If you like outdoor activities, then the Big Bend area has no shortage of adventure and exploration waiting for you. Mountains, canyons, plains, gorges and rivers reach into the far remote corners of our state, and the sunrises and sunsets paint the far West Texas landscape with breathtaking beauty. Here are some of our favorite things to do when we visit the Big Bend area.

Visit Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is magnificent with towering majestic mountains, desert fauna, camping, 4 wheel drive trials, biking, and lots of excellent hiking trails. You can backpack in to primitive campsites or camp in your RV in a couple different areas – Rio Grande Village has RV hook ups and some nice sites. If you don’t want to camp, stay in the Chisos Mountains Lodge.

There are numerous hiking trials in the Park – see our list of favorites under “Go Hiking” below. If you’re not into hiking or biking, a drive through the Park is well worth the trip – scenic vistas, towering mountains, informative plaques, desert plans, the Rio Grande River, and more.

Rafting through Santa Elena Canyon

Go Rafting/Canoeing/Kayaking

The Rio Grande River is perfect for half-day to multi-day river trips and offers spectacular scenery, wildlife, some rapids, and canyons and area areas to explore. Head out on your own (check with the Park Rangers or one of the local outfitters first) or take a guided trip with Big Bend River Tours. If you have a chance, go through Santa Elena Canyon which has sheer cliffs extending up to 1500 feet above the water, canyons to explore, and a Class IV rapid (depending on river flow). Read about our rafting trip through Santa Elena Canyon.

Camping in Big Bend
Mountains in Big Bend
Lajatis Resort Lodging

Discover Things To Do In Lajitas

If you like good food, unique and comfortable accommodations, lots of activities (ATV tours, horse back riding, hunting, clay shooting, etc.), a refreshing pool, fun and lively bar, a fantastic golf courses, and a good massage or facial, then you need to spend a day or more at Lajitas Resort. Read our review of Lajitas Resort to learn more.

Go Hiking

If you like to hike, it doesn’t get much better than in the Big Bend area. You have tons of choices from strenuous to easy, river bed to mountain trails, desert or mountainous terrain, elevations from 1800′ toover 7800′, or short interpretive trails to multi day backpacking trails. Some of our favorites are the Window Trail, Lost Mine Trail, and Santa Elena Canyon – one to three hour hikes ranging from easy to a little strenuous plus majestic views, a variety of fauna, wildlife, and unique formations. Hiking in Big Bend National Park and neighboring Big Bend Ranch State Park have over 66 miles of interconnected rugged trials just waiting for you.

One of the Ambush Golf Course Holes
Dining at Chisos Mtn Lodge
Drinks at La Kiva

Hit the Links

You can’t leave this area without playing a round of golf on one of the best courses in Texas, Black Jack’s Crossing Golf Course at Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa – they have some great stay and play deals.

Take in the Nightlife & Munch On Some Good Food

Lajitas Resort has a very nice bar and occasionally has music; La Kiva is truly unique (a cave type atmosphere) and locals play music there on Wednesdays; and the Boathouse is a fun and lively locals bar. The area isn’t really known for gourmet restaurants, but Lajitas Resort is excellent; Starlight Theater is very good; the Chisos Mountains Lodge restaurant is ok;, and there are several others that range from very funky (Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe) to traditional.

Attend the Terlingua Chili Cookoff

Terlingua is famous for it’s annual Chili Cookoff, which is now two entirely different cookoffs in two locations. You can have a great time at either one sampling the food, listening to good music, watching the teams compete for Best Showmanship, or just people watching – lots of unique, friendly, funny, and fun loving people!

Visit Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park in Texas, over 300,000 acres of Chihuahuan Desert wilderness in a remarkably rugged, remote and unpopulated setting. The Park encompasses some of the most remote and rugged terrain in the Southwest which includes two mountain ranges with ancient extinct volcanoes, precipitous canyons, and waterfalls. You’ll find a variety of trails for biking, four wheeling, hiking, or horseback riding. Sauceda Lodge Bunkhouse offers overnight lodging or there are several primitive campsites (no hookups) available.

Take an ATV, Jeep, or Hiking Tour

We had a blast on an ATV tour with Far Flung in Terlingua riding up and down the hills, through arroyos, and next to some beautiful mountain scenery.

Scenic drive from Lajitas to Presido
Ghost Town Lodging
McDonald Observatory

Go Exploring

Within 100 miles of Terlingua there is a surprising amount of things to see and do, some of which include: take the very scenic road from Lajitas to Presidio as it winds up and down the mountains and along the Rio Grande River; cross the border at Presidio and spend some time in Mexico; check out the artists in Marfa and Alpine – make sure you visit the really cool Gage Hotel in Alpine and the Hotel Piasano (a National Historic Landmark and headquarters for the crew and cast that filmed “Giant”; drive to Ft Davis and explore Davis Mountains State Park, take a tour of McDonald Observatory, or visit the Ft Davis National Historic Site.

Visit the Terlingua Ghost Town

Once an abandoned mining village, the ghost town is now the center of a charming desert community, a good restaurant, gift and souvenir shop, a self guided walking tour, and an old cemetery.

West Texas can be a place full of awe and wonder, so hit the road and check out all that Big Bend, Terlingua and Lajitas has to offer!

Simon Trask
Author: Simon Trask

Simon loves Texas and the Great Outdoors. From East Texas pines to West Texas mountains, he calls North Texas home but is always ready to float a river in Hill Country or go fishing on the Gulf Coast. Simon loves camping and road trips as well, whether it's cruising Highway 287, 82, 69 or 281, that's the true way to see what Texas is all about!

Join the Texas Outside newsletter