If you spend any amount of time in Texas, taking a trip to Big Bend National Park is a must do for Rvers, and all travelers really. The park is renowned for the wild, beautiful landscape spanning the US-Mexico border and is one of the most treasured parks in the country.
The drive from Rockport to Big Bend is not short but you can make the 8-hour trek in one long day or two short days easily. Either head north to San Antonio and catch Interstate 10 to the park or follow the more southern border route. They require about the same amount of time depending on traffic in San Antonio.
Where to Stay in an RV
Big Bend is RV friendly and the Rio Grande RV Village campground offers full hookups at their sites. This campground is operated by a concession service and is the only option for hookups inside of the park.
The National Park Service operates 3 campgrounds with reservable sites and first come – first serve sites. The Chisos Basin campground has trailer and RV sites but they advise trailers under 20-feet and RV’s under 24-feet. The Rio Grande Village is run separate from the RV only park but it accepts RV’s and trailers. They do not have hookups but you can utilize the dump station at the Rio Grande Village RV park. Lastly, the Cottonwood Campground has 24 campsites and they are RV and trailer friendly. The park does not allow generators however so keep that in mind when considering your power supply.
Experience the Park
After you set camp and get settled, the entire park sits at your feet, waiting for discovery. The visitor’s centers are worth a stop to familiarize yourself with the park while learning about the history. Rangers will share current information about trails and road closures while supplying maps. Visiting the Fossil Discovery Center is also a great idea. The displays are amazing, and they will guide you through the mere 130-million years of fossil history in the park.
Enjoy one of the many epic day hikes or dive a little deeper into the backcountry with an overnight backcountry permit. More than 150-miles of trails means you can spend a significant amount of time exploring on foot.
The Chimneys Trail or the Devil’s Den are perfect day hikes through the desert climates. Both are in the 4-6 mile range that traverses a variety of geological features. For short hikes in the 2-mile or less range, consider Grapevine Hills trail or the Lower Burro Mesa Pour-Off Trail.
Serious hikers can tackle the Marufo Vega trail. At 12 miles, you must carry plenty of water and prepare for the heat. The rewards are amazing views of the Rio Grande river in a remote canyon environment.
If you prefer hiking through the mountains, gaining elevation is not a problem here. The Emory Peak trail is 10.5 miles out and back and you will reach the highest point in the entire park. The South Rim is another big hike that runs over 14-miles with 2,000-feet in elevation gain. The views are among the best in the park and the trek is perfect for ambitious hikers. Shorter mountain hikes are also open. The Chisos Basin Loop is less than 2-miles and the Lost Mine trail is under 5-miles long.
When you are worn out from hiking the trails, take a scenic drive through the park. You can stay on pavement, head off on the dirt roads and even drive the established and approved primitive roads with a high clearance 4×4. Beware of wet conditions however as the primitive roads can quickly turn to mud and difficult terrain.
The Chisos Basin Road is 6 miles and you’ll want to drive extra slow with frequent stops to view the pinnacle rocks and landscape. The entire route is paved and easy to drive. The paved Ross Maxwell route is longer at 30-miles and you can easily make a day of this trip with stops to walk around and enjoy the nature at pullouts. Maverick Station to Panther Junction is also wonderful, especially during the wetter seasons when the desert is filled with wildflowers.
If you want to get off the beaten track to enjoy dirt roads, the Old Maverick Road is 14-miles that is best done with high clearance and great traction. The road is difficult when wet but during the dry months is well worth the hour of bouncing around washboard tracks. The Grapevine Hills Route is another nice dirt option at a much short 6-7 miles that runs past mushroom shaped rocks and other desert geological features.