Big Bend National ParkLeave review
About Big Bend National Park
Campgrounds in Big Bend
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Rio Grande Village is an interesting close quarters mix of tent camping and RV sites. The Tent camping is in the far east side of the site and has good wind cover. If you are tent camping, be sure to set up inside the "no generator zone" so you're not kept up all night by the RV campers. This site is super windy as it sits in a large valley. Typical wind speeds of 15mph or higher.
Chisos Basin is the most sought after campground in Big Bend..so book it early (only so many reservable sites), or be prepared to arrive plenty early to get an open site that is first come first serve. You are right in the middle of the Chisos mountains, and have amazing views in any direction. Since it's in the mountains it is typically just tent camping at this campground. Enjoy the sound of coyotes through the night and early morning as they love to roam around the grounds!
Chisos Basin is smack dab in the middle of the park. It has plenty of hiking trails leading from it, so you know that you will always have a place to go. There are restrooms and bear-proof boxes, both of which ensure a very clean campsite. At night, you can look up and see the beautiful night sky, and the sunrise is breathtaking as you see the sunlight slowly spill over the mountains that surround the site. Since people in Texas know how to be hospitable, unlike the rest of America, there is always peace and quiet. If you sit still, you won't hear a sound, and a grey fox might even wander close to your campsite. There are also grills placed at every site, so you won't go hungry or have to make a fire to survive. Book early, or arrive early because most of the year they are first come/first serve, although during the summer you shouldn't have a problem getting a site.
Chisos Basin is a spectacular campground right in the heart of the park. There are spectacular views of the night sky and great hiking trails close by. Lost Pine Trail, The Window Trail, and the hike to Emory Peak are easily accessible from the campsite. The sites are pretty close to one another so if you want a little privacy, it's best to arrive early and reserve a site.
Rio Grande Village has the most openings and largest sites if you drop in to Big Bend National Park without a reservation. Less busy than Chisos Basin sites. We were planning on backcountry camping--which is first-come, first-serve--but were not able to get passes the first two nights. Winter is their busy season (the desert gets hot!), so go to Rio Grande Village first to nab a spot. It is by Boquillos Canyon (where you can cross the border to the small town), with the Sierra del Carmen range as a backdrop at the camp sites. Boquillos Hot Springs (a must after-hike soak) only a quarter-mile hike from a mile unpaved, but low-clearance drive off the main road. Expect to find handmade Mexican gifts there and petroglyphs.
They water the campground by flooding the area. We did not see a schedule, just a sign that said pitch you tent on high ground. We only stayed one night and weren't sure if we where on high ground or not, but they did not water while we where there so we were good. We had a great night stargazing! The nights where cool and the days hot. The winter time is the busy season for this area. Make sure you have everything you need because there are not any major stores in the area. The best you can do is a couple of gas station, one in Study Butte out side the park and one on Panther Jct Rd near Main Park Rd. Both stores do have gas!
We stayed here on Oct 29, 2014. They water the area by floor so make sure you pitch your tent on high ground. We saw javelina out and about most of the night. You also want to make sure you keep your smellables either in the car or bear box to keep the javelinas from visiting your tent. What is a smellables? http://www.e-scoutcraft.com/activities/philmont_way.pdf
Hiking up to the Santa Elena Canyon entrance is a must-do if you are in the area. Watching the canyon rise up 1500 feet off the desert floor (or watching it drop off into nothing, if you're coming from the opposite direction) is mind-blowing.
This campsite is absolutely gorgeous - definitely the most sought after campground in Big Bend. There are stunning 360º views and we spotted some cute wildlife while there! The drive is steep and most RV's can't make it - so be sure you're driving the right vehicle before making the trip!
One of the most beautiful campsites I've ever been to. The night sky alone is worth the trip down to Big Bend but there are also 2 of the best trails in the park within a short walk from the campground. You also have the lodge, ranger center, and general store just a hop skip and a jump away!
Spent one night in this campground, arrived in the dark and awoke to the most beautiful mountains surrounding the campground. This location fills up fast, but when I was there in early August there were a few empty spots over the weekend. Each site has a shade cover and a bear box, clean facilities and it felt very well spaced out. Not a bad spot in the joint. Star gazing at it's finest, Big Bend is one of the few "dark parks" where there is no light noise, leaving a sky full of stars. I recommend going during the Perseid meteor shower!
Beautiful campsites with close access to Santa Elena Canyon which is a must see if visiting the park! Cottonwood is less crowded than some of the other campsites. We went in November and there was only one other camper in the campground. Be advised that the park waters the campground at night and you must pitch tents on high ground. If you happen to be out of your tent at night, it's best to keep a lamp with you and stay on the camp roads.
Rio Grande Village is similar to Cottonwood Campground but offers more sites. There are Javelina warning signs on every picnic table so make sure to keep your food stored in the car or bear box offered at each site. Nearby attractions are Boquillas Canyon, Hot Springs and Rio Grande Village Nature Trail.
Went to Big Bend in early November which is a perfect time to go. There were not many crowds and were able to walk up and grab a site, although there weren't many available. Great campsite with adequate facilities. From the campground it is a short drive to any other part of the amazing park. Highly recommend it!
I liked the quiet of this campground, it's more secluded as its at the far reaches of the park. It is closer to Santa Elena canyon, but expect another 40 minutes of scenic driving before you reach it past Chisos Basin. Fresh water, and vault toilets is all you will find, but shade trees over each camping spot ( that I can remember). Bear boxes too. No reservations, but doesn't fill up unless its a holiday weekend. Camped in early August and found the nights cool enough to be comfortable. This is my go-to campground for this park!
We recently stayed at the Rio Grande campground because the Chisos Campground was closed due to a fire. The campsites were a bit closer to each other than we prefer, but thankfully we had quiet neighbors. It can be close to 50 degrees hotter here than in the Chisos, so be sure to get a site with tons of shade. Make sure you hit up the hot springs just down the road!
History of Big Bend National Park
While Big Bend is famous for its natural resources and recreational opportunities, the park is also rich in cultural history. Native peoples lived in and/or passed through this area for thousands of years. Their presence is evidenced by pictographs and archeological sites. In more recent history (the last 500 years) Texas has been claimed by six different nations!
The Big Bend has been a home to people for many centuries, but knowledge of the Rio Grande among non-Indians dates back less than 150 years. Spanish people crossed the Rio Grande in the 16th and 17th centuries searching for gold, silver, and fertile land. Comanche Indians crossed the river in the 19th century, traveling to and from Mexico with their raiding parties.
Mexican settlers began farming on both banks of the river’s floodplain around 1900. Anglo-Americans joined in the farming after 1920, when boundary unrest ended. Cotton and food crops were grown around Castolon and what is now Rio Grande Village, even after the park was established.
Today, you can drive along portions of the Comanche Trail, the same route Comanche warriors once traveled on raids into Mexico, or you can visit the La Harmonia Store at Castolon where locals (and visitors) have shopped for eighty years.
From archeological sites dating back nearly 10,000 years, to ranches and mining operations from the Twentieth Century, Big Bend can be a great place to "discover" history.