One of the most popular vacation destinations in the state of Texas is Big Bend National Park with its scenic views of mountains, canyons and desert. A visit to Big Bend Park is filled with animals, plants, historical sites and a very dark night sky for stargazing.
Big Bend National Park is located in southern Texas on the border with Mexico. Part of the border, with the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila, is marked by the 900-mile-long portion of the Rio Grande, which also flows past the edge of Big Bend National Park.
According to Anycountyprivateschools, with approximately 3,200 square kilometers, Big Bend National Park is one of the largest national parks in the United States.
A large part of Big Bend National Park consists of the Chihuahuan Desert with its many cacti and yucca plants. It is also the only national park in the USA that contains an entire mountain range, the Chisos Mountains.
Landscape & nature of Big Bend National Park
In the landscape of Big Bend National Park, which consists mostly of desert, there are many plants such as bushes, yuccas and cactus species. Due to the Rio Grande, this part of the Chihuahuan desert is considered a wet desert, which means that many creatures can live here. But also the differences in altitude of the park from 500 meters up to 2300 meters offers many different habitats.
The park’s forests are home to coyotes, white-tailed deer, foxes, bobcats, mule deer, jackrabbits, roadrunners, vultures, black bears, and cougars.
History of Big Bend National Park
Before the area was discovered by the Europeans, this region was inhabited by Big Bend with the Chihuahuan Desert, Native Americans.
Since 1930 attempts have been made to protect the landscape. The state of Texas acquired the land and established Texas Canyons State Park. In 1944 the state park became Big Bend National Park. In 1976, Big Bend Park was recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. Since 2012, the national park has been a light protection area, an International Dark Sky Park, and since then has also been called Big Bend International Dark Sky Park.
There are currently plans to expand Big Bend National Park into a US Mexico International Park, as it is on both borders.
When visiting Big Bend Park, there are also many Cretaceous rocks with fossils to discover. The remains of the largest pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus, which were discovered in Big Bend Park, are particularly well known.
Activities at Big Bend Park
Big Bend National Park offers scenic hiking, boating on the Rio Grande, fishing, horseback riding and stargazing.
You can take short walks on excellent trails or longer hikes across the park. You can even hike at different heights, whether desert hikes through the Chihuahua desert with the yucca plants, hikes along the Rio Grande or you climb the Chisos Mountains with its picturesque views of Big Bend NP.
The area is a paradise for animal and bird watching, special observation spots can be inquired with the rangers.
Big Bend’s night skies are known for good stargazing. In Big Bend there is rarely cloud cover due to the low humidity and you can see very far, especially in winter. Around 2,000 stars can be seen with the naked eye on a clear night.
Visitor Centers in Big Bend National Park
Panther Junction Visitor Center
The Panther Junction Visitor Center is the first place to get information and orientation about Big Bend Park. There is an exhibition, videos about the park, maps, books and free brochures. Interactive exhibits provide an overview of the park’s geology and natural and cultural history. The Panther Junction Visitor Center is open year-round from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Here you will also find the main office of the park administration.
Chisos Basin Visitor Center
Another visitor center is the Chisos Basin Visitor Center in Basin. Open year-round from 8:30am to 4:00pm, it includes interactive exhibits on plants, animals and birds found in the Chisos Mountains.
Castolon Visitor Center
The Castolon Visitor Center is open seasonally from November to April from 10am to 4pm. It is located in the La Harmonia Shop building and shows the visitor the multi-faceted history of this border region.
Persimmon Gap Visitor Center
The Persimmon Gap Visitor Center is open seasonally November through April from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm. Located at the northern entrance to Big Bend National Park, it features exhibits, a bookstore, and a mini theater.
Rio Grande Village Visitor Center
The Rio Grande Village Visitor Center is located 0.25 miles north of Rio Grande Village. It is open seasonally from November to April from 8.30am to 4pm. Exhibits of bats and other animals that live in Big Bend can be explored. A small desert garden gives an overview of the plants of the Chihuahuan desert.
