top of page

Hi, we're Georgina and Nathan, college friends turned travel partners. We're coffee and animal-loving adventure enthusiasts here to share our favorite travel tips with you! Our goal is to inspire others to get out and explore this wild planet by camping, hiking, or wandering around a fun new city!

Join our mailing list!

Thanks for subscribing!

  • Writer's pictureGeorgina D'Angelo

Is Big Bend National Park worth visiting? Yes, find out why here!

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

Big Bend National Park: A Complete Traveler’s Guide

Is Big Bend National Park worth visiting?

When you think of Texas, you might think of cow pastures, tractors, miles of flat land, and small town after small town. But did you know one of the most underrated US national parks is located in West Texas? Big Bend National Park is an incredible natural wonder waiting to be explored.

If you’re looking for a place to camp, hike, stargaze, and admire wildlife, then Big Bend National Park is the perfect place for you. Because it’s not a very popular national park, Big Bend is not overly packed with visitors and you’ll actually feel like you’re truly spending time in nature. You won’t be admiring a beautiful viewpoint along with tons of other people. In fact, you might be the only one!

Are you ready to experience this true Texas gem? One of the best national parks the US has to offer? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Below are ALL the details on Big Bend National Park Texas so you can plan the ultimate trip to this stunning location. Keep in mind, this park does charge a $30 entrance fee per car; this is valid for 7 days. But you can also use your America the Beautiful Pass here!

Speaking of the national park pass, you can also use it to get into Crater Lake National Park, another insanely beautiful place to visit. Read more about visiting Crater Lake National Park on our friend Dom's blog, World of Dom! Checking off multiple parks makes the America the Beautiful Pass well worth the investment.

Big Bend National Park Location

You might be wondering, “Where is Big Bend National Park?” And you need to know where you’re going! Big Bend NP is located in far west Texas, right above the Texas-Mexico border. This area of the US comprises deserts, mountains, and river canyons. It is a very dry location, but being in the desert, it does get hot in the day and cold at night. More on the weather below.

The closest towns to Big Bend NP are Terlingua and Marathon, about 50 minutes and 1.5 hours drive away, respectively. This national park is in a very remote area, so make sure you fill up on gas and food before you enter the park. There is a gas station in the park, as well as multiple convenience stores, but the prices inside the park are much more than those outside.

Big Bend National Park Location

How big is Big Bend National Park?

Ranked as the 14th largest national park out of all 63 in the US, Big Bend National Park is 801,163 acres. It is actually bigger than Yosemite! This underrated park is well worth exploring. As you can see, there is a LOT to explore.

Big Bend National Park Weather

In short, summer in Big Bend is very hot, you won’t want to hike very much. Fall and spring are the best times to visit. It gets warm during the day but cools down nicely at night for the perfect sleeping weather. Big Bend in winter is very cold, as it gets quite windy here! If you bring the proper attire; however, you can comfortably hike and spend time outside during the day in winter.


Big Bend National Park is very, very hot in summer. If you want to hike many of the Big Bend NP trails, I do not recommend visiting in the summer. While it does cool off in the night and early morning, most of the day will be too hot for hiking. There are no tall trees to provide shade here in Big Bend. It’s a desert! So bring all the sun protection you can. Carry plenty of water with you, and take breaks while hiking.

Big Bend National Park Weather - Summer


Big Bend gets surprisingly cold despite being a southern desert. We found that the middle of the day was the perfect time to go hiking in the winter. Still, remember to wear warm clothes; the sun can get warm, but having layers to take on and off is the best idea while visiting Big Bend National Park in winter. If you’re tent camping, you will definitely want a heavy/cold weather sleeping bag. We recommend bringing extra blankets as the temps can vary.

Big Bend National Park Weather - Winter


Fall is the best time to visit Big Bend National Park with spring coming in as a close second best choice. In the fall, Big Bend is still very warm during the day. In fact, you’ll still want to hike during the morning and evening, to avoid the sun at its hottest in the middle of the day. We were comfortable hiking in both shorts and hiking pants in the fall. However, as soon as the sun goes down, it gets significantly colder. We were warm enough in sweatshirts, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pack a medium-weight jacket.

Big Bend National Park Weather - Fall


Spring in Big Bend National Park is slightly cooler than fall, but the same rules apply when it comes to hiking and what to wear. It is a desert after all, so the sun can get surprisingly hot. Whatever time of year you plan on visiting Big Bend, just remember there are no tall trees, so there is no shade. Bring plenty of sun protection and water if you plan on hiking during any month!

Big Bend National Park Weather - Spring

Hiking Big Bend National Park

There are plenty of breathtaking hiking trails Big Bend National Park has to offer. This location is a mountain lover’s and desert lover’s paradise alike. The nature and wildlife in Big Bend NP are incredible. You have many types of cacti, tarantulas, bears, rivers and the list goes on. If you’re a nature lover, you NEED to visit Big Bend, National Park. TIP: Always check the NPS website for current hiking conditions and trail closure alerts.

Check out the best Big Bend hiking trails:

  • Window Trail: 5.5 miles roundtrip, out and back from Chisos Basin, 2-3 hours avg. hiking time, moderate difficulty

  • Lost Mine Trail: 4.8 miles roundtrip, out and back, 3-hour avg. hiking time, but great views the first mile in, moderate difficulty

  • Balanced Rock: 2-mile roundtrip, out and back, 50-minute avg. hiking time, easy until the last quarter mile "climb" up to the rock

  • Santa Elena Canyon: 1.4-mile roundtrip, out and back, varying conditions depending on water levels (flooding is common)

  • Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive: 30.9-mile point-to-point paved road, popular for biking and driving, various trails and views along the way

  • Upper Burro Mesa Pour-Off: 3.5-mile roundtrip, out and back, 1.5 hours avg. hiking time, moderate difficulty

  • Laguna Meadow Trail: 7.8-mile roundtrip, out and back, 4 hours avg. hiking time, moderate difficulty

  • Sam Nail Ranch Trail: 0.3-mile roundtrip loop, 10-minute avg. hiking time, 1900s ranching area

Hiking Big Bend National Park - Sam Nail Ranch Trail

Big Bend National Park Campgrounds

There are a total of 4 campgrounds in Big Bend National Park. Three of these campgrounds are run by the National Park Service (NPS); Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Cottonwood. These three campsites all offer drinking water and restroom facilities. However, there are no full RV hook-ups available here.

