Ten Must See and Do Things in and Around Big Bend National Park

Photos and story by:

KATHARINE SHILCUTT

FUN FACTBig Bend National Park only allows campers to stay in the park for 14 consecutive nights, in an effort to protect the delicate desert ecosystem. Further, you can only spend 28 nights in the park, per year, overall. Chances are, however, that you’re not lucky enough to get 14 consecutive nights in Big Bend, let alone 28.

If you’re like most travelers and can only spend a week in West Texas, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many options in the area. Below, our condensed itinerary of suggestions for making the most out of your trip in under seven days:

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The Rio Grande near Cottonwood at dusk

In and Around Big Bend National Park

1. Camp out along the Rio Grande

In addition to a full-service lodge in the Chisos Mountains at the heart of the national park, Big Bend also has three diverse campsites to choose from. Two of those, Cottonwood and Rio Grande Village, sit along bends in the Rio Grande. Cottonwood is the smaller, quieter campsite, though you may find yourself overwhelmed by the smell of the nearby latrines (no flush toilets here). Rio Grande Village has real-deal toilets, plus easy access to the nearby Mexican village of Boquillas del Carmen, a charming tourist town that only received electricity for the first time last year. Bring your passport!

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The final peak on the Lost Mine trail sits at 6,850 feet.

2. Climb the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Mountains

Not everyone has the time (nor the energy) to hike the famous South Rim trail in Big Bend. If you only have an afternoon, the Lost Mine trail offers similarly stunning scenery from its 6,850-foot-high summit in less than half the time—a 4.8-mile hike instead of the 10- to 12-mile South Rim—and with less effort. Though it’s technically a “moderate” trail, you’ll definitely get your heart rate pumping during the final series of steep switchbacks over an elevation change of 1,300 feet. Bring a sweater, because the temperatures drop fast in the Chisos Mountains, where an alpine environment keeps things far cooler than in the Chihuahuan Desert below.

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