BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

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Map of Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park Texas is the biggest state, size-wise in the lower 48. Yet Texas only has 2 National Parks, those being Guadalupe National Park and Big Bend National Park.

Both of the Texas National Parks are in west Texas, within an easy drive of each other.

Big Bend National Park is so named due to a big bend the Rio Grande River makes in the area of the park. The Rio Grande has worn a deep canyon through the Davis and Chisos Mountains. Big Bend National Park is in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Towns in the Big Bend National Park Area include Lajitas, Alpine, Study Butte, Marathon and Terlingua, site of the famous Chili Cook-Off, and Marfa, site of the mysterious lights.

Big Bend National Park is big, covering 801,163 acres, with great geological contrasts. You can go from the canyons of the Rio Grande with its jungle-like flood plain, up to the Chihuahuan Desert. The desert makes up the majority of the park.

With it various elevations and temperatures, Big Bend National Park makes for a year round attraction. The Chisos Basin is at 5,400 feet, so it stays a pleasant temperature, even in the hot days of summer.

May and June in the Chisos Mountains are usually in the 80 degree range, but can get into the 90s.

Over 1,200 types of plants can be found in Big Bend National Park. The desert wildlife is mostly nocturnal, but during the day you might see deer, javelinas, coyotes, fox, skunks, raccoons and jackrabbits. A more rare sight would be a black bear, a beaver or the aforementioned mountain lion.

HIKING & BIKING IN BIG BEND

Big Bend has more than 200 miles of trails, that range from short, easy walks, to primitive, difficult trails geared to the more experienced hiker. There are more than 100 miles of paved roads and 170 miles of dirt road. Mountain bike riders will find trails to ride in Big Bend National Park.

The trailhead for Lost Mine Trail is near Chisos Mountain Lodge. Lost Mine Trail is considered one of the best Big Bend hikes, with moderate elevation gains, a wide range of vegetation and scenic viewpoints. The Lost Mine Trail is 4.8 miles roundtrip. Those not up for that long of a hike, can hike about a mile on the Lost Mine Trail to arrive at what many consider the most incredible view in Big Bend National Park.

Rio Grande Village Nature Trail is less than a mile round-trip. That mile starts with a walk on a boardwalk over wetland caused by a natural spring. The boardwalk is followed by a hardscrabble trek over desert with cactus and desert scrub brush. You will come to a viewpoint where you can look across the Rio Grande to the white adobe buildings in the Mexican town of Boquillas.

The trailhead to Santa Elena Canyon Trail is a bit difficult to find. Follow a stone path over a shallow creekbed to find the trailhead. You will soon come to a series of switchbacks and steps as you ascend a rocky trail into the canyon. At the end of the trail you will be surrounded by cliffs. You can go swimming in the Rio Grande at this location, one of the few in the park where swimming is permitted.

BIG BEND DRIVING TOUR

Take the road to Chisos Mountain Lodge for some ear popping elevation changes and eye popping scenery. The rock formations of Casa Grande and Emory Peak will serve as your beacons to the Chisos Basin. Don't get distracted by the scenery while navigating the tight turns.

In the western side of Big Bend National Park you will find Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. You will pass by rock formations which will have you thinking you are on a different planet than Earth. Drop in on the historic village of Castolon for refreshments, then continue on to Santa Elena Canyon.

The 20 mile drive to Rio Grande Village slowly descends to the Rio Grande River. On the way there you will get the full Chihuahuan Desert experience, with cactus and mesas.

BIG BEND PARK SERVICES

Basic services in the park include visitor centers, a post office, campgrounds, for both tents and trailers, convenience store/gas stations and a gift shop/restaurant at the lodge in the Chisos Mountains Basin. There are 58 motel style rooms, plus 8 lodge type abodes and six rustic cabins. Make reservations by calling 432.477.2251.

A permit is required for all back country camping.

You will find Big Bend Birding Expeditions headquartered at Terlinqua Ranch. Hallie's Hall of Fame Museum, with mementos and relics from Hallie Stillwell's Ranch is located just north of Big Bend, take F.M. 2677 east to the museum.

There are licensed river outfitters which an take you on a Rio Grande Float Trip, like the 10 mile trek through Mariscal Canyon. Outfitters include Big Bend River Tours (800.545.4240), Desert Sports (888.989.6900) and Far Flung Outdoor Center (800.839.7238).

Map of Big Bend National Park

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