At more than 800,000 acres in size, Big Bend National Park is the 15th largest in National Park System with Rio Grande River bordering the park for 118 miles. Big Bend State Park, managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Brewster and Presidio Counties, is just west of Big Bend National Park. At 275,000 acres in size, its landscape is a mix of high desert uplands and peaks that average more than 4,000 feet.
Big Bend offers a wide range of outdoor activities: hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, wildlife observation, and stargazing, not to mention enjoying the Rio Grande by raft, canoe, or kayak. The park’s website has a list of suggested itineraries lasting from one day to a week to help visitors get the most from their time.
In general, Big Bend has a temperate climate with plenty of sunshine. Summers are hot, while light, occasional cold fronts can bring winter temperatures well below freezing. Yearly rainfall averages around 5 to 10 inches in the desert and 15 to 20 inches in the mountains. Given that the amount of available water is dependent on rainfall, visitors should carry a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day in the summer, slightly less in the winter.
Five Visitor Centers are on the park’s grounds, with each having their own hours of operation and offering various park permits.
Panther Junction Visitor Center, located at park headquarters, is open all year from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with reduced hours on Christmas Day. The complex includes a Big Bend Natural History Association bookstore, U.S. Post Office, and restrooms, with a water faucet available for filling personal water containers. The Panther Junction Service Station, 300 yards west of the visitor center, is open every day and offers gas, diesel and groceries.
Chisos Basin Visitor Center, located in the Chisos Basin developed area, adjacent to the parking lot, is open all year from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed for lunch), with reduced hours on Christmas Day. The center includes interactive exhibits on plants, animals, and birds found in the Chisos Mountains. A water faucet is available on the east side of the building for filling personal water containers.
Castolon Visitor Center is temporarily located in the Officer’s Quarters building, across the parade ground from the La Harmonia site due to the 2019 Castolon Fire that severely damaged the La Harmonia Store and Visitor Center. It’s open seasonally, November 13 through April 30, from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed for lunch) and is closed on Christmas Day.
Persimmon Gap Visitor Center is located at the north entrance to the park, and houses exhibits, a bookstore, a mini-theater, and restrooms. The center is open seasonally, November 5 through April 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed for lunch) and closed on Christmas Day.
Rio Grande Village Visitor Center is located a quarter-mile north of the Rio Grande Village developed area. The center is open seasonally, November 5 through April, 9 a.m. to 4:30 pm. (closed for lunch) and closed on Christmas Day. The center has exhibits about the Rio Grande and life-sized bronze sculptures showcasing some of the area’s special wildlife. A water faucet is available for filling personal water containers.
All park visitors are required to purchase a recreational use pass upon entering Big Bend National Park, with all vehicles subject to an entrance fee. There are no reservations required for entering Big Bend National Park at this time. More details about fees are available here.
Big Bend National Park has three frontcountry campgrounds: Rio Grande Village campground, Cottonwood Campground, and Chisos Basin campground. The first two are reservable November 1–April 30, while Chisos Basin is reservable year-round. Reservations for group sites at Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin, and Cottonwood campgrounds may be made year-round, up to 360 days in advance. Reservations are not accepted less than two days in advance. Reservations may be made at recreation.gov/ or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
NOTE: Group sites are currently closed due to COVID-19 safety restrictions. The cost is $16 per night per site ($8 per night with Senior or Access pass).
Backcountry campsites require a $10 per night backcountry use permit ($5 with a Senior or Access pass), available at either the Panther Junction or Chisos Basin visitor centers during normal business hours. Learn more about Backcountry Camping.
Visitors are welcome stay in the park up to 14 consecutive nights in either a front or backcountry site, with a limit of 28 total nights in the park in a calendar year. Campers can occupy a specific site up to 14 total nights in a year.
Chisos Mountains Lodge, located within the Chisos Basin, is open year-round with limited availability. It has a variety of rooms and cottages, plus a gift shop, camper store, and dining room. For reservations, call 432-477-2291. Rio Grande Village RV Park is a 25-site RV park and is the only campground with full hookups for RVs in Big Bend National Park. It also has 20 reservable campsites available by reservation only. For reservations, call 1-877-386-4383 or 432-477-2293.
Before visiting Big Bend National Park, please check this link for COVID-19 updates. Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health authorities, the National Park Service is increasing access and services in a phased approach across all units of the National Park System. Visitors are required to wear face masks in federal buildings including visitor centers, historic structures, and museums. When outdoors, face masks are required on NPS-managed lands when physical distance cannot be maintained. More updates about the overall NPS response to COVID-19, including safety information, are posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.