Destination :: Big Bend National Park

  • Big Bend National Park: Sun-lit view of the Chisos Mountains across a scrubby plain.

    Chisos Mountains. February 2017. Image 1/12

  • Big Bend National Park: View overlooking a small valley. Large orange-ish rocks are everywhere; minimal scrub vegetation is visible.

    Grapevine Hills Trail. February 2017. Image 2/12

  • Big Bend National Park: Scrub-filled valley in the Chisos Mountains, with the Chisos Basin Campground visible in the center of the image.

    Overlooking the Chisos Basin Campground. February 2017. Image 3/12

  • Big Bend National Park: View of a valley in the Chisos Mountains, with the Lost Mine Trail's 'Castle' on the left and the Chisos Basin Campground straight ahead.

    The Castle on the Lost Mine Trail. February 2017. Image 4/12

  • Big Bend National Park: Hazy view from the end of the Lost Mines Trail. Mountains descend to the distant plains.

    View from the End of the Lost Mine Trail. February 2017. Image 5/12

  • Big Bend National Park: Canyon walls glow golden in the early evening light

    Santa Elena Canyon in the evening light. May 2018. Image 6/12

  • Big Bend National Park: Distant view of the the Mules Ears formation, with rolling scrub land dominating the picture.

    Mules Ears. February 2017. Image 7/12

  • Big Bend National Park: A mountain is visible in the distance, framed by tall, thin cactus stems.

    Mountain view from Dugout Wells. May 2018. Image 8/12

  • Big Bend National Park: Goats and a few herd dogs gather along the banks of the Rio Grande to drink.

    Goats drink along the Rio Grande. May 2018. Image 9/12

  • Big Bend National Park: A dirt road heads straight into distant mountains.

    View along the Old Maverick Road. May 2018. Image 10/12

  • Big Bend National Park: An orange sun hovers over black silhouetted mountains at sunset.

    Sunset. May 2018. Image 11/12

  • Big Bend National Park: A last sliver of orange light is visible above the mountains, with Venus lighting the sky.

    Sunset. May 2018. Image 12/12

Big Bend National Park, located in remote West Texas along the Mexican border, protects diverse desert animal and plant species and provides unparalleled night sky views thanks to a lack of light pollution.

Brief History

For 10,000 years
Native Americans use and live in the area, leaving behind pictographs and archaeological sites.1
1500s-1600s
Spanish explorers cross the Rio Grande, searching for gold and other resources.
1800s
Comanche Indians cross the Rio Grande, raiding into Mexico and establishing the Comanche Trail.
1880s+
Mexican and European-American farmers and ranchers begin settling the area.
May 29, 1933
Texas establishes Texas Canyons State Park to protect the area.2
October 27, 1933
Texas Canyons State Park is redesignated as Big Bend State Park.
June 20, 1935
U.S. Congress passes legislation to acquire land for a national park.3
June 12, 1944
Big Bend State Park is redesignated as Big Bend National Park.4
July 1, 1944
The national park opens to visitors.
August 30, 1949
The park boundary changes.5
November 5, 1957
The park boundary changes.
1976
UNESCO designates the park a Biosphere Reserve.6
May 27, 1989
The park boundary changes.
2012
The International Dark-Sky Association designates Big Bend an International Dark Sky Park.7

Location

Texas
United States

Website

Evaluation

Unforgettable

We visited in peak season and primarily stuck to short (half day or less) trails. There were people on every trail, so not much prolonged solitude. Popular destinations felt a bit crowded at times (e.g. the end of Lost Mine Trail, the top of Balancing Rock), but generally we passed (or were passed by) other people/groups and then had some time and space to ourselves. This is a remote and relatively undeveloped park in the desert, so read through park recommendations on preparation and take them seriously. Water is at a premium; plan to pack it in rather than expecting it to be readily available.

Visits: 2 Most recent: May 2018

Quick Statistics

Size
801,163+ acres8
Trails
450 miles of paved roads, dirt roads, and trails + backcountry hiking9
Visitors
388,290 (2016)10

Notes

  1. Unless otherwise noted, information about the park and park history is from "History and Culture," NPS.
  2. Dates for the Texas State Park designations confirmed from a 1960 letter from Will Wilson, Attorney General, to the Texas State Parks board.
  3. The National Parks: Index 2012-2016, NPS.
  4. The National Parks: Index 2012-2016, NPS.
  5. "Big Bend," UNESCO.
  6. "Big Bend National Park (U.S.)," International Dark-Sky Association.
  7. All boundary change information from The National Parks: Index 2012-2016, NPS.
  8. Listing of Acreage, NPS.
  9. "Things to Do." NPS.
  10. Annual Visitation Report, NPS.

References

  • Annual Visitation Report by Years: 2006 to 2016. NPS Stats. Accessed December 12, 2017. Link.
  • "Big Bend." Biosphere Reserves. UNESCO. November 2015. Accessed November 18, 2017. Link.
  • "Big Bend National Park (U.S.)." International Dark Sky Parks.International Dark-Sky Association. Accessed November 18, 2017. Link.
  • "Day Hikes." Big Bend National Park, Texas. National Park Service. Accessed December 12, 2017. Link.
  • "History and Culture." Big Bend National Park, Texas. National Park Service. October 3, 2016. Accessed October 11, 2017. Link.
  • Listing of Acreage (Summary). NPS Stats. December 31, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2017. Link.
  • The National Parks: Index 2012-2016. National Park Service. 2016. Accessed November 16, 2017. Link.
  • "Things to Do." Big Bend National Park, Texas. National Park Service. September 14, 2017. Accessed October 11, 2017. Link.
  • Wilson, Will. Will Wilson to the Texas State Parks Board, Austin, TX, September 20, 1960. Accessed November 11, 2017. Link.