Big Bend in the western arm of Texas amazes and awes everyone who lives in and visits this absolutely stunning region of Texas. Big Bend National Park highlights the beauty of Big Bend with its canyons, desert floor, gorges, mountains, plains, vivid colors, and its night skies full of millions of stars. 

Big Bend National Park Stargazing

Big Bend National Park stargazing is a celebrated activity for its spectacular array of stars in space. One feels awfully small when viewing Big Bend’s night skies. Park rangers or volunteers lead a regular night sky interpretive program, which is free. They offer star parties, moonlight walks, and other programs.

What Does it Cost to Enter Big Bend National Park?

All vehicles entering Big Bend National Park pay an entrance fee. This park does not accept reservations unless you camp. There are no day passes available, and there is no limit to the number of visitors that can visit this park on a daily basis. All visitors must have an entrance pass. There are several fee options to visit Big Bend National Park. This park does not accept cash.

A standard entry pass for non commercial vehicles ranges from $15 to walk in, $25 for motorcycles, and $30 for private vehicles. An annual entrance pass costs $55. An Integracy Pass, which allows people to visit over 2,000 federal recreation sites, costs $80 and is free for military personnel. Integracy passes are available at the USGS online store.   

On top of those passes, the USGS (United States Geological Survey) offers a free pass valid for the duration of the 4th grader’s school year though the following summer from September to the next August. The 4th Grade Pass is available to U.S. 4th graders, including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years old. 

A lifetime Senior Pass is $80 and $20 for an Annual Senior Pass. An Access Pass is free for .U.S citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Applicants must provide documentation of permanent disability and residency or citizenship.

A Volunteer Pass is free for federal volunteer workers who have logged 250 service hours. Six federal agencies participate in the Integracy Pass progam, the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Do You Need a Reservation to Enter Big Bend National Park?

No, Big Bend National Park does not accept reservations unless you camp. All campgrounds require reservations. Backcountry and frontcountry backpacking, hiking and primitive camping require a permit.  

What is Special About the Big Bend National Park?

Big Bend, Texas, is part of Texas’ Trans-Pecos region in western Texas. Big Bend National Park is in the southern dip in the western arm of Texas. The Rio Grande River separates this park from Mexico. This park covers 801,163 acres and stretches into Mexico’s Parque Nacional Cañon de Santa Elena and Área Natural Protegida Maderas del Carmen.

Big Bend National Park showcases its geological miracle. It abounds with ancient sea fossils and dinosaur bones, volcanic dikes, and wildlife diversity to the maximum. Countries and cultures meet at Big Bend National Park. You will certainly feel the ghosts of long-gone miners, Native Americans, pioneers, ranchers, and Spanish explorers.

What Is the Prettiest Part of Big Bend National Park? does not know how to answer this question about this spectacular geological wonder. There are way too many pretty places and stunning views all over the park. However, we can look at the most popular destinations in the Big Bend National Park.

The winner of the most popular destination in Big Bend National Park is the Santa Elena Canyon, which displays unimagined beauty, with its towering cliffs whose walls rise over 1,500 feet above the Rio Grande River. The Santa Elena Canyon scales to its heights in the southwestern end of the park in dazzling brilliance. 

How Many Days Do You Need in Big Bend National Park?

One could spend a lifetime in Big Bend National Park and never see the whole of it and also never see the entire Big Bend region, which does not end in Texas and continues in Chihuahua, Mexico. This sprawling region is packed with exciting adventures to be had. It all depends on how much time you have to explore. 

The advice on how much time you need according to popularity is at least three days. It takes three days to see Big Bend National Park’s three major sections, hike or drive some of its most scenic trails, and take a day trip into Mexico’s continuation of this international wilderness that will ignite every sense you were born with. 

Can You Drive Through Big Bend National Park?

Over 100 miles of paved roads meander through Big Bend National Park. Improved dirt roads will accommodate most vehicles, depending on their conditions. The park’s primitive dirt roads traverse through panoramic vistas, old settlements and cemeteries, and give access to hiking trails and primitive roadside campsites. Some of these roads are rougher than others and can be impassable during and after storms. 

Yes, you can use all the roads to drive through Big Bend National Park, but the dirt roads can require a four-wheel drive. The primitive dirt roads are not safe for cars and RVs. The five paved roads are Chisos Basin Road, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, Panther Junction, Persimmon Gap, and Maverick Entrance Station. 

