Big Bend National Park, located in a remote section of southwestern Texas, was open to the public as a national park on July 1, 1944. It covers over 800,000 acres, with the Rio Grande River flowing through it, forming an international border between the U.S. and Mexico.
We stayed in the park at the Rio Grande Village campground, boondocking at $7/night, not too shabby and the views were pretty nice too! The temperatures in the daytime were in the mid to upper 70’s and in the mid 30’s at night.
We love to get out into nature and hike, but with only 3 full days in the park, we opted for shorter scenic hikes in various parts of the park so we could see more of this sprawling wilderness area.
Our first night near sunset we took a hike from our campground onto the nature trail that wandered up to a small butte. From the top we could look out onto the Rio Grande and our campground below and a 180° turn gave us views of another country, that being Mexico.
From atop this knoll we looked down on the little village of Boquillas, with the Sierra del Carmen mountains towering over it. Hard to imagine that Mexico was so close to where we stood. Seeing Boquillas off in the distance brought back some fond memories of our year traveling in Mexico.
Day 1 ~ Hot Springs Trail
Everyone was recommending this 6-mile trail to us, and with the satisfaction of knowing we would be soaking in a hot springs at the edge of the Rio Grande at the trail’s end, enough said, we’re there! Walking above the Rio Grande on this trail, we realized just what a narrow river it is, at least where it meanders through the park, and the canyon walls rising above it were breathtaking.
Given that we came to the park in the “shoulder season”, the hot springs were ours, with no crowds to fend off. With Terry scouting for other hikers on the trail (we had not seen any to this point), I decided to change into my swimsuit in the open. I made a quick change, no problem, (or so I thought) unless you would call a photo-shooting hubby a problem. As I turned to get into the hot springs, across the Rio Grande (did I mention it is a narrow river) are three horses and two young Mexican men, looking across the river. Suffice it to say, I did not offer them my most flattering side for their viewing pleasure! Oh well, no danger of running into either of them anytime soon! After a luxurious soak in the springs, we hiked back out to the trailhead.
Day 2 ~ Chisos Basin
Lost Mine Trail, yet another recommendation from park hosts, is a 5-mile hike in the Chisos Mountains, with elevation gains of 1100 feet. It is a 2.5 mile steady climb up to the peak so it got our hearts pumping and was a great leg workout to boot! When we made it to the top we were presented with 360° views, gorgeous no matter the direction. The Casa Grande rock formation, seen to the left, was prominent as we worked our way up. It sits at 7325 feet and is one of the more striking formations in the park. Viewed from the visitor center at Chisos Basin, it is just as stunning.
Emory Peak is the tallest in the park, at 7832 feet and the 9th tallest in Texas. They make a lot of things big in Texas but their mountains don’t seem to be one of them!
Terry and I spent a little time at the top of the Lost Mine Trail, to soak in the sun and views. Here a few shots from above.
Once down off the trail, we headed to the Chisos Mountain Lodge for a light lunch and some lovely views, which we are told are even more so at sunset.
Day 3 ~ Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
Our final day at the park was to be a driving tour of the west side, with a couple of short hikes off-road to enjoy some sights. Our destination was Santa Elena Canyon, where those boating the Rio Grande usually put in. At this time of the year, the Rio Grande is a slow-moving river with rapids only in the spring when the flooding occurs. We took the 1.6-mile Santa Elena Canyon Trail to the river bottom, which gave us gorgeous views of the sheer canyon walls of Mesa de Anguilla on the Mexico side.
On our way back, we saw some other interesting rock formations worthy of a photo or two.
Goat Mountain is a geologist’s dream, with horizontal pyroclastic flow deposits from volcanic eruptions 29 million years ago – such beautiful colors!
Our last stop of the day before going back to our campground was at the Lower Burro Mesa Pour-off, an easy 1-mile hike back into a canyon with some special views of the pour-off. We would love to be there when the water was running but guess that would not be possible as our trail, which was a dry riverbed would probably be a raging river.
Our time at Big Bend has drawn to an end. From here we are headed to Fort Davis, TX, then on to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.