Rio Grande Village RV Park is a concession campground run by Aramark, and it has 25 sites with full hookups. (Concession campgrounds are privately owned and operated. NPS is not responsible for this campground.) This is the only campground with full hook-ups in Big Bend National Park.

There is also backcountry camping in Big Bend National Park. You must obtain a permit for all backcountry camping. Most permits can be obtained online through the NPS website, but some require you to be in person at one of the Big Bend National Park visitor centers. No matter where you end up camping, ALWAYS leave your rain cover on your tent. We learned the hard way that it can downpour in Big Bend even if there is no rain forecasted.

How to Get to Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is located in rural west Texas. If you are driving into the park, the closest “city” is Terlingua, Texas if you are arriving from the west (50 mins). If you plan on arriving from the north or the east, the closest city is Marathon, Texas (90 mins). Driving is a great option because you will definitely need a car to get around the park. This is a large national park so everything is very spread out.

If you plan on flying to visit Big Bend NP, you will want to fly into either Midland International Air & Space Port (MAF) or Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). From MAF, you will need to rent a car and drive 4 hours to Big Bend National Park.

If you want to fly into DFW (recommended route), rent a car, and drive 8.5 hours to Big Bend. DFW is a much larger airport, so plane tickets will likely be much cheaper to fly into this airport rather than MAF. While this park is out of the way, don’t let it stop you from visiting. We drove 11 hours from east Texas and it was so worth it.

Balanced Rock Trail Big Bend National Park Hiking

Big Bend National Park Stargazing

If you are an astronomer or a lover of space and all its magnificent stars, then Big Bend National Park NEEDS to be on your list. This is one of the very best places to stargaze in the US. Because it is so remote, Big Bend National Park has very little light pollution. You are 50 minutes away from the closest town, and even then, it doesn’t have huge buildings emitting tons of light.

For the best stargazing in Big Bend National Park, get yourself a backcountry camping permit. While the campgrounds get very dark, and it is still very possible to stargaze in them, you will be completely in the dark if you go backcountry camping. You won’t have neighbors who won’t turn their lanterns off or restroom doors opening and emitting light.

What to Bring to Big Bend National Park

Chances are you will be hiking when you visit Big Bend, National Park. Remember there are lots of rocks, pebbles, and mountains in Big Bend as it is a desert. So having proper attire is very important, and it depends on the season. However, the following are necessary items to bring regardless of the season.

  • hat and sunglasses

  • backpack

  • hiking boots + socks

  • hiking pants

  • athletic shirts

  • sunscreen/sun shirt

  • large water bottle

  • snacks for hiking

  • food + cookware

  • sweater / jacket

  • tent + rain cover

  • sleeping bag + pillow

  • lantern

  • camera!

What to Bring to Big Bend National Park

If you plan on visiting Big Bend National Park in winter or during the cooler months, you should also pack a warm coat or heavy jacket, thermal pants, thicker socks, a beanie, and gloves if you run cold.

During the late spring, summer, and early fall, you will also want to bring a rain jacket and an umbrella. It tends to rain very randomly in Big Bend. There might be no rain forecasted at all, but it can still suddenly downpour. Which is why you also need a rain cover for your tent!

Remember there are black bears in Big Bend NP, so all of your food will need to be stored in your campsite's bear locker (located at each individual site). If you are backcountry camping, do NOT forget a bear canister, or you will wake up to some hungry, nosy neighbors stealing your food.

Is Big Bend National Park worth visiting? Yes!

With all the details on hand, you are now ready to visit Big Bend National Park! You know where it is located, what the weather is like the top hiking trails and more. Now pack your bags, bring your hiking boots, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

Find out for yourself why one of America’s most underrated national parks is so worth visiting. Reminder: it has something to do with the incredible wildlife, mountains, and more you’ll see ;) Desert mountains are an incredible sight to admire!

When will you be heading to Big Bend National Park? And are you bringing any friends along for the marvelous outdoor adventure? Let us know in the comments below!

Post: Blog2_Post

Free Travel Planner Printable!

free travel planner printable pdf.jpg

Grab your FREE travel planner printable below and get planning your next trip with Alpacka My Bags!

Our latest tips and guides...
Alpacka My Bags Travel Blog.jpg


We're Georgina and Nathan, two adventure enthusiasts and creators of Alpacka My Bags. We're here for all of your travel and adventure planning needs! 


We've been exploring this insane planet that we call home together for over 3 years now. After college, we knew the "traditional career path" was not for us, and honestly the "traditional life path", in general, just wasn't for us.


We needed to travel and explore what this world has to offer, it sounds cliché but you do only live once. So we made going on adventures a priority, and soon realized that we wanted to share them with others so they can enjoy them too! 

Our passion is spreading the travel bug and showing others that travel is attainable and so worth it. From itineraries to camping tips to packing lists, Alpacka My Bags has you covered!

Join us, and often our dog, JoJo, as we find exciting adventures and travel recommendations for you! If you've been bit by the travel bug just as we have, we hope you find our tips useful for any and all of your future travels.

bottom of page