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed the six-mile Chisos Basin Road during the Great Depression. The Chisos Basin offers a visitor center, campground, lodge, restaurant, camp store, and access to miles of hiking trails. The park does not recommend this road for trailers over 20 feet and RVs over 24 feet. The breathtaking views from this road rise 2,000 feet above the desert floor. 

The 20-mile Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive treks through the Sam Nail Ranch, Homer Wilson (Blue Creek) Ranch, and the Castolon Historic Compound. Castolon features a visitor center, a camp store, and access to the nearby Cottonwood Campground. This drive takes you through the amazing Sotol Vista, Mule Ears Overlook, and Tuff Canyon. This road leads to Santa Elena Canyon. 

Three roads take you to Rio Grande Village. Panther Junction is 21 miles and crosses through ancient limestone formations and by marvelous vistas, with worthwhile stops along the way. Dugout Wells offers a desert nature trail, Boquillas Canyon has gorgeous vistas, and you can soak in the Hot Springs. Birders love the Rio Grande Nature Trail. 

Persimmon Gap features trails to Dog Canyon and Devil’s Den, the Fossil Bone Exhibit, and the Tornillo Creek hoodoos. Hoodoos are natural soft rock formations underneath harder rock formations. The Rosillos Mountain flank Persimmon Gap on the east and the Dead Horse Mountain tower over this road on the way to Rio Grande Village. 

The 23-mile Maverick Entrance Station drives you through stunning desert landscapes. It provides roadside exhibits that describe the wildlife you may see on this drive. Maverick Entrance Station crosses the junctions of Chisos Basin Road and Maxwell Scenic Drive. 

Is Big Bend Worth the Trip?

Big Bend, Texas, should be on every outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list. Big Bend National Park presents free Ranger Programs with guided tours and more, kid’s activities, nature, natural features and ecosystems, history, and culture. 

It is indeed worth the trip to visit Big Bend National Park. This park provides habitats for over 1,200 species of plants including 60 cacti species, 11 species of amphibians, 56 species of reptiles, 40 species of fish, 75 species of mammals, over 400 species of birds, and about 3,600 species of insects. 

Big Bend National Park supports more species of birds, bats, butterflies, ants, scorpions, and cacti than any other national park in the U.S. For kids, the park has several easy hikes, the Fossil Discovery Exhibit, the Chisos Basin Visitor Center, Junior Ranger Programs, free family passes for fourth graders, and Junior Ranger Park Explorer programs. 

Big Bend National Park Things to Do

With majestic mountains, desert fauna, camping, four-wheel drive trails, biking, miles of excellent hiking trails, backpacking to primitive campsites, or parking in your RV in different areas, visitors to Big Bend National Park find action-packed activities all over the park. The park’s best feature is its super scenic eye candy and night skies. 

Canoe, kayak, or raft the Rio Grande River, bring your own or rent one or take a guided river tour. One of the most popular river runs is through Santa Elena Canyon under 1,500-foot escarpments. 

Hike over 150 miles of trails. The seven most popular mountain hikes are the Chisos Mountain Trails with the Chisos Basin Loop Trail, Boot Canyon Trail, Emory Creek, Lost Mine Trail, South Rim, Window Trail, and Window View Trail. Backpack in the backcountry. The park limits group backcountry backpacking to 15 people. You need to buy a backcountry permit. 

Bring your horse or rent one from Lajitas Stables and explore 238 miles of suitable equestrian trails. The park allows equestrians in some backcountry areas. Take a guided tour from Lajitas Stables. The equestrian fee is $2.00 a day. The park only allows weed-free hay. The equestrian trails are rough, so you need to make sure you and your horse are capable. 

The Escondido Pens, Jackson Pens, and Javelin Pens provide livestock stables, shaded areas and ramadas, water troughs, spring fed water, and campsites with fire rings and picnic tables. Horse people need to check with rangers about road conditions before driving in with their trailers. 

Learn the history and culture of the people that came before us. Texas refers to Big Bend as its “Gift to the Nation”. For thousands of years, Native people lived in or hunted through Big Bend. Spanish explorers entered the region in the 1500s and 1600s, searching for gold. 

Mexican settlers farmed both sides of the Rio Grande River. Anglo farmers and ranchers arrived in the 1920s. Explore archeological sites that date back nearly 10,000 years, ranches, wax camps, military outposts, and mining camps.

What City Is Close to Big Bend National Park?

Terlingua and Lajitas are the closest Texas towns to Big Bend National Park.  Benito Juarez is closest and a teeny tiny Mexican farming village. Near Lajita is the abandoned Contrabando movie set that Brooks and Dunn featured in their My Maria video.  