Interesting places in Big Bend National Park
Castolon Historic District
On the west side of the park is the Castolon Historic District. From here you have a breathtaking view of the desert. In addition, the Castolon Historic District offers exhibits and historic adobe buildings on the history of Big Bend National Park.
The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive takes you to the Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend NP’s most famous attraction.
Surrounded by massive cliffs, the Chisos Basin is Big Bend Basin. Located at 5,400 feet, the Chisos Basin enjoys pleasantly mild summer temperatures. Many hiking trails lead to the mountain top here, such as the Window View Trail. There is also the Chisos Mountain Lodge, a restaurant, a campsite and the outdoor amphitheater.
Many visitors entering the park from the north pass by the Persimmon Gap. A visitor center and picnic area can be found here.
There are many roadside fossil exhibits along the road from Panther Junction to Persimmon Gap. Persimmon Gap is also a great place to visit Dog Canyon and Devil’s Den.
Rio Grande Village
Rio Grande Village offers great scenery, warm temperatures, abundant wildlife and an interesting visitor center. It is a very popular destination for visitors to Big Bend NP. This is where the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail starts, which is ideal for wildlife viewing. There is the beautiful Daniel Ranch picnic area and hot springs in the Hot Springs Historic District.
A visit to the Boquillas Canyon at the Rio Grande Village is another highlight.
Climate and weather of Big Bend National Park
The weather in Big Bend National Park is very distinct. In late spring and summer, temperatures can rise to over 40 degrees Celsius. Autumn and spring are usually warm and pleasant. The winters, on the other hand, are very mild, but frost can also occur. Rainy season is from mid-June to October, but some areas don’t get a drop of water despite the rainy season.
The humidity is relatively low, which means that the night sky is very clear at night.
Campgrounds at Big Bend & Big Bend Lodge
There are three campgrounds in Big Bend National Park: Chisos Basin Campground, Cottonwood Campground near the Castolon Historic District, and Rio Grande Village Campground. A limited number of campsites in Rio Grande Village and Chisos Basin campsites are available for pre-reservation.
Chisos Basin Campground
The Chisos Basin Campground is surrounded by high, rocky cliffs and is close to some of the most popular trails in the park. It is open all year round.
Cottonwood Campground is a quiet, shady oasis in the desert nestled between the Castolon Historic District and scenic Santa Elena Canyon. It is open all year round.
Rio Grande Village Campground
In a large grove of poplars, right next to the Rio Grande, is the Rio Grande Village campground. It is open all year round.
Other overnight accommodations are only available at Chisos Mountains Lodge in the Basin. The Big Bend Lodge offers rooms and apartments, as well as a souvenir shop. The lodge is open all year round.
Opening hours & entrance fees in the Big Bend NP
Park Entrances to Big Bend National Park are open 24 hours a day, year round. Peak season at Big Bend Park is typically November through April.
Entrance fees to Big Bend National Park are $20 for a vehicle. Persons on a motorcycle or bicycle pay $10 admission. Children up to 15 years are free. Different prices apply for groups. The admission ticket is valid for 7 days after receipt. It is also possible to buy the Big Bend Annual Pass for $40.
Directions & getting to Big Bend Park
Several highways lead to Big Bend National Park: TX 118 from Alpine to Study Butte-Terlingua or FM-170 from Presidio to Study Butte-Terlingua or US 90 or US 385 to Marathon.
There is no public transportation around or in Big Bend National Park.
Please remember that you have enough gas, food and water to explore the park. The last major shopping centers are in Alpine, Fort Stockton and Del Rio.
Attractions near Big Bend National Park
McDonald Observatory Northwest of Big Bend National Park Chihuahuanian Desert Research Institute North of Big Bend National Park Gudalupe Mountains National Park Davis Mountains Davis Mountains State Park Indian Lodge State Park Fort Davis Fort Davis National Historic Site and Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Address of Big Bend National Park in the state of Texas
Big Bend National Park