Big Bend Basics
When to Go
Year-round, though fall and winter may be the best seasons. Deciduous leaves turn color in the mountains in autumn; winters are mild. Summer temperatures in the desert can exceed 110°F; the Chisos Mountains remain cooler. If enough rain falls, the desert blooms stunningly in early spring, and again in late summer. Bird-watching is good all year, but especially in March, April, and May.
How to Get There
From Marathon US 385 leads south to the north entrance to the park; Tex. 118 from Alpine leads south to the west entrance; Ranch Road 170, from Presidio, joins Tex. 118 shortly before the west entrance. Nearest airports: El Paso (325 miles) and Midland-Odessa (230 miles).
How to Visit
Allow several days, especially if you plan to hike. Explore the Chisos Mountains Basin and the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, engineered to take you past many of the park's geological and scenic highlights. Ideally, devote the better part of a day to each area. With extra time on the second afternoon, or on a third day, drive out to Rio Grande Village and the Boquillas Canyon Overlook to experience the river environment and enjoy views of the Sierra del Carmen, particularly spectacular at sunset. On your way in or out, view the landscape and exhibits along the road between Panther Junction and Persimmon Gap. For an extended visit, try more of the many rewarding hikes, drive some dirt roads, and consider a leisurely float trip along the Rio Grande through one of the park's three major canyons.
Where to Stay
Tent and RV camping, as well as overnight backpacking, are permitted within the park for an average of $14 per night. Chisos Mountains Lodge offers 72 rooms, including six cottages, and is the only lodge located inside the park. The Gage Hotel is a historic hotel 60 miles north of the park, with 39 elegantly rustic guest rooms.
Given the park's proximity to the Mexican border, heightened security precautions are in place for those taking trips on the Rio Grande. Plan to have a U.S. passport or passport card, as Homeland Security officials may ask to see identification.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Those planning to hike extensively or camp in the backcountry are required to obtain a permit beforehand. Be prepared for dramatic temperature changes and bring lots of water. Flash floods are common after thunderstorms, so it's best to avoid narrow canyons or dry washes. Water-borne organisms that cause illness can be found in the Rio Grande, so avoid swimming in the river. Many wild animals, such as mountain lions, bears, scorpions, and venomous snakes inhabit the park, so act wisely and research proper techniques to ensure your safety. Rangers at any visitor center can provide safety tips.