Lajitas’ cafes serve up sumptuous meals, offers trailheads into Big Bend National Park, a desert golf course, spas, comfortable accommodations, and a lively nightlife. Terlingua hosts the famous Annual Terlingua International Chili Cookoff when chiliheads swell this town’s population. 

What Is the Best Month to Visit Big Bend National Park?

Big Bend is most popular from late fall to early spring. Snow is rare, but it occasionally snows in the park. Rain storms mess up the trails and the dirt roads. Big Bend National Park lies in part of an expansive desert with mountains. Even in the summer months, nights can become quite chilly. The weather changes for every 1,000-feet ascent in the mountains. 

The best months to visit Big Bend National Park are from October to April. Weather conditions are fairly moderate during this period. Fall and spring are mostly warm and pleasant. Big Bend sees afternoon and evening rain showers, with some turning into violent thunderstorms that produce flash floods, from July to October.

Big Bend National Park Camping

While the Big Bend National Park does not accept reservations to enter the park, you must make reservations for the campgrounds. The National Park Service (NPS) operates three developed frontcountry campgrounds, operated by Aramark, that provide drinking water, restrooms, and full RV hookups. 

The park does not allow wood or ground fires anywhere in the park. It allows a charcoal fire in an above-ground grill, but campers must pack out ashes. It allows liquid-fuel stoves. Chisos Basin Campground, Rio Grande Village Campground, and Cottonwood Campground are developed. Visitors need to check with the park for campground closures close to their reservation date. 

For campers with rugged vehicles, or want to go off-roading or backpack into the wild, Big Bend National Park offers options for backcountry camping. A backcountry permit is required for all backcountry camping and river trips. Permits for most designated backcountry campsites. The Chisos Backpacking Campsites and Primitive Roadside Campsites are available online through

Permits for desert and mountain backpacking and camping in primitive roadside sites along the Maverick Road, remote River Road, and Old Ore Road are available in person only at park visitor centers. An organized group or individual party may not exceed a 15 person limit.

In the Chisos Mountains, there is currently only one Chisos backpacking campsite that can accommodate a group of 15. Groups may split into separate campsites, but the group cannot exceed the 15-person size limit. In the desert, groups over 15 people need to split up and backpack into separate, non-adjacent zones.

Visitors are welcome to stay in the park up to 14 consecutive nights in either a front or backcountry site, with a limit of 28 total nights in the park per calendar year. Campers can occupy a specific site up to 14 total nights in a year. During the busy season from January 1 to April 15, the park limits visitors to 14 nights.

The park limits campsites to eight people per site. Groups over eight visitors must pay for additional campsites. Campers may occupy only one RV per site with a tow vehicle with one tent or four tents, plus two passenger vehicles or four motorcycles. 

Smaller sites may not have room for eight people or multiple tents and vehicles. Group Campgrounds are not available unless reserved in advance and are for groups of ten or larger only.

Campers must store all food items inside their vehicles or in animal-proof food storage containers. Animals consider toothpaste, soap, deodorant, and trash as food. Javelinas (wild hogs) are dangerous and can destroy a tent to get at them. Do not leave coolers or food boxes on the ground when your campsite is unattended.

Go here for all of Big Bend National Park’s campground regulations.

Big Bend National Park Lodging

The Chisos Mountain Lodge rests at an elevation of 5,400-feet in the Chisos Mountains on Casa Grande Peak. A few vacation home rentals are nearby the park. The Terlingua Ranch Lodge, Buzzard’s Roost glamping teepees, and the Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa are located near Big Bend National Park.

Chisos Mountain Lodge Amenities:

  • 72 Non-Smoking Rooms
  • ADA/Handicap Accessible
  • Free Parking
  • Facilities
  • Located Near A Convenience Store
  • No Cell Phone Service
  • No Television In Rooms
  • Payphone Located By Gift Shop
  • Restaurant On Site Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant and Patio is open 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Trail Heads And Other Guest Services
  • WiFi Access In The Gift Shop, Patio Area & Basin Visitors Center Only
  • Gift Shop
  • Laundry 

Big Bend National Park Monthly Weather

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides the following Big Bend National Park weather data and statistics. The graphs show average weather patterns, but these conditions can change at any time.

Kendall Davis
Author: Kendall Davis

Author: Kendall Davis Company: Lumini Services Kendall currently lives on the shores of Lake Texoma in Texas. She traveled across two-thirds of the U.S. for many years camping at lakes, rivers, and three oceans before motels and hotels if at all possible, and she continuously saw God's presence in nature. Writing for Lakehub allows Kendall to share her experience with God's creations.

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