Big Bend, a national park residing in the Chihuahuan desert at the bottom west corner of Texas, is one of the most truly wild places in the states I have visited. Home to roadrunners, mountain lions, bears, and stunning expanses of desert and mountain landscape, this is a spot for the lady traveler looking to push her limits. Before taking on a trip down to Big Bend, to channel your inner (female) Bear Grylls, we highly suggest reading our article about how to drive across Texas. The state itself is huge and Big Bend National Park (BBNP) is shatteringly desolate; so it is a good idea to go prepared and informed, so you can revel in the landscape and activities!
Why go to Big Bend National Park?
You can add a stamp to your passport: Depending on the conditions of the Rio Grande river, you can potentially cross the border into Mexico and add that stamp to your passport. The town of Boquillas is where you land on the other side of the river and it is home to a mom and pop restaurant. You cross the river by smaller row boats that are manned by Mexican nationals that will charge you $5 to cross. The border crossing is only open specific days, so check in at the ranger’s stations and remember your passport!
Natural beauty: Big Bend is insane with organic wonder; desert cactus trails, ancient limestone canyons, some of the darkest sky in the world. The level of natural beauty here rivals that of Patagonia and it is still stateside.
What to Can I do in Big Bend?
Camp: There are three campsites within the park–Cottonwood, Chisos Basin, and the Rio Grande area. I was a solo camping virgin before this trip. I took the plunge and gave myself to the Chisos Mountains inside of my Kelty tent, at site #57, for 3 amazing nights and I don’t regret it.
Watch the sunset and stargaze: The sunset part goes without saying! Desert sunsets rejuvenate the traveler soul. The stargazing in BBNP is unmatched. This area is designated by NASA as one of the darkest places in the US, meaning it is devoid of natural light pollution. Translation: the stargazing is unlike anything most of us are used to seeing in our towns and cities. The stars are super bright and brilliant enough to entertain you for most of the evening with a warm mug of tea.
Hike: There are tons of trails! Check out the parks website before you go. There are trails to suit every skill level. I did the Chimneys Trail; a 4.8 mile roundtrip journey across a flat desert covered in scrub brush and gorgeous wildflowers. Make sure you check out the Window Trail at sunset and whind down with an easy loop around the Chisos Basin.
**Remember you are hiking in a desert climate so check the daily weather report and inquire about staying safe on the trail. Convince one of your best galpals to take the trip with you and take on some of the backcountry trails! Bring plenty of water!**
Panther Junction Visitor Center: This visitor center was the only one open when I visited, and I found it chuck full of great info on BBNP. There are 3D models of the whole park, giving you a visual on the elevations of different areas, and placards about the different animals found in the area.
How Do I Get There?
Big Bend National Park is FAR away from EVERYTHING. Fort Stockton, off of I-10, is the main jump off point. It is also the stop where many cell phone carriers loose reception. Follow 385-S about 150 miles until you reach the national park entrance. Be ready for vast swaths of two-lane country in which you will not encounter any other cars for miles. The level of solitude is really incredible; get ready to loose yourself in the pristine landscape as you head to the park.
- You are in the wilderness—take it seriously
- Plan ahead—pack in extra food, water, and gas
- Know your limits physically
- Know what to do if you encounter specific wild animals
Enjoy the outdoor trip of a lifetime!