Hiking is the best way to experience, enjoy, and appreciate Big Bend National Park. A permit is required for all overnight trips, and can be obtained up to 24 hours in advance of the trip in person only. It is virtually impossible to plan an extended backpacking trip prior to your arrival in the park. Bear in mind how much distance you want to cover and how much time you have. Based on that information and current conditions, personnel at park visitor centers can assist you with trip planning.
For a detailed list of Big Bend hiking possibilities, with locations and trails, see the Hiking Page. Hiking trails of varying length and difficulty lead to and through different areas of Big Bend National Park. Walks and hikes range from short, self-guiding nature trails to cross-park treks. Off-trail hiking requires proper gear and adequate supplies. Use a topographic map and know your route. A hikers guide is sold at park headquarters.
Join a National Park Service ranger to explore Big Bend's natural and cultural history. Join a ranger on a hike or walk and learn about the forces that once shaped this landscape - and continue to do so, see the Calendar Page. Ranger / Naturalist programs include scheduled talks, walks and evening campfire programs by rangers. Nature walks, workshops, and evening slide programs are provided by park naturalists year-round. Several programs per day are offered November to April, fewer programs are offered in summer. Check park bulletin boards and visitor centers for the current weekly program schedule. Also, check at the visitor centers for information on the Junior Ranger program for children ages six through eleven. These are just some of the ways to discover the diversity of the scenic, natural and historic wonders that comprise Big Bend National Park.
Visitor centers are located at: Chisos Basin, Panther Junction, Persimmon Gap and Rio Grande Village. Chisos Basin and Panther Junction are open year round.
There are five driving tours outlined in Big Bend National Park Handbook and in a road guide.
Things to see and do include by are not limited to: Boquillas Canyon, Castolon, Dagger Flat, Dagger Mountain, Fossil Bone Exhibit, Hannold Grave Homesite, Lost Mine Trail, Old Sam Nail Ranch, Santa Elena Canyon, Sotol Vista, the Basin...
Birding: There are 450 species of birds in Big Bend National Park. Big Bend is a birder's paradise. The large migration occurs here in the spring. Ask a ranger about the best birding spots during your stay in the park.
River Recreation: Big Bend National Park administers 234 miles of the Rio Grande for recreational use. Obtain a free river float permit (required for all boat use) and current river information at park headquarters or any ranger station. Be well equipped and informed before running the river. A river guide is sold at park headquarters. There are no equipment rentals in the park. Contact the park for a list of river outfitters. Because of local thunderstorms, the river can be high from July through October. The Rio Grande is a Wild and Scenic River for 191.2 miles along part of the park boundary and beyond.
Wildlife: Here you will find, believe it or not, a desert amphibian, Couch's spadefoot toad; a mosquito fish whose entire world range is one pond in the park; a small mammal, the kangaroo rat, that makes metabolic water; and a good-sized bird, the roadrunner, that would rather run than fly. There are winged insects that live their entire lives in, on, and off one species of plant. By contrast, coyotes may turn up anywhere and will eat almost anything. Jackrabbits have such large ears that they use them as radiators, transferring body heat to the environment. Motion can be almost imperceptible--or as fast as the diving peregrine falcon clocked at more than 200 mph. Time can be measure... or you can leave it unmeasured. If you want the reaches of time, find them in the Fossil Bone Exhibit or the deep rock strata of Santa Elena, Mariscal and Boquillas canyons. For a fleeting glimpse of time, watch the jackrabbit sprint to elude a predator. If you are mildly patient, see how long it take after the first good rainstorm for seemingly lifeless desert to come alive with brightly colored flowers. The truth is, Big Bend is more mood than place. Sometimes you must wait for it to capture you.
Activity & Calendar Page
Address, Email & Phone Guide
Brochures, Maps, Written Info
Flora & Fauna
Jobs, SCA, Volunteer Positions
Junior Ranger Programs
Mountain Lion & Black Bear
Poisonous Reptiles & Insects
Size & Visitation Info