Terlingua Creek, the trail ascends on paved steps to a vista, then descends back to the water's edge, continuing into the canyon until the canyon walls meet the water. A Big Bend classic. Be prepared for mud. The trail is impassable when Terlingua Creek floods.

Scenic Drives in Big Bend NP

There are three types of scenic drives available. Paved roads showcase gorgeous vistas and geological splendor. Improved dirt roads are accessible to most vehicles and will take you off the beaten path.  Primitive roads are maintained for high clearance vehicles only and may require 4WD. Venturing out to the primitive will gain you access to old settlements, cemeteries, primitive roadside campsites, and the river.  

Paved Roads 

Chisos Basin Road (6 miles) - A drive to the Chisos Basin is an excellent way to experience the transition between the arid desert and cooler mountain habitats. As this scenic, winding road rises over two thousand feet above the desert floor, it offers breath-taking vistas of the mountain peaks and the erosion-formed basin area. Chisos Basin Road is not recommended for trailers longer than 20 feet or RVs over 24 feet due to its sharp curves and steep grades. The Chisos Basin has a visitor center, campground, lodge, restaurant, camp store, and access to miles of hiking trails. 

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive (30 miles) - A trip along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive highlights the geologic splendor Big Bend is famous for and offers many scenic overlooks and exhibits along the way. Sotol Vista, Mule Ears Overlook, and Tuff Canyon are all worthwhile stops. History is highlighted at Sam Nail Ranch, Blue Creek Ranch, and the Castolon visitor center.  Continue the drive to Santa Elena Canyon, where limestone cliffs rise 1,500' above the Rio Grande. 

Panther Junction to Rio Grande Village (21 miles) - The drive to Rio Grande Village traverses ancient limestone and has marvelous vistas across the river to the magnificent Sierra del Carmen escarpment. In twenty miles, the road descends nearly two thousand feet. There are several worthwhile stops along the way. Dugout Wells includes a desert nature trail and a shady oasis, nice for picnicking and birding. A soak in the Historic Hot Springs is also a popular activity. The short hike into Boquillas Canyon leads to one of Big Bend's most scenic spots. The Rio Grande Village Nature Trail is an excellent birding location; it crosses a wetland spring with a viewing platform then gradually climbs to a promontory with excellent panoramic views. 

Persimmon Gap to Panther Junction (28 miles) - This road connects the north entrance to park headquarters at Panther Junction. From Persimmon Gap, the road descends a long, gentle, gravel slope to Tornillo creek and Tornillo Flat. The Rosillos Mountains rise to the west; to the east, the Dead Horse Mountains dominate the skyline. 

Maverick Entrance Station to Panther Junction (23 miles) - This drive, through striking desert scenery, has excellent views of the surrounding mountains. Several roadside exhibits describe wildlife that might be seen along the drive. Junctions for the Chisos Basin Road and Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive are located along this route. 

Improved Dirt Roads 

Dagger Flat Auto Trail (7 miles) - This seven-mile road (14 miles round-trip) winds eastward to a small valley with a forest of giant dagger yuccas. This road is typically open to most vehicles and is also good for mountain biking. The speed limit on this narrow road is 25 mph: allow two hours round-trip. Sandy areas or muddy conditions may exist seasonally; rain makes this road difficult to drive or impassable. Please inquire about current road conditions. 

Grapevine Spring (6.4 miles) - Travel 6.4 miles down this road to access the Grapevine Hills trailhead. Here, the 2.2-mile round-trip Grapevine Hills Trail leads to the picturesque Balanced Rock. The road is generally accessible to all vehicles and begins 3.3 miles west of Panther Junction on the north side of the road.  

Hot Springs Road (4 miles) - This two-mile gravel road descends a rough, narrow wash to the Hot Springs Historic District. Ruins of J.O. Langford's resort are located nearby. From the trailhead, the hot springs are 0.5-mile round-trip. There is also a one-mile loop from the hot springs that circles the bluff above; a third trail leads to Daniels' Ranch in Rio Grande Village, three miles to the east. 

