Your Guide to Big Bend National Park, Texas
Trade in your wifi for this hidden gem of Texas.
Big Bend National Park, part of the Chihuahuan Desert, is located in the Southwestern region of Texas (essentially Mexico if I’m being honest). This national park is the perfect getaway for college students who are looking to travel on a budget.
When should I go?
Springtime is Big Bend’s busiest season, especially in March due to spring break vacation. Holiday weeks such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are also popular among tourists. Summer season is less populated due to the heat, which can index to almost 115 degrees. Personally, I recommend early April to avoid the spring break rush and beat the Texas summer heat.
Where do I stay?
The Chisos Basin is the most popular camping and lodging destination inside the national park. Campsites include covered picnic tables, well-kept grounds, and bathroom facilities. RV hook-ups are also available at certain sites. Don’t miss the stars at night, these campsites offer some of the best stargazing opportunities. If tents and sleeping bags are not part of your agenda, lodging is also available in the Chisos Basin.
Pro-tip: If you choose to camp (highly recommend), book a lodging room for the very last night of your stay. Trust me, after multiple nights of camping; you will cherish the queen size bed before the long drive home the next morning.
Note: Limited lodging is available; make reservations as early as possible. Reservations can be made online or over the phone.
What should I do?
HIKE. Hike as many trails as possible. The views are incredible. The Emory Peak and South Rim trails are the highest elevation hikes, but the views make every step worth it. Most trailheads begin at the Chisos Basin, and vary based on skill level.
Pro tip: The Rio Grande Village area of Big Bend has lower elevation hiking trails, accompanied by a scenic river view (you know, if walking up the side of a mountain for hours isn’t your thing).
If you’re a river rat, canoe trips have grown popular among tourists. Day trips and overnight camping via canoe is available through guide companies. If your time in Big Bend doesn’t allow for a canoe trip, many tourists will spend time swimming in the Rio Grande to relieve the Texas heat.
Backpacking. If you really want to experience nature in it’s truest form, backcountry campsites are available for backpackers. A permit is required, but can be obtained from the national park headquarters.
What should I pack?
The interesting thing about the Chihuahuan Desert is the range of temperatures throughout the day and night. I was wearing a tank top and shorts during the day; but at night I had to put on a jacket, sweatpants, beanie, and thick socks. That being said, I recommend packing lightweight, non-cotton layers.
1. Thick socks (for hiking and sleeping)
2. Hiking Boots
3. Chacos (sorry, I’m biased), or another form of sandal.
4. At least two Nalgenes per person. Dehydration in the desert is not enjoyable.
5. Girls- dry shampoo. This will become your best friend.
6. A warm blanket
7. Deck of Cards – remember, no wifi!
8. Two coolers (ya know, mostly for beer)
9. A solid playlist downloaded ahead of time, because Spotify won’t load in the desert.
10. Speaker– for camp nights