Big Bend National Park Guide In 2023

Located along the Chihuahua border of Mexico and Texas, Big Bend National Park is America’s hidden gem for nature lovers, hikers, climbers, and adventurers. 

The park started attracting a huge number of visitors not until Covid.

And according to The Big Bend Sentinel, in 2021, the park saw 581,000 visitors, a 49% increase from 2016.

So if you want to be one of the visitors to this park this year then this guide is for you.

In this article, we’ll share best things to do in Big Bend National Park, the best locations nearby, and some tips to plan your visit. 



ParkBig Bend National Park
Things To DoPicnic, Drive, Discover
Hotels Near Banff National ParkChisos Mountain Lodge, Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa, Many More
Price$15 to $30
Validity7 Days
Camping LocationMultiple Locations

Where Is Big Bend National Park?

Big Bend National Park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert, Texas. If you are traveling by air, then you can book a flight to Midland/Odessa airport, which is 160 miles away from Big Bend National Park.

Apart from this, the closest cities to the parks are Terlingua, Marathon, Lajitas, and Alpine, among others.

So if you are palnning to visit the Big Bend National Park, and are looking for some nearby places to stay, then you can consider visiting one of these towns.


Big Bend National Park is one of the largest but least visited national parks in the United States.

Covering an area of 801,000 acres with an entire mountain range in itself, the park is full of deep canyons, desserts, natural water bodies, and much more. 

Big Bend is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, rafters, hikers, bird watchers, and adventure lovers and offers plenty of fun activities like hiking, swimming, canoeing, star gazing, and much more. 

Due to its remote location, Big Ben receives few visitors compared to other national parks which means you can enjoy its stark beauty without the clutter of big crowds.

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Big Bend National Park History

The history of Big Bend National Park trails back to thousands of years when the first Native Americans arrived in the Big Bend.

They settled in the area, making their living from native plants and animals.

In the 1500s, first Europeans and Spanish arrived in the area, and shortly after Comanche and Mescalero Apache eventually took control of the region.

In the 1980s, when silver and cinnabar were found in the Big Bend, it led to the mining boom in the area which lasted around 20 years.

However, in 1910, when the Mexican Revolution broke out and Big Bend became a danger zone due to raids, battles, and massacres.

Finally in 1944, after a decade-long effort by citizens to turn the area into a national park was culminated and Big Bend National Park was established. 1

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Hike Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most impressive landmarks of Big Bend National Park that are worth visiting.

You can come here just for the breathtaking view or do a short trail to the overlook.

For most of the hike, you walk along the Rio Grande River and enjoy its unparallel beauty.

It is one of the easiest trails in the park with an average distance of 1-2 hours and ascends about 80 feet, which makes it perfect for hikers with different ability levels. 

Scenic Drive at the Ross Maxwell

If you want to enjoy outstanding desert scenery, consider going to the Ross Maxwell scenic drive.

This 30-mile scenic passageway starts from the Panther Junction Road and ends at the famous Santa Elena Canyon.

On your way, you can stop at numerous overlooks to take pictures and gaze at the spectacular views of the desert of the Sierra Quemada, Goat Mountain, Burro Mesa, and Mule Wars Peaks, that you may forget you’re even in the car. 

Balanced Rock Trail

Balance Rick is another immensely popular tourist attraction of Big Bend.

It is a rock formation made by a large rhombic shape boulder that appears to be balancing precariously at either corner on two tall column-like boulders.

It is a veritable stone-henge that will that simply leave you awe-struck.

The 2.2-mile hike is quite easy with short steep and offers spectacular views from the surrounding desert which just get better and better as you go up. 

Take a Dip in Hot Springs

Rejuvenate and relax those sore muscles with a dip in the luxurious hot spring of Big Bend National Park.

Known to have magical healing powers, these springs have provided a great cross-cultural destination for relaxing and healing since long before the national park was created.

The waters are bright blue and turquoise blue serving as a parodical vision of a desert oasis. 

Camp, Hike, or Dine at the Chisos Basin Area

Chisos Basin is a valley below Big Bend’s Mountain range, Chisos Mountains.

It is one of the best hiking trails in the park starts at the Chisos Basin including the South rim trail, Emory peak trail, and the window trail.

The Basin is also home to a popular Chisos Mountain Lodge equipped with all the basic amenities, and facilities.

You can dine with your family while enjoying a stunning view of Chisos Mountain Range. 2

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Best time to visit

The best time to visit Big Bend National Park is in the late Fall to early Spring, when the weather is moderate and fairly pleasant.

Some people prefer visiting the park in Winters because snow is rare and the average temperature in January is 61°F and a low around 38 °F.


Make sure to download the official map of Big Bend National Park in PDF, with a complete descriptive pamphlet of major sites, historical highlights, and supporting notes.

It will help you prepare for your trip in advance and make it more secure and enjoyable. For more detailed information about the maps, visit

Hotels Near Big Bend National Park

Unlike most national parks, Big Bend National Park doesn’t have a large gateway town which means your accommodations options will be fairly limited.

Here are some lodging options close to the park:

  • Chisos Mountain Lodge
  • Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa
  • Big Bend Resort & Adventures
  • Gage Hotel

Camping Locations

There are four front-country campgrounds in the Big Bend National Park as well as plenty of backpacking and primitive roadside options.

Reservations are required for all the campgrounds and can be made by visiting

Visitors are allowed to stay up to 14 consecutive nights in either a front or back-country site and are provided with drinking water and restroom facilities. 


Throughout the year, the sunshine is abundant in the park. June-August is the hottest month, with temperatures ranging from 70.3 °F to 92.2 °F so you must come with heat safety gear.

The rainy season starts from May till September with heavy thunderstorms and flash flooding. Winters are delightfully mild and mostly sunny snow is rare but freezing cold does occur.

Temperatures may vary from below freezing point to above 80 °F. To check out the current weather or regional forecast, click here

Entry Fee & Reservations

The entry pass of Big Bend National Park is $30 for non-commercial vehicles with up to 15 passengers and valid for 7-days. There’s a Big Bend Annual Pass that costs $55 valid for 1-year.

However, if you’re planning to visit multiple national parks, it’s worth investing in America the Beautiful Pass. In just $80 you’ll have access to all the national parks for a full year. 3

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Traveler’s Checklist for Big Bend National Park

Here are some absolute essentials you should bring with your while visiting the Big Bend National Park: 

  • Binoculars
  • Hiking Backpack 
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sturdy water shoes
  • Rain Coat 
  • Water bottles or hydration Reservoir
  • Flashlight
  • Pocket knife
  • Ready to Eat Foods
  • First-aid kit 
  • Small Shovel

Related Articls


How many days should I Plan for Big Bend National Park?

Even if you spend weeks in the park, you still won’t be able to explore the park in its entirety.

However, a sweet spot may be a long weekend to explore the main attractions. 

How Can I get a Free Pass for Big Bend National Park?

A free pass is only available for US military veterans, Gold Star Family members. US citizens, or permanent residents and 5th graders

Which Town is closest to the Big Bend National Park?

Terlingua and El Paso are the closest towns to Big Bend’s that offers tons of services and entertainment activities for visitors. 

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