Big Bend National Park has so many trails, encompassing mountains, desert, and of course, the Rio Grande. Not only will the trails in Big Bend fulfill your outdoorsy wants and needs, but the extraordinary night sky and friendly campgrounds will make it a national park to remember. In this post, we talk about camping, hiking trails, and stargazing in Big Bend!
Heading to Big Bend National Park? Make an awesome road trip out of it and check out our post on things to bring on a road trip!
Camping in Big Bend
Big Bend National Park, being located in such a remote area, is the perfect place to pitch tent and camp out under the dark night sky. Below are a couple of great camping areas that are close to scenic areas and awesome trails!
Rio Grande Village Campground
We camped in Rio Grande Village, which, as the name implies, is near the Rio Grande. It was the perfect spot for us. Water, restrooms, sizable campsites, and a small grocery/supply store close by. There’s also a visitor center nearby and the park ranger, of course, was very helpful and kind during our stay.
Javelinas will also be nearby to say hello!
During our visit in April, the temperature got pretty hot during the day so make plans to go out and hike some trails in Big Bend so you don’t just sit miserably in the heat!
Chisos Basin Campground
Larger and more populated than Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin Campground is near the more mountainous hiking trails. There’s a large visitor center on-site and also a lodge if camping out doesn’t suit you. It can be quite cold in this area, especially during the winter. Even in April, the morning was quite chilly here and though the sun felt hot, the breeze was always a burst of cool air.
Be on the lookout for bears! If visiting during the right time of year you may be lucky enough to spot some bears nearby! The visitor center updates their board with bear sightings. Some cubs had been spotted a couple of days before we arrived, but sadly (or maybe not) we never saw one with our own eyes.
Some Awesome Hiking Trails in Big Bend
Before we begin listing some Big Bend trails we need to talk about preparation! Big Bend is quite dry and some parts are a true desert. Therefore, please bring ample amounts of water, plenty of sunscreen, and clothing that covers you up. The sun is brutal so wear a hat, a light long sleeve shirt, or maybe even some light pants.
Of course, it won’t be as hot if you visit Big Bend in the winter months. In fact, it’s quite cool.
But as a general rule, always be prepared!
Snacks are a must as well, especially on the longer trails in Big Bend. Some trails take several hours so packing an energy-filled lunch is a good idea!
A great trail to start your first day in Big Bend National Park, the Window Trail is almost 6 miles in distance round trip. If starting in the Chisos Basin then just walk out your door. If coming from the Rio Grande like us then it’s a short drive but the scenery on the way is gorgeous.
Get there early so parking isn’t a hassle!
This hike isn’t strenuous but takes some time, especially if you stop for a lot of pictures. The end of the trail is a magnificent surprise and as the name implies, a vast window with an incredible view awaits!
Boquillas Canyon Trail
Located near the Rio Grande Village Campground, Boquillas Canyon was a great subsequent hike to the window trail, about 1.5 miles round trip. There’s only a small bit of incline and the rest is pretty easy-going. However, it’s definitely hotter in this area!
The Boquillas Canyon Trail had the best views of the Rio Grande and the trail actually leads you right next to it. Watch out for snakes! We ran across some on this path but no worries, you’ll be fine!
You’ll find some much welcome shade in the canyon and can enjoy the beauty of the Mexican side of the border.
Rio Grande Village Nature Trail
This isn’t a true hiking trail but it’s still worth your time, especially if you’re staying in the Rio Grande Village. Go for a nice evening walk, about 10 minutes, and watch the sunset from atop a rock.
Bring a drink as well! Your friendly camping neighbors will probably be joining you but there’s plenty of room to spread out and savor it.
Due to the heat, it was quite hazy but still a very unique and beautiful sunset to witness.
South Rim Trail
Big Bend’s South Rim Trail is epic! There are so many stops for views along the way that made this monster of a hike even longer but it was more than worth it.
We began around 8 am and finished not long after 4 pm. According to the Big Bend National Park website, the trail length is 12-14.5 miles. This can vary widely depending on you so it’s important to pay attention to trail signs along the way!
Our trail path was as follows: Start at Chisos Basin, follow Laguna Meadows Trail for seemingly forever, then follow Colima Trail to Southwest Rim Trail (South Rim). The Colima Trail will continue on so if you want South Rim, be sure to turn off! You’ll circle around to Boot Canyon Trail and take that until you reach Pinnacles Trail.
At this point, if you’re up for it, you can trek up to Emory Peak. Or if you’re spent like we were, follow Pinnacles Trail back down to Chisos Basin and head back to camp for a much-needed burger and beer!
Bright Stars in Big Bend’s Night Sky
One of the main reasons we visited Big Bend National Park, aside from the hiking trails, was its night sky! A great tool to use when you look for dark skies is the dark site finder.
Big Bend is also an official dark spot according to the International Dark Sky Association so expect to see a lot of stars here.
We drove out of our campsite a ways in the wee hours of the morning and into an open area near the Rio Grande Village. Besides taking our first successful picture of the milky way, we enjoyed a little bit of quiet and some beautiful lights above. Hopefully, you can do the same!
Summary of Big Bend National Park Trails and Stars
Not only is there great camping, but the nature and hiking in Big Bend National Park are incredible. To complete the set, Big Bend has some amazing stargazing for those easy-going nights after some long hikes. One of the most underrated national parks in the USA, Big Bend has definitely made its place among our favorites.
For more hikes and info, check out the National Park Service website.