The first destination in our South Texas Road Trip was Big Bend National Park. Located in a remote part of southern Texas, Big Bend got its name because of its location on the bend of the Rio Grande. It is the 15th largest national park, and one of the biggest in the lower states. I didn’t even know Big Bend existed until I found it as I mapped out our route to southern Texas. In hindsight, our visit to Big Bend was one of our most memorable experiences on this trip.
After enjoying the in park lodging at Zion and Bryce Canyon, I searched and discovered Chisos Mountain Lodge located inside Big Bend. Because of the size, and the distance from the entrance, I do highly recommend staying inside the park. Of course, camping is another option.
Keep in mind that cell service is sketchy. There are warnings and reminders for emergency preparedness, water needs, and sun warnings. The closest hospital is 100 miles north of the park headquarters and response to 911 calls can be slow.
We only had one full day there, two nights. We did very little hiking because of the great road access to key sights and we made the most of the time we had. Below are some of my favorite photos. Our highpoint was Santa Elena Canyon. I did very little research before we arrived, so we just took off driving. We missed a couple of things we would have enjoyed seeing, however, what we did experience was beautiful!
Below is the view as we drove towards Rio Grande Village, located on the east side of the park. The store was open there, but the Visitor Center was not. Three of the park’s Visitor Centers were closed until the peak season starts November 1st.
From the Boquillas Canyon Overlook in the far Southeast part of the park. The Rio Grande:
After we visited Rio Grande Village, we headed to the far west side of the park.
Below is the view of Santa Elena Canyon Overlook. The left side is in Mexico, the right side is in the US. The Rio Grande River runs between the two:
We drove down to where you can access the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, a 1.4 mile round-trip hike. You need to cross Terlingua Creek that runs into the Rio Grande. We observed people crossing the creek to do the hike and in some places it was about waist deep. On the day we went, it was very warm, but access the other side and climbing up the bank did not look like an easy task,
Looking to the left of the canyon below, you can see the Rio Grande continuing to flow south:
Views as we drove along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive:
View of the Chisos Mountain Lodge located in Chisos Basin:
View of The Window, from the Window View Trail (below). The 0.3 mile loop is an easy and beautiful walk. The Visitor Center, small store, lodge, and restaurant are all located in very close vicinity in the Chisos Basin.
Below are a few more photos taken along that loop of the surrounding area:
We noticed a lot of the yellow flowers outside of the park, and in the park as we drove. Butterflies were bountiful and very beautiful to see.
Staying at the lodge inside the park was a fabulous experience. It wasn’t fancy, the bed wasn’t super comfortable, and the water pressure in the shower left much to be desired. But it was comfortable enough, convenient, and with the open windows, the nature sounds lulled us to sleep each night. The restaurant on site provided wonderful food. I had the spinach salad, fried green tomatoes and tea both nights! And there was a lovely view from the restaurant windows.
I am so grateful we discover Big Bend and scheduled the time to visit. The isolation and lack of cell service makes me nervous, so this took me out of my comfort zone. What gave me some comfort was that we saw a lot of other people along the way that I trusted would come to our aid in an emergency 😊
Interesting to note, when I was in the Chisos Basin store, I asked the clerk where employees live. I can’t imagine how they would commute from outside the park each day. We came through Marathon, on the north side of the park. It took us about an hour and 20 minutes to enter the park and arrive at the lodge. There is a store and Visitor Centers at the east end of the road and the west end of the road, quite a distance from any town. We were told there is a housing community located behind the main Visitor Center in Panther Junction (where the Post Office is also located). Panther Junction is located close to the center area of the park.
If you get the opportunity to visit Big Bend, take it! There were other activities that we did not take advantage of, such as a trip across the Rio Grande into Bouquillas, Mexico. Do some research before you go and expect to enjoy a great adventure!