Big Bend National Park

Location: Texas

Park Tally: 14/59

Orientation: Big Bend National Park is located in southern Texas, with the park’s infamous Rio Grande river providing a natural boundary between the United States and Mexico. The two nations meet in a setting of wild mountains, desert and rivers, sharing some of the most expansive and diverse vistas in the world.

Big Bend has three main sections – Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin and Santa Elena Canyon. Being one of the largest parks in the country, this vast region varies from 1,800 feet above sea level along the Rio Grande, to nearly 8,000 feet in the Chisos Mountains. Many visitors come to the park to explore one of the last remaining remote corners of the country.


Most iconic view: The Rio Grande river is the most well-known sight in the park and visitors know it to be an absolute treasure. It even inspired the park’s name due to the prominent bend found along the river. The Rio Grande also acts as a natural border dividing the Unites States and Mexico. The river can be explored via rafting and canoeing trips, bathing in the hot springs along its banks, hiking through the Santa Elena Canyon, or simply viewing it from some of the many trails and overlooks.


Accessible activity:  Many visitors come to the southern-most part of Big Bend seeking out the infamous Boquillas Hot Springs. These primitive geothermic springs can be accessed via an easy 0.5-mile roundtrip hike from the parking lot, making the trek popular with tourists. The therapeutic spring water is maintained at a temperature of 105°F year-round. Tip – go at sunrise and you will likely be the only one there to enjoy a peaceful soak and unparalleled scenery.


For the adventurous:  Big Bend is full of massive canyons, vast desert expanses, forested mountains and an ever-changing river to explore. Avid hikers will thoroughly enjoy the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Basin area – a 4.8-mile roundtrip trek with excellent desert and mountain views.


Another interesting hike is the Grapevines Hill Trail that leads walkers to picturesque Balanced Rock (2.2-miles roundtrip). Those after an even bigger adventure can consider planning a rafting or float trip along the Rio Grande. Hitting the water is the best way to fully immerse yourself in the wilderness and solitude of Big Bend National Park.


Best photo opportunities: There are numerous places to capture photos within the park. Santa Elena Canyon is a popular spot for catching gorgeous afternoon light along the Rio Grande. Be sure to hike up the canyon and also down by the canyon entrance for varied views. The park’s clear and extremely dark night sky is another draw for many photographers. Due to the limited light population, Big Bend offers opportunities for epic astrophotography.


Quick facts

  • Big Bend National Park was established in 1944.
  • The park spans 1,252 square miles, which means it could fit the entire state of Rhode Island within its borders!
  • About 118 miles of the Big Bend National Park runs along the international border between the United States and Mexico.
  • You can cross the border into Mexico from the Port of Entry in the south-eastern section of the park.
  • Big Bend is the only national park to have an entire mountain range within its borders, the Chisos Mountains.
  • The Park has the largest Chihuahuan Desert protected region in the United States.
  • Big bend has more species of scorpions (14) than any other national park, with some having not been found anywhere else in the world.
  • In 2016 the park had 388,290 visitors, 71,337 more than in 2013.


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