Old Maverick Road (14 miles) - The Old Maverick Road runs between Maverick Junction and Santa Elena Canyon. It is a 14-mile improved dirt road that passes along the Terlingua Creek badlands on the west side of the park. A number of historic sites are located near the road that you may visit as you gradually descend to the Rio Grande and Santa Elena. While usually passable for most vehicles, this road tends to be rough and washboarded; the fourteen miles take around an hour to drive. This road is subject to high water and flooding following rainstorms. 

Primitive Dirt Roads

Old Ore Road (26 miles) - Used in the early 1900s to transport ore from Mexican mines to the railroad station at Marathon, the Old Ore Road generally follows the route used by mule and pack trains a century ago. Drivers can access this road from the southern end near Rio Grande Village or the northern end along the Dagger Flat Road. It takes approximately 3-4 hours to drive the entire road from one end to the other. The Old Ore Road is very rocky and rough and requires a sturdy vehicle with good tires to negotiate.  

Glenn Springs Road (9 miles) - The Glenn Spring Road skirts the east side of the Chisos Mountains, then bounces over the southwest corner of Chilicotal Mountain to Glenn Springs, a lush desert spring. The numerous dry washes along this road may become extremely rough after heavy rains, making four-wheel drive necessary. As it descends from Glenn Springs to River Road, it generally becomes smoother.  

  • Pine Canyon Road (4 miles) - From the Glenn Springs Road this short road climbs gradually through the scenic desert towards the entrance of Pine Canyon and provides access to the Pine Canyon Trail (4 miles round trip hike).
  • Juniper Canyon Road (5 miles) - From Glenn Springs Road this rocky route leads to the junction of the Juniper Canyon Trail and Dodson Trail. A storage locker at the end of the road is often used to cache water for hikers using the Outer Mountain Loop Trail. This road is very rocky and rough and usually requires 4WD. 

  • River Road (51 miles) - The River Road traverses the remote southern portion of the park, roughly connecting the areas near Rio Grande Village and Castolon. While generally following the course of the Rio Grande, the road runs a considerable distance from the river, especially in its mid-section near Mariscal Mountain. You cannot actually see the river along the River Road unless you take a side trip to one of the primitive roadside campsites located next to the river. Due to its length and usually rough road conditions, allow a full day to drive from end to end. The River Road crosses numerous washes and regularly becomes impassable after rains.  

    Black Gap Road (17 miles) - This challenging road connects Glenn Springs Road with River Road. This road is NOT maintained, and a 4-wheel drive vehicle is required at all times. Before heading out on this road, always check your vehicle, and ensure that you are fully equipped to face the challenges of the route or a breakdown in the backcountry.

    Lodging in the park: 

    Chisos Mountains Lodge - The lodge offers a variety of rooms and cottages, plus a gift shop, camper store, and dining room. The lodge is open year-round and is the only lodging available within Big Bend National Park. To make a reservation by phone call 877-386-4383 or 4332-477-2291 or online visit www.chisosmountainslodge.com  

    There are several nearby lodges outside the national park that you stay at. Check out the Study Butte Lodge, Terlingua Ghost Town Lodge, or Lajitas Lodge. There are other ranches or guest houses to stay at, for more information check out VisitBigBend.com.

    Campgrounds in Big Bend National Park  

    There are 3 campgrounds and an RV park inside of Big Bend, each offering an exploration of different areas of the park. Campers are allowed to stay up to 14 consecutive days, but no more than 28 days annually. Use the map below to find locations and links to their individual websites.  

    Chisos Basin Campground

    The Chisos Basin Campground is nestled in an open woodland within a scenic mountain basin. Campers enjoy the views of Casa Grande and Emory Peak. The sunset through the nearby "Window" is a Big Bend highlight. Some of the park's most popular trails begin nearby. Elevation: 5,400 feet. This campground is open year-round, reservations are required, and has 56 campsites. Visit https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/234013 or call 877-444-6777.

    Rio Grande Village Campground

    Set in a grove of cottonwoods and acacia trees, the Rio Grande Village Campground is located near the Rio Grande. Elevation: 1,850 feet. Paved roads connect each campsite, and grassy areas separate each site. Flush toilets, running water, picnic tables, grills, and some overhead shelters. Dump station nearby. Campers enjoy birdwatching, hiking, exploring. A camp store with showers and a park visitor center are nearby. Reservations are required, opened year-round, and there are 93 campsites. Visit the Recreation.gov website or call 877-444-6777.

    Cottonwood Campground

    Cottonwood Campground is a quiet oasis in the western corner of Big Bend National Park. Reservations are required. Conveniently located between the Castolon Historic District, the scenic Santa Elena Canyon and the tail end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, this small, 22-site campground is one of the least-known and quiet campgrounds in the park. There is one group campsite and 21 individual sites. This is a remote campground in a remote park. It is dry camping, no hook-ups, and no generators are permitted. Reservations are required, open November 1 - April 30, and there are 22 campsites. Visit the Recreation.gov website or call 877-444-6777.

    Rio Grande Village RV Park

    Open, paved lot with grassy, tree-lined edges. Adjacent to the Rio Grande Village camp store. This campground, operated by Forever Resorts, has the only full hook-ups in the park. 25-site RV park (full hook-ups—water, electrical, and 3-inch sewer connection). All sites are back-in only. Tents are NOT permitted. Operated by the park's concessioner, Forever Resorts. Reservations are required, call 432-477-2293.

    Is it Hard to Get Reservations for Camping at Big Bend?

    Yes, it can be hard to get reservations during the peak season of November through April. Reservations are required for all campsites. There are no first-come, first-served spaces available. Some campgrounds may be closed during the heat of the summer - May through October. 

    To make a campground reservation visit www.recreation.gov or call (877) 444-6777. 

    Can You Enter Mexico From Big Bend National Park?

    Yes, if it is open, visitors can legally cross into Mexico through the Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry. However, as of October 2021, the Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry is closed due to COVID-19 conditions and customs regulations. Visit the NPS web page on border travel to get safety advice and interacting with border merchants.   

    Normal Hours of Operation:

    Winter Season: (November 2 - April 30)

    8:00 am–5:00 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.

    Summer Season (May 1 - November 1)

    9:00 am–6:00 pm, Friday through Monday.

    Get Connected

    The National Park Service App (NPS App) features downloadable information for all the national park sites in the country, including Big Bend.  This includes an interactive map, self-guided audio tours, and information to make your trip smoother and more interesting.  

    In addition, the Big Bend Mobile App by Just Ahead is free to download on both Google Play and the App Store. This app provides audio information on points of interest inside of Big Bend National Park and the surrounding areas & communities without the need for cell service. Simply turn on the app and begin driving. Just Ahead will “talk to you” with information on the majestic beauty of the Big Bend Region surrounding you. 

    Visitor TIP 

    Cell service is very spotty throughout the entire Big Bend area. Areas with fairly reliable service include the Chisos Basin area, and near Panther Junction. Follow these simple steps before you arrive: 

    • Download the NPS app.
    • In the app, select the "Settings" option.
    • Tap the choice "Download Offline Content." 

    This gives you access to most of the app content (except alerts, calendar updates, and real-time updates, although accessing those items before leaving service will keep that information available in the app) Even without cellular service, the NPS app will be able to share your location on the map and bring up all site content.

    Online Map of the Park

    Use our interactive map to plan your trip and view details about visitor centers, campgrounds, lodging, walking tours, and attractions.  

    How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the layers. You can click the checkmarks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.  

    If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list